OT - Best Book You Have Read?

Submitted by mgokev on June 21st, 2010 at 10:46 PM

So, I love to read and between news, sports, and of course mgoblog, I read whatever book strikes my fancy.  But I'm stuck and don't have a book "on deck" like I usually do.  So what are the best books you have read? Suggestions?  I mostly read fiction, but a well written non-fiction or biography can keep my attention.



June 21st, 2010 at 10:54 PM ^

The Master and Margarita
Einstein's Dreams
Ender's Game
The Picture of Dorian Gray
East of Eden
The Giver
The Fountainhead (College graduation present from my big brother)
A Mathematician's Apology
ANimal Fram
The Illustrated Man (Ray Bradbury)
The Metamorphosis
The Last Temptation of Christ

Six Zero

June 22nd, 2010 at 8:57 AM ^

Fountainhead, yes.  Hell yes.

Atlas Shrugged, no.  Takes a significant chunk of time to digest, and in the end I felt unsatisfied with it.  Like you have to convert to her idealistic philosophy to get it, and if you don't then it's your fault.  Bah!


June 22nd, 2010 at 9:04 AM ^

I don't know if you have ever heard her speak, but most of what she says comes across that way. What I know about Atlas Shrugged is that some of the most powerful people in the world cite this as the book that started their lives and that it is, but some sources, considered the second most influential book of all time, behind the Bible. Now, I haven't read the book because of its daunting size (combine that with a slow reader and you get problems), but I have to think that there is at least some validity to what she wrote.

Six Zero

June 22nd, 2010 at 11:44 AM ^

but, yes,  I'd have to agree.  The book is/was essentially a vehicle for her philosophy objectivism, and one of its prime underlying themes is that there are more important people in society than others.  These 'prime movers' (yes, no accident that there's a Rush song of same name-- Hold Your Fire?) operate on a different level than the rest of us, and should play by different rules and not have to feel apologetic or a sense of debt to the rest of society.

Now, is there some ring of truth to all that?  Sure.  But can you see why the book is a favorite of so many of those self-righteous celebrities and silver-spoon-fed trust fund babies out there?  It's easy to see why Angelina Jolie wanted the lead role so badly in the rumored film adaptation, and why so many others in Hollywood claim the book as gospel.  To them, it's an elitist license to keep one's nose high in the air (and not what Rand intended in the first place).

Epic literature, perhaps.  But I just don't buy what the esteemed Ms. Rand was selling.


June 22nd, 2010 at 11:51 AM ^

True, I most definitely could have worded that better, but in full disclosure that was more of a cut on my adolescent psyche than anything else.  When I first read that, around the age of 17 (I was applying to college at the time I remember), I did not think through all the implications of the propositions put forth in that book.  I barely scratched the surface of the "You deserve to profit from your hard work" ethos put forward and only years later was I able to think back upon it with a a more critical mind.


June 23rd, 2010 at 12:42 AM ^

prime underlying themes is that there are more important people in society than others

If you choose to view the book in an entirely negative light, yes.   A broader view of her beliefs, IMO, is that the very well intentioned and understandable desire to help those less fortunate, taken to extremes, will only end up shackling the best and brightest and ultimately hinders progress for all.

She very much criticized conservatives in this country as well as the left, FYI.


Video was taken in 1961 but everything she says applies to current politics, IMO.


June 23rd, 2010 at 9:39 AM ^

My favorite quote on the topic:

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."



June 22nd, 2010 at 5:27 AM ^

Good list, some other ones I've really liked:

Atlas Shrugged, my favorite

The Cold War by Lewis Gaddis

Historty of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

Brave New World

Farenheit 451

Beginnings by Asimov

Sophie's World


The Stranger

Chronicle of an announced death my Garica Marquez

Anything by Mario Vargas Llosa

Guns, Germs & Steel by Diamond

Cash Nexus or Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson


Currently reading the Rise and Decline fo Nations by Olson.


June 22nd, 2010 at 11:08 AM ^

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory

American Gods: A Novel

Candide (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

We (Modern Library Classics)

The Brothers Karamazov



June 22nd, 2010 at 6:38 AM ^

I have to second Ender's Game. This was the first book I read (forced) in high school that made me realise why people read books for pleasure. I continue reading constantly thanks to this gem. Only book I've ever read more than once. Currently i'm reading the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. It's good but really out there.


June 22nd, 2010 at 8:16 AM ^

Ender's Game is IMO the best sci fi book ever written.  For history I would recommend Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz (I took a seminar with Professor Ralph Williams on Primo Levi that was unbelievable), We were Soldiers Once...And Young, or Band of Brothers.  For sports books I have to agree with Friday Night Lights (I read that one in a class called The Sociology of Sport). As for fiction, I would love to say Don Quixote, which was great, but I would have to say the Harry Potter books are pretty fun.


June 22nd, 2010 at 9:14 AM ^

and the side series about Bean is also very good.  However, gotta say that, IMO, the Dune series trumps Endor's Game for best sci-fi series.  It's thick reading but any fan of sci-fi will love this series.  A lot of newer sci-fi steals elements of Dune, especially Star Wars.


June 22nd, 2010 at 8:44 AM ^

but I'm one of those folks who fail to see the greatness of it. I enjoy it, it's a read I would recommend to others, but I can't put it into the 'Pantheon' of great reads. It's sterile to me, lacking depth necessary for the grounds of Card's work, namely saving mankind. That's simply my preference, what I would like to see in a writing of such scope, which is worth roughly 2 cents.


June 21st, 2010 at 10:55 PM ^

As a huge baseball geek this is the standard answer... But it's just fascinating to try and peer into a man's mind like Billy Beane...

I just don't understand how a man can run a baseball team and never watch any of their games.  Even if he is trying to take an objective look at a subjective game...


And also, he's pretty much abandoned the moneyball approach and is way into soccer now, but it's still a great read.


June 22nd, 2010 at 12:55 AM ^

James Joyce was the centerpiece of a drunken rant the night I met my girlfriend at a bar in Evanston. I bitched near endlessly about the nonsense on the first page of "A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man."

When you wet the bed, first it is warm then it gets cold. His mother put on the oilsheet. That had the queer smell.

I may remember that line until I die.


June 21st, 2010 at 11:30 PM ^

The World According to Garp is definitely one of my favorites.   A Prayer for Owen Meany (also by John Irving) is amazing, too.  Also... 1984, Dune, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Middlesex, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Catcher in the Rye.

Wes Mantooth

June 22nd, 2010 at 10:09 AM ^

The Hotel New Hampshire is an awesome book.  I've read a lot of John Irving's stuff and love it all.  I just picked up Last Night In Twisted River but haven't started it yet.  

Also, I've posted on here before about Cormac McCarthy, but he's another favorite of mine.  Blood Meridian, No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses....I'd recommend any of them.


June 21st, 2010 at 11:07 PM ^

If you like fiction and well written non-fiction, you may like One Second After by William Forstchen. It is about the impacts and aftereffects of an EMP strike over the United States. I couldn't put it down. While unlikely, it is still a possibility, and Forstchen does a great job telling the story.

Also, anything by Jon Krakauer, great adventure writer, as he wrote Into the Wild and Into Thin Air.


June 21st, 2010 at 11:10 PM ^

I will check out One Second After.  I've read both of Jon Krakauer's books that you mentions and liked them.  I would recommend A Walk In the Woods by Bill Bryson if you liked the Krakauer books.  It's not as adventurous, but it's a story of a man's journey of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  It has a bit of humor in it as well.  Good, easy read.


June 22nd, 2010 at 10:41 AM ^

I loved a Walk in the Woods as well.

Another Krakauer-like book is Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad.  It's about a kid (12 or 13 I think) who survives a plane crash and has to work his way down a mountain.  A lot of the book is spent explaining how his adventures with his father have prepared him for the moment.

I'm an airplane nerd, but a good biography is Boyd by Robert Coram.  It's about the Air Force's top fighter pilot in the late 50's who wrote the book on air-to-air tactics, then reinvented himself as an engineer and made major contributions to the F-15 and F-16 programs.  After he retired, he got really into war strategy and his ideas led to the war plan for the Gulf War.  He was a really colorful character and it's a great read.

If you're looking for fiction, my favorite writers are Christopher Moore and Nick Hornby.  Moore writes pure comedy.  I think I loved Fluke and Lamb the most.  Fever Pitch is probably my favorite Hornby, followed by High Fidelity.


June 22nd, 2010 at 12:11 PM ^

Loved both Krakauers you listed. Shadow Divers is another great adventure non-fiction title that will get your heart pumping. The Lost City of Z is a recent favorite. 

History- With The Old Breed- E.B. Sledge. Provided much of the Pacific battle source material in Ken Burns 'The War,' shocking what those guys went through. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt- Edmund Morris. 

Sports- Playing For Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made- David Halberstam. A Jordan bio that digs deep (& I mean deep) into the basketball world of the Jordan-Magic-Bird era. Instant Replay- Jerry Kramer- like being in Lombardi's locker room. 

Fiction- Catcher in the Rye, The Martian Chronicles, The Dark Tower series, Crime & Punishment, Lord of the Rings, The Three Musketeers, Old Goriot, Watership Down.


June 21st, 2010 at 11:08 PM ^

When I was much younger one of my favorite books was "I Want To Go Home". I forget the author, but it was about a kid who got sent to summer camp and spent most of the time trying to escape.

Fat Mike

June 21st, 2010 at 11:10 PM ^

I know they were made into movies but Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter series was pretty good. He also wrote a book called Black Sunday before he wrote the Lecter series and that was good too. Plus the story is centered around the Super Bowl.

I found out that Red Dragon was written before Silence of the Lambs but they made Red Dragon into a movie after Hannibal, which was written third.


June 21st, 2010 at 11:11 PM ^

I've become addicted to Patrick Obrien's novels about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. There's a bunch of them. They were the source for the movie Master and Commander, with Russell Crowe a few years back. The first one is called Post Captain, and they go from there. Amazing reads. Very fun and entertaining. Can't put em down.

Wallaby Court

June 22nd, 2010 at 11:09 AM ^

I disagree with the O'Brien recommendation. I've read a few, but I found them to require far too much technical sailing knowledge to be palatable. I've sailed before, but I don't know enough about a sailing a square-rigged ship to understand alot of what's going on. For my money, the Horatio Hornblower novels by C.S. Forester are a better execution of the same concept. Admittedly, Hornblower isn't quite as complex a character as Aubry, but there is enough to make the plot and characterization good while avoiding some of the jargon that seems to plague O'Brien.