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"Yes, but we think that anyway."

Mark Steyn on politicians' reading habits:
I mean, he [President Bush] is absolutely not the guy, this sort of fratboy idiot that they paint him as. He's a man who is greatly...he's not interested in...you know, when Al Gore says that he's reading Stendhal, The Red And The Black, we think what a pretentious twit.

(Hugh Hewitt, via Kate.)

I bring this up to make a political point only in passing, but primarily because it reminds me that I wanted to comment on yet another list of God-awful books seen over at Rachel's joint. I mean, sweet bleeding Jeebus, what kind of moist, pretentious sphincter would name a book 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die? I mean, I'm a pretty opinionated guy, but as far as fiction goes I wouldn't presume to tell anyone there's some novel, or set of novels, they must read before they die. Novels are fiction, entertainment, something you read to fill your spare time. Insofar as they have any use in the real world, they might help to illuminate a society at some point in the past while being about the main business of entertainment, or provide a useful thought experiment, but expecting them to do any more than that is just stupid, imao.

For what it's worth, I've read about seventy of the books on the list. Another five or six got started but I couldn't finish them. List behind the cut, if you really want to know.

Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx (dnf)
The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole (dnf)
Smiley’s People – John Le Carré
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
The Shining – Stephen King
Humboldt’s Gift – Saul Bellow
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – John Le Carré
Breakfast of Champions – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Fear of Flying – Erica Jong
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson
Slaughterhouse-five – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
The Godfather – Mario Puzo
The First Circle – Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn
2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe
The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov (dnf)
Giles Goat-Boy – John Barth
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut
Sometimes a Great Notion – Ken Kesey
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – John Le Carré
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert Heinlein
Solaris – Stanislaw Lem
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Naked Lunch – William Burroughs
Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris – Paul Gallico
The Once and Future King – T.H. White
The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Story of O – Pauline Réage
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
Foundation – Isaac Asimov
I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
The Plague – Albert Camus
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Finnegans Wake – James Joyce (dnf)
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
At the Mountains of Madness – H.P. Lovecraft
Thank You, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner (dnf)
The Good Soldier Švejk – Jaroslav Hašek
Ulysses – James Joyce (dnf)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce (dnf)
Tarzan of the Apes – Edgar Rice Burroughs
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (dnf)
The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells
The Island of Dr. Moreau – H.G. Wells
The Time Machine – H.G. Wells
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
Around the World in Eighty Days – Jules Verne
Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There – Lewis Carroll
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
Moby-Dick – Herman Melville (dnf)
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
The Count of Monte-Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
The Pit and the Pendulum – Edgar Allan Poe
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens '
The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allan Poe
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (dnf)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 27th, 2006 10:47 pm (UTC)
Okay, if Mark Steyn's point is to say that Prez Bush is smarter than people give him credit for, and that he's literate, and that he reads "thoughtful" books...why is Al Gore relevant??

I went and read the quote in context, and it's a rather random thing to say. So, Al Gore is pretentious because he speaks well, and says he is reading some weighty tome. And George Bush - well, he's just as smart, but see how he isn't pretentious?

I'm not trying to change your mind or start an argument, I'm just pointing out that the reference to Al Gore is a little - odd. Kneejerk attack. Especially since Mark can't actually come up with a finish for what Bush *IS* and instead decides to end by taking a poke at Gore.

I think Steyn has a good point, actually. Bush isn't stupid. He just can't help but talk like he is.
Oct. 27th, 2006 11:46 pm (UTC)
I thought it was a poke at both Gore and Stendhal, which is why I dragged it in. So many of the books on the list I pointed to are unreadable pieces of crap, and The Red and the Black I have personal acquaintance with. I'd certainly agree that anyone bragging about reading the damn thing was a pretentious ass, and given Gore's reputation I can easily imagine him saying that sort of thing. W, not so much...I find it interesting that most of the books people mention him reading are fairly serious works, nonfiction books that one reads to feed one's knowledge base, not for entertainment value.

Also, given that Steyn is talking to Hewitt on Hewitt's show, it puts the slap at Gore more in context. It's like Democrats cracking Bush jokes - we mock Gore for being a pretentious stuffed shirt, while you guys talk about how W is the Stupidest Evil Genius Ever. ;)
Oct. 28th, 2006 03:49 am (UTC)

in terms of "bush is stupid" the clear fact is that he isn't stupid - nobody
gets to where he has if they are "just stupid" - even giving credit to the
most insane accusations of puppet-dom, he still would not be stupid.

he is not articulate - he is not well read - he has shown lots of signs that
he is dyslexic in a minor way (which strongly discourges reading) - he has
spent a sizable chunk of time as a heavy alcohol user, and as a cocaine
user, both of which has been PROVEN to have negative effects on brain
function and all sorts of mental performance measures - there are a lot of
things that Bush is, things which may well be factors - but I don't think that
he is stupid.

the book list - feh - might as well respond with the 100 issues of playboy over
it's history that you must read (and view) before you die (that is a loaded statement
of course - initial reaction from most people will be "girly pictures" because they
won't understand that for decades Playboy was one of the major outlets for
writers of progressive, and in fact all types, of political and social commentary)


Oct. 28th, 2006 06:44 pm (UTC)
won't understand that for decades Playboy was one of the major outlets for
writers of progressive, and in fact all types, of political and social commentary.

It's become a lot more progressive since Christie Hefner took over the editor's job from her father, to the point where I dropped my subscription. The photography was just as good, but the constant editorializing was annoying. That having been said, there's been a lot of damn good fiction (mainstream and SF) published in Playboy over the years. In fact, for most of its existence the magazine has been an interesting combination of Esquire and GQ with extraordinarily well-done photography, which is why I think it survived while the cruder Penthouse and such went bankrupt.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )