Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I'm curious about the books that people love. The ones that, for whatever reason, resonate in some way that others don't, or don't as much. Here are some of mine, in no particular order:

How to Survive in Your Native Land, James Herndon
Gravity and Grace, Simone Weil
Days With Frog and Toad, Arnold Lobel
many dialogues by Plato, but especially the Republic
Orlando, of course; Virginia Woolf
Little, Big (even better, is the truth of it); John Crowley
anything involving Bernie Wooster
Paradise Lost
Roget's Thesaurus, Original Edition


littlejoke said...

Do you find that books remain "favorites" in spite of not having looked at them in many years? usually because you've memorized the parts you cared most about.

A very partial list, fiction and poetry first, with asterisks by the ones I actually found myself re-reading not all that long ago:

*René Daumal, Mount Analogue
*Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
*John Crowley, the Ægypt cycle
Mircea Eliade, The Forbidden Forest
*John Fowles, The Magus
*C. J. Koch, The Year of Living Dangerously
Philip Levine, The Names of the Lost
*Charles Wright, Negative Blue: Selected Later Poems
Derek Walcott, The Star-Apple Kingdom; The Fortunate Traveller; Sea Grapes
*W. B. Yeats, various poems
T. S. Eliot, various poems
Ezra Pound, The Cantos
*Wallace Stevens, Collected Poems
*Robert Rosenblum, Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition
Andre Malraux, The Voices of Silence
*Frank Morley, The Great North Road: A Journey in History
Toulmin & Janik, Wittgenstein's Vienna
George Steiner, Language and Silence

...I know you didn't ask for such systematic comments, but jc (the other jc, for those who know who littlejoke is) posted the blog on crowleycrow and invited us to respond as we would. which in the case of joculum/littlejoke is at greater self-absorbed length than the blogger might wish.

t-ruth said...

Yes, to the question. Though it's not so much because of having memorized parts, for me. It's more like the book - sometimes the ideas of it, sometimes just the feel - is one that has become a permanent frame of reference for how I take in Things That Matter, as my friend John might put it. Also, the books that fall into that category are the ones out of which I would make a self-portrait. Which, for me, is different from the list of books that I just really liked a lot.

Meanwhile, systematic, self-absorbed length is perfect! Go team! I liked the Magus when I read it. It's the only one on your list that I really know about, though I like some Yeats, and have other JC on my list (just have read the AEgypt ones yet).

Karol said...

Little, Big has remained my favorite for many, many years. So maybe you would enjoy a more recent discovery: God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

t-ruth said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Karol. I will go see about it. Little, Big blew me away.

Anonymous said...

Thinking about it I realized that my list has slightly changed over the years. I wouldn’t include some books anymore because I haven’t revisited them for so long, that I can’t be assured that I still would hold them in high esteem.
My most favourite books in random order:

“On Heroes and Tombs” by Ernesto Sábato
“The Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad
“Aegypt” and “Little Big” by John Crowley
“A Handful of Dust” by Evelyn Waugh
“When we were Orphans” by Kazuo Ishiguro
“The Lord of The Rings” by Tolkien
“Peter Schlemihl” by Adalber von Chamisso
„A Mathematical Theory of Communication“ by Claude Shannon
Any good volume of Borges’ (are there any bad ones?)
The poetry of Sor Juana and Garcilaso de la Vega
“Focault’s Pendulum” by Umberto Eco
“The Solitudes” by Góngora
“Hymnen”, “Pilgerfahrten”, “Algabal” by Stefan George

Stephen Christian said...

Some books that have enchanted and helped create/sustain me over the years; some rather obscure, but treasures that should be better known:

certain short stories, Kipling
The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead
City, Clifford Simak
stories, Ray Bradbury
poems, Robert Frost
poems, Blake
Les Miserables
The Horse's Mouth, Joyce Cary
Little, Big (just read; VERY blow-away-able)
The Sound and the Fury
Mistress Masham's Repose (by T. H. White, author of The Once & Future King, and a just about perfect children's fantasy)
The Swallows and Amazons books, Arthur Ransom
Brideshead Revisited
The Joseph tetralogy, Thomas Mann
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Jung
Ring of Bright water, Maxwell
The Bat Poet, Randall Jarrell

JC said...

Well your people are my people, and not just because some liked my books. This ha s got to be a great opener tgo friendship, much better than "What's your sign?" or "Vegan or animal killer?" or any of many you could start with. "Mistress Masham's Repose", oh yes. "The Horse's Mouth" got me in trouble in high school, laughing uncontrollably in home room (or was it detention?. Best book I know of about a working artist.

On the other hand how can somebody I like (who's like The Man without Qualities)fall for "The Magus?" Ah, friendship...

t-ruth said...

I read the Magus in high school. I recall that the guy at the center of it - but maybe everyone in it, come to think of it - was an asshole. Still, I sort of liked it. But maybe it's just a meaner Steppenwolf. I think of John Fowles as someone who, technically speaking, knows how to make a paragraph. Or at least, I remember thinking that at the time, when I was reading that later one, Daniel Martin I think it was called.

Wouldn't it be great if there was some way to make an e-library on the site?

JC said...

One thing harder about this blog site is that you don't seem to be able to leave comments on comments, or maybe I just don't know how. All comments are to the main entry.

Did you see the review of a biography of Roget in the Sunday Times? Weird fellow, not very lovably weird either. I have NEVER put that book to its proper use, though I have at least three copies.

littlejoke asks about the ones that remain favorites though you haven't looked at them in years. Some disappoint on being returned to. I loved "Picnic on Paradise" by Joanna Russ and found on rereading it that... well, I didn't

Books that stay in memory, where I think I'll leave 'em lay as we said in Indiana:

Hamlet's Mill, Giorgio di Santillana
On Agression, Konrad Lorenz (taught me not that people are animals, which was the lesson for most, but how complex and like humans animals are.)
The Nazarene Gospel Restored, Robert Graves and another man I've forgotten.
More if I think of more...

But I can still read Alan Devoe's "This Fascinating Animal World," Edward Gorey's "The Willowdale Handcar," "Mistress Masham's Repose," "The Duchess of Malfi,"
the 1939 Encyclpedia Britannica, Fowler's Modern English Usage, "Lolita", and lots of others that I read before the age of 16, with undiminished pleasure & gratitude.

t-ruth said...


Re: comment threads:

Yes, it seems to be a limit of blogspot - or maybe just of those users of it who don't know how to mess with computer code - that you can't indicate it graphically when you are responding to a comment. It's that way on another blogspot blog I read, too. It's better when it's not that way. You'd think that at least they would display them with the newest ones at the top.

I've never read Mistress Masham's Repose. You've mentioned it twice now. What's it about?

Meanwhile, I'm disappointed to learn that Roget was a dick. It sort of seems like everyone was a dick. I wonder if everyone still is. Anyway, I didn't see the article. I'll try googling it. Now that google is a verb.

But do you mean that you never looked up the word in the back and got the number and then found the number in the front? How can that be?! It's so great! In fact, it's great enough that I will post as a new entry what I've just now written and read over, so that anyone who's anyone can weigh in easily.

Stephen Christian said...

T. H. White's Mistress Masham's Repose (1946) is about a young (and wonderfully, endearingly authentic and non-Hollywood) orphan girl named Maria, under the care of a vile oil slick of a governess and vicar, living on a gigantic British country estate called Malplaquet (based loosely on Blenheim), who discovers one fine summer day that Gulliver's Travels was based on fact (at least, the first section, the voyage to Lilliput),and that a colony of Lilliputians inhabits an island in a Malplaquet pond. Then the fun begins. With wonderful illustrations by Fritz Eichenberg, the novel has just an indescribable charm and whimsy and magic; I revisit it every so often like a pilgrim going to Lourdes. Along with books such as The White Deer by James Thurber and Great Expectations, it's part of the multigeneration bond between me, my mother, my grandmother.

littlejoke said...

T-Ruth's comment re The Magus is perfect, especially the caution that "maybe it's just a meaner Steppenwolf," which I had forgotten (or not read) when I wrote my "Gifts of the Magi" post this morning on joculum.

Blogspot has definite deficiencies, though that's not the primary reason I post so seldom on Counterforces as compared with joculum.