The OF Blog: 50 Books that I wish other reviewers in my blogroll would review

Friday, March 26, 2010

50 Books that I wish other reviewers in my blogroll would review

Since in some corners of the immediate, semi-insular SF/F blogosphere there is still an ongoing discussion regarding which books to review and how many older (say pre-2005) books should be reviewed, I thought I would post a little bit of a wishlist of books I'd like to see other online reviewers tackle.  Some of these I've reviewed, others I have not (yet).  But hopefully, this will be a list that will provide something new, challenging, and/or entertainment for those willing to take up this challenge to review at least something from this list, given with no particular order in mind:

1.  Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus
2.  Alasdair Gray, Lanark:  A Life in 4 Novels
3.  Saul Bellow, The Victim
4.  Thomas Ligotti, Teatro Grottesco
5.  Edward P. Jones, The Known World
6.  Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse 
7.  M. John Harrison, Signs of Life
8.  William Gibson, Neuromancer
9.  Vladimir Nabokov, The Pale Fire
10. Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
11. Brian Evenson, The Wavering Knife
12.  Joanna Russ, The Female Man
13.  Octavia Butler, Lilith's Brood
14.  Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
15.  John Crowley, Aegypt series
16.  Dave Eggers, What is the What
17.  Art Spiegelman, Maus
18.  Monica Ali, Brick Lane
19.  Gustave Flaubert, The Temptation of Saint Anthony
20.  Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
21.  Daniel Wallace, Big Fish
22.  Tim Powers, The Anubis Gates
23.  Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
24.  Iain M. Banks, Use of Weapons
25.  Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
26.  Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
27.  Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast books
28.  Erich Maria Remarque, The Night in Lisbon
29.  John M. Ford, The Dragon Waiting
30.  Steve Erickson, Arc d'X
31.  Lord Dunsany, The King of Elfland's Daughter
32.  Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed
33.  Michael Moorcock, Mother London
34.  Chris Adrian, The Children's Hospital
35.  Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory
36.  James Clavell, Shogun
37.  Thomas Pynchon, V.
38.  Edward Whittemore, Jerusalem Quartet novels
39.  Isabel Allende, House of the Spirits
40.  Frank Herbert, Dune
41.  Frank Norris,  The Octopus
42.  Anne Lennox, The Female Quixote
43.  Gene Wolfe, The Book of the New Sun series
44.  Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children
45.  George R.R. Martin, Fevre Dream
46.  Jack Vance, Lyonesse series
47.  Sean Stewart, Perfect Circle
48.  Maureen McHugh, China Mountain Zhang
49.  Nicola Griffith, Slow River
50.  Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho

There are doubtless others that would be just as worthy, but I think this will serve as a nice challenge for others to read/review around their planned reviews. Certainly, these books will provide challenges to reviewers who are accustomed to approaching books from certain angles.  After all, can't review a Russ book the same way one might approach reviewing a Joe Abercrombie novel.  Different skill sets would be needed to do so and perhaps this would help reviewers grow in their craft.  I know reviewing a variety of styles/genres has helped my own reviewing, so I thought perhaps others would feel challenged enough to discover works that I hope will appeal to them and others as well.

Edit:  The titles in bold I have either reviewed in full or commented upon its author at length some point over the past six years on this blog.  Too lazy to do a full link search right now. Most of the authors I've mentioned at least in passing here.  Some I will review later this year perhaps.


Bryce L. said...

Peter at Ubiquitous Absence did a review not too long ago of Wolfe's Book of the New Sun

Just wanted to let you know. :)

Lsrry said...

Thanks. Will look at it shortly. You gonna choose one or more from this in the near future, you think? ;)

Neth said...

I generally shy away from lists, but you present this one a bit differently. It intrigues me, which more than I can say for the vast majority I see these days.

Out of your 50, I've read 3 and reviewed 1 of those. I own 12 that I haven't read yet and another 8 that are by the same author you list and are probably close enough to equivalent for your purposes hear.

It's interesting - sometimes the most challenging books can be the easiest to review. Of course they can also be the hardest, so I'm not sure the point is really worth making, but I'm experiencing that a bit now with what I'm reading. I'm having a tough time with the book and as a result I have a review at least half-written in my head already (and I'm only half into the book). We'll see how much things change by the time I finish. It's definately a good book and one that I will recommend (probably with with disclaimers), but it may not be the book for me - though I'd probably say it's a book that someone like me should read. It'll be a fun review to write.

Anyway, an interesting list. Maybe I'll be inspired to read and review one or two of those 12 to 8 (hell, I've already said I'll try to read one that meets an earlier challenge of yours of being published before xxx date (I think it was 1970)). A few of those meet both.

Lsrry said...

Good, as this list was meant to generate thought and curiosity, not to be just a prescriptive list. And I've found in recent weeks, as I've begun to reacquaint myself with review writing, that the hardest works to refer are the ones that I had a lukewarm reaction to. Nothing offensive, but nothing all that worthwhile as well.

Am curious which 3 you've read, by the way.

Neth said...

Anubis Gates

Quick, dirty and unfair opinions were:

Neuromancer: overated and dated
Dune: overated (but this may be more of a reaction to the sequels than the original
Anubis Gates: quite good, though it was an early review for me (which can be read as bad)

Lsrry said...

Would you believe I haven't yet read the Gibson or Powers books? I have them, but I haven't read them yet. Dune on its own is quite good, but it's been almost a decade since I've read any of the sequels, though.

Cindy said...

I sadly have never read any of them. But it has inspired me to look into some of them it doesn't hurt to try a new book every once in a while.

Lsrry said...

I hope you find several that you enjoy :D

Mihai A. said...

Very nice list indeed. I reviewed Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and I read "Dune" a long time ago. I read some of the authors here, but not the titles listed and I am thinking for a long time now that I finally should give Thomas Ligotti a chance. I have "Teatro Grottesco" and "My Work is Not Yet Done" and I will move them closer to my top of TBR pile.
I will explore the list further on :)

Ian Sales said...

I've done both Dune (see here) and The Book of the New Sun (see here) in the past.

Lsrry said...

Ian, those are two superb reviews. Even if I disagree to an extent with the Wolfe one, I can see where you're coming from and it's expressed very well. I just think the archaisms were employed with very good effect, but then again, my knowledge of most of those is at a second-hand nature; feluccas being something I associate with the Doges and medieval Venice.


I'll have to look for those reviews later. I'm up way past my bedtime, as the timestamp will show :P

Aishwarya said...

I've been planning to read Lanark, The Dragon Waiting and The Anubis Gates in the near future, so I'll have a go at reviewing them.

I love this list! I'm particularly hoping someone will pick up and review the Lyonesse trilogy as a result - I first read it a few years ago and I'd love to see what someone to whom it was new thought of it.

Anonymous said...

I've been considering, every 8 weeks or so, delving through time and picking up a classic to review. Especially to to dissect in terms of "datedness." I've two immediate candidates for the exercise: the Lyonese series and an omnibus edition of the Zimiamvia trilogy.

Unknown said...

That's one heck of a list. If I had time I'd try to read every book on it that I haven't read already. But I don't...

I have read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and might have reviewed it. I think I reviewed Neuromancer, but I could be wrong. And I couldn't finish Midnight's Children...though I wrote a paper on it, as odd as that sounds...

Joe said...

I've read a few of these, and I have reviewed the three Lilith's Brood novelsDawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago as individual books back in '07, Fevre Dream in 2006.

I do, however, plan to read Nicola Griffith's Slow River this year and would expect to review it. I may be reading Brick Lane and Blood Meridian. Both have been on my "list" for a while.

Mad Hatter Review said...

You've put together a thought provoking post as always. Of the 50 you've mentioned I've read:
Dune (loved it 10+ yeas ago,but never read the sequels)
Big Fish (a big sense of wonder type books and I just got the sequel The Watermelon King)
The Anubis Gates (Really disappointed me as I figured out the big reveal way too early)
Fevre Dream (I still contend this is one of the best Vampire books ever).
American Psycho (Severely screwed up)

I've had Neuromancer sitting on my to-read shelf for I don't know how long anymore and I've been meaning to read The Book of the New Sun and Gormenghast for years now. Well, I'm taking a trip to the bookstore today and if they have one I'll definitely pick it up. I hope to take up your challenge soon.

Liviu said...

An interesting list and I have some comments too.

Use of Weapons (has no The btw) is my all time sff novel as of now and has been for 15 years in which I read it 20 times easily and still enjoyed it; one I want to review whenever time/energy allows

I loved The Unbearable Lightness of Being a lot years ago when I discovered it and read it several times but now I moved beyond it and I am not sure I would care about it

Shogun is my top all time adventure non-sff novel and again I read it many, many times since the late 1980's when I discovered it; it inspired me to read many books set in Japan, written by Japanese authors, fiction, non-fiction...

Never Let Me Go is impressive and one I plan to review again if time/energy allows though I have several other comparable novels (Blind Assassin, Cloud Atlas) I want to do first

I would rather review the Pyat quartet as Moorcock goes and it's another one on the to do list

Same with Quin Shanghai Circus which I liked more overall than the first two JQ novels - have not read #3 and #4 yet though I have them

EM Remarque may be my all time favorite non-sff writer for his exile novels that so resonated with me along the years, but I liked A Time to Love and a Time to Die first, Arch of Triumph next, then I would say Flotsam, Night in Lisbon, Heaven has no Favorites and Shadows in Paradise

A Time to Love and a Time to Die is in my top, top non-sff list though there I cannot say I have a clear #1

I liked The Dispossessed some 30 years ago but now it seems very dated, same with Dune

I liked The Book of the New Sun too and it's impressive

For some reason while I love J. Vance Gaean novels, I never really cared about Lyonesse and was so-so on the Dying Earth

Harry Markov said...

Oh, now I have 50 more to add to my TBR list. You are quite the rebel, posting this totally upside down sort of list. :)

Bryce L. said...

I've been really looking at Iain Banks lately, so I might give Use of Weapons a go.

I also want to read a different Tim Powers book than the one listed, On Stranger Tides. It's on my wishlist.

I like your challenges. :D

John Ottinger III (Grasping for the Wind) said...

Good list and I agree with all of them. If you will, let me point out that I reviewed Fevre Dream at not that long ago.

Of course, I'm nowhere near as intellectual as you in my reviews, so you may find it of little interest, but some of us are trying not too be excessively insular or redundant when we can.

Otherwise, I have read some of these authors, but not the books you specifically mention.

RFYork said...

I would be interested to see what your readers would list as "Must Reads" on this list. Also, it would be helpful if you had a sub-list of the ones you have reviewed.

I very much enjoyed Ian Sales' review of Dune. He is correct that it is not written gracefully. I think Herbert's problem was the astounding wealth of ideas he was trying to cram into it.

I am 65 and read Dune when it was serialized in Analog in, I think, 1963. It is difficult to overestimate Herbert's prescience. I remember walking in to The Science Fiction Shop in Greenwich Village in 1979, the year of the Iranian Revolution. I heard Norman Spinrad tell the owner "Those guys read Dune too many times".

Mr. Sales is the first critic I've read who recognizes how much better the last two Herbert novels in the series are than the first three. They are quite lyrical, in spite of their violence. They display a mature understanding of the culture and people he has created. And, a certain nostalgia. Each of the principal characters are deeper and more well-rounded than in the first early books. They are also among the finest portrayals of a culture and civilization under attack I’ve read, fiction or non-fiction.

Finally, though I’m acquainted with most of the books on your list, I am embarrassed to say I’ve only read 19 of them. I could almost curse you for forcing me to add so many books back to my own “Must Read” list.

Wonderful post.

Richard York

Terry Weyna said...

I'll shortly be reviewing Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle -- not on your list, but in the same spirit, I think. I've read 11 books on the list (Gibson, Calvino, Spiegelman, Dick, Powers, LeGuin, Clavell, Herbert, Wolfe, Stewart and Martin) and own at least 22 more, so I may take up the challenge. I've especially been meaning to read Peake for some time!

I read Invisible Cities after reading your review of it awhile back, and was disappointed. I started out thinking it was brilliant, but about halfway in I began to believe it was too much of a muchness -- a small idea made too big. I never reviewed it because I was having trouble articulating my thoughts, and now I don't feel like I remember it well enough to review it at all. A pity, because I absolutely loved If on a winter's night a traveler -- and would like to reread that one sometime soon.

Ian Sales said...

Larry and Richard - thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed my reviews. One of these days, I'll have to read the entire Dune series, and blog it as I do so. If only the TBR pile wasn't so bloody huge...

Adam Whitehead said...

I've reviewed 'Use of Weapons' (no The, btw) and 'Fevre Dream', although I think that for the more offbeat spec fic fan 'The Armageddon Rag' may be more intriguing, though not quite as readable or as accomplished as 'Fevre Dream'.

And I own, read but not reviewed for the blog: 'Gormenghast', 'Lyonesse' (I'm planning a re-read and review to coincide with the new Gollancz classic omnibus edition, but I'm running late on that one), 'Dune' and 'The Book of the New Sun'. I daresay they will all come in time.

'Mother London', 'Neuromancer', 'The Anubis Gates', 'Shogun' and 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' are all on the to buy/read list.

Aldiss' 'Report on Probability A' (his intriguing 'antinovel'), Ballard's 'Crash', Zelazny's 'Lord of Light' and something by Priest would by my additions to such a list.

Fabio Fernandes said...

I have Teatro Grottescto, which I'm going to review soon (not sure when, though). Sometime this year I fully intend to read and review the Gormenghast trilogy, which I bought last year, started to read, was amazed by it - but, as you well know, I'm really swamped in work now (almost as deep you are, old chap, almost as deep).

Mimouille said...

Very interesting exercise. What is all the more funny to me is that 3 in this list are among my all-time top ten:

- Use of Weapons. Banks best and definitely one of SF's best I've read. The interlaced narration is just marvelous
- The Book of the Sun. To me Wolfe is unique and that is his major piece of work...even when you don't understand where he is going, you feel privileged for having read such a masterpiece...
- James Clavell - Shogun: One of the most beautiful pieces on Japan, a great take on culture shocks. Kept me up for nights on end. The series with Toshiro Mifune is not bad.

Beyond this, Maus is of course a very important, even if it is not among my favorite graphic novels...

But there is one book in this list that just did nothing for me is Gormenghast...beyond boredom, I just could not take it...I think I had to stop in the middle of the second book.

I should review some of the other books as they are in my waiting list...

The Evil Hat/Nat said...

A very interesting list, of which I've read depressingly little. I've read The Anubis Gates (just the other day actually, too fresh to frame my thoughts properly, though), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (overrated - reviewing it on Tuesday, actually.), Gormenghast (well, I'm halfway through it), Dune (very interesting, though I didn't LOVE it and was less keen on the second book), Book of the New Sun (Very, very interesting, but I'm not going to either say 'brilliant' or review it until I've done a reread to properly grasp it), Use of Weapons (overrated, in my opinion, though not to the degree that I won't try more Banks) and Fevre Dream (found the pacing to be off, but loved the atmosphere and characterization enough to make up for that. might review it someday). Of the rest, I've been planning on reading the McCarthy and the Gibson.

I think I'm going to have to concentrate a bit on this in reading/reviewing. Should be an interesting challenge, at the least.

Anonymous said...

I'm planning to review Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Sometime soon.

Mimouille said...

It's nowhere near as professional as your reviews, but it was on your list...

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