Friday, May 24, 2013

On some list of books you are supposed to read by the time you are 20

My four readers know that when it comes to snobbish, pretentious, literary lists, I have to get snarky about it. I pretty much did all the literary fiction reading I was going to do when I was in graduate school, and while I enjoyed most of the experience, much of it I would rather leave behind. At any rate, I came across this list from BuzzFeed, "65 Books You Need to Read in Your 20s." Since it is one of those long scrolling pages, because they filled it up with huge graphics and photos of book covers, I have eliminated the fluff. Down below you will find the list with no extra crap on it.

They divided the list into categories. What I will do is highlight the books and/or authors I have read, plus I may riff on ones I have not that I have no interest or intention on reading. Why? Why not? Maybe because I read what I want when I want, not because someone tells me I have to, and sure as hell not because they said I had to do it in my 20s, which have been gone for a while.

I will bold items that I have read. My comments will be in parenthesis after a title as needed.

GREAT NOVELS: (Uh huh. Literary fiction has never really been my thing. Except for a few writers, it is a genre I do not care for, especially if it is the usual whiny white males)

1. The Emperor’s Children, by Claire Messud
2. What She Saw…, by Lucinda Rosenfeld
3. The Deptford Trilogy, by Robertson Davies
4. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
5. Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin (I read some of his short works in graduate school).
6. A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
7. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz
8. Lucy, by Jamaica Kincaid
9. The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy
10. White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
11. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
12. Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
13. Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney
14. The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri
15. Call Me by Your Name, by André Aciman
16. The Rachel Papers, by Martin Amis
17. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison (I read Beloved. That is pretty much enough for me)
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway (Read some of his short fiction).
19. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
20. A Home at the End of the World, by Michael Cunningham
21. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman (I have read this and recommend it. I am planning on rereading it at some point. This may be one of the few well-worth selections on this list, that, by the way, seems to be missing a few things. For example, Alan Moore's Watchmen should probably be on this list. By the way, I have also read some of Gaiman's short fiction, and his novel American Gods).
22. The Group, by Mary McCarthy
23. Quicksand and Passing, by Nella Larsen (I did read Passing in graduate school. I did not think that much of it, but I understand it probably was not the book for me).
24. Pastoralia, by George Saunders
25. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
26. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers
27. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
28. Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis (yes, I read this. It was mostly a "meh" experience for me)
29. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman (He got in, and someone like say, C.S. Lewis, who has both the Narnia series and that other science fiction trilogy did not? No Harry Potter neither? Not that I am a fan, but I would have thought Rowling might get in).
30. Generation X, by Douglas Coupland
31. The Fortress of Solitude, by Jonathan Lethem (The only Fortress of Solitude I care for is this one)
32. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson
33. I Love Dick, by Chris Kraus (I am refraining myself from the almost mandatory innuendo now)
34. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac (I did read this piece of overrated ego trip)
35. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins
36. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami

(So, what the hell? No Garcia Marquez? No Isabel Allende? Plus, as I mentioned earlier, you could have included Watchmen on the list of great novels, and that is just one graphic novel; I am sure there are others). 

GREAT MEMOIRS: (Here is another genre that I do not really like. I may read one or two here or there, but overall, it happens rarely).

37. Bossypants, by Tina Fey
38. Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain (I have read other books by Bourdain, just not this one).
39. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, by Toby Young
40. The Dirt, by Mötley Crüe and Neil Strauss
41. Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis
42. Just Kids, by Patti Smith
43. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, by Nick Flynn
44. Oh the Glory of it All, by Sean Wilsey
45. I Don’t Care About Your Band, by Julie Klausner
46. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
47. Lit, by Mary Karr
48. I’m with the Band, by Pamela Des Barres
49. Dear Diary, by Lesley Arfin

POETRY: (I do like reading poetry now and then. I often like to read local or regional authors, and I prefer simple poetry versus over-developed and pretentious verse.)

50. The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, by Anne Sexton (I have read her poetry, just not all of it. As far as I am concerned, that is more than enough)
51. Actual Air, by David Berman
52. The Collected Poems of Kenneth Koch, by Kenneth Koch
53. Alien vs. Predator, by Michael Robbins (The only Alien vs. Predator I care about is this one, which I am sure is a hell of a lot more exciting.)
54. The Collected Poems of Audre Lord, by Audre Lord (I have read her poetry, but not all of it)
ESSAYS THAT WILL MAKE YOU THINK AND/OR LAUGH: (Essay is a genre I do like when it is done right. I tend to prefer simple essays, observations, random thoughts, that kind of thing. I don't like stuff that goes too deep or tries to be too smart.)

55. Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
56. How to Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
57. My Misspent Youth, by Meghan Daum
58. Slouching Towards Bethlehem, by Joan Didion
59. Up in the Old Hotel, by Joseph Mitchell


60. How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman (The authors of the list describe it as a pretty basic cookbook. This may be one to look up down the road.)
61. How’s Your Drink?, by Eric Felten (If their description is accurate, this may be of interest too.)
62. The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White (Be honest, if you write, you have looked at this at least once).
63. Letters to a Young Contrarian, by Christopher Hitchens (I read it, and this may be the only book on the list that actually needs to be read by anyone before they get to their 20s, if possible.)
64. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards
65. He’s Just Not That Into You, by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo (That's ok. I am not into the vast majority of these books neither.)

I have read 6 authors and 5 books for eleven total out of 65. I guess I am mostly kaput at this point if I have not read them, and for the most part, I have no intention of reading them neither. There are plenty of other good books out there in my areas of interest that I do want to read.

How about you folks, have you read any of these? Did you like any? Hate any? Did the authors of the list miss any books you think should be included? Or maybe you think they should have left something out? You are welcome to leave comments.

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