Favorite Book of All Time

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Favorite Book of All Time

#1  Postby UtilityMonster » Apr 30, 2012 10:27 pm

Fellow board members,

I am going to read a huge number of books over the next year. I would prefer to spend my time reading the best books available. I am going to base some my selections on what you guys consider your favorite books. I know it is so hard to pick just one, but please don't list 5,000. Just to share my own:

Favorite nonfiction: The Blank Slate - Steven Pinker

Favorite fiction: A Song of Ice and Fire - George R. R. Martin


Please, share your all time favorites!
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#2  Postby Fallible » Apr 30, 2012 10:30 pm

The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
Brighton Rock - Graham Greene
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#3  Postby Kaleid » May 01, 2012 1:54 am

"Favorite Book of All Time"? Impossible!

However, purely off the top of my head, a very good book, that brings me pleasure every time I read it -
'The Remains of the Day' - Kazuo Ishiguro
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#4  Postby orpheus » May 01, 2012 2:23 am

Hmm.

Ulysses by James Joyce. (Though if you've not read Joyce before, start with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. If you really want to be adventurous, dip into Finnegans Wake. But that's one to read over the course of a lifetime, really.)
Three Novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unamable by Samuel Beckett
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

I'll keep thinking. But those are the ones usually at the top of my list.
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#5  Postby UtilityMonster » May 01, 2012 4:14 am

I actually already had Ulysses on my list. Supposedly it is just an absolute classic. Why do you think I should start with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?

Also, had Lolita on my list as well. Needless to say, I picked it because the subject matter just sounded so damn interesting.
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#6  Postby orpheus » May 01, 2012 4:03 pm

UtilityMonster wrote:I actually already had Ulysses on my list. Supposedly it is just an absolute classic. Why do you think I should start with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?

Also, had Lolita on my list as well. Needless to say, I picked it because the subject matter just sounded so damn interesting.


Well, Lolita is a wonderful book. The language is incredible. Virtuoso writing.

ReJoyce: This will answer some questions and direct you to some really very useful resources. To use a comparison to much lesser literature, Portrait is to Ulysses as The Hobbit is to Lord of the Rings. It's an important prequel. (Also, it's a very great book on its own. Immensely worthwhile.)
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#7  Postby Animavore » May 01, 2012 4:16 pm

Ulysses is one of my favourite fiction. Also The Life of Pi, Vernon God Little and Geek Love.

My favourite Steven Pinker book was The Stuff of Thought. I really liked The Blank Slate myself but some on this site who are trained in that type of area pointed out some problems with it which made me think again.
Other than that my favourite non-fiction is probably The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. But there's so many wonderful non-fiction books it's only in front by a margin.

EDIT: Here's a wonderful podcaston Ulysses. Every week Frank Delaney takes a few lines of the book and does a six minute podcast unpacking all the allegories and references. He might have it complete in 10 years at this rate.
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Favorite Book of All Time

#8  Postby daveWW » May 02, 2012 10:18 pm

The Good Soldier Švejk by Hašek is funny. Really funny, but ultimately heartbreaking.

The humour becomes almost unbearable as he and the rest approach the Front, to be slaughtered like cattle in WW1.

I rarely re-read books. But I read this bg book twice. I know I'll read it again.


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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#9  Postby SafeAsMilk » May 02, 2012 11:47 pm

Godel, Escher, Bach by Hofstadter. Can't say I understood it all, but it definitely gave me some food for thought about the nature of cognition.

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. Primitive, post-apocalyptic journey told through the protagonist's own deconstructed language.

I'll very curious to see what you think of Ulysses if you get around to it!
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#10  Postby orpheus » May 03, 2012 1:04 am

SafeAsMilk wrote:Godel, Escher, Bach by Hofstadter. Can't say I understood it all, but it definitely gave me some food for thought about the nature of cognition.

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. Primitive, post-apocalyptic journey told through the protagonist's own deconstructed language.

I'll very curious to see what you think of Ulysses if you get around to it!


Excellent suggestions. Hoban never lets one down, and GEB is astounding.
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#11  Postby UtilityMonster » May 03, 2012 4:51 pm

SafeAsMilk wrote:Godel, Escher, Bach by Hofstadter. Can't say I understood it all, but it definitely gave me some food for thought about the nature of cognition.


I have a friend who has been "reading" that book for a few years now. He moves through it like a snail. Apparently it is one tough cookie to fully digest.
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#12  Postby orpheus » May 03, 2012 5:12 pm

UtilityMonster wrote:
SafeAsMilk wrote:Godel, Escher, Bach by Hofstadter. Can't say I understood it all, but it definitely gave me some food for thought about the nature of cognition.


I have a friend who has been "reading" that book for a few years now. He moves through it like a snail. Apparently it is one tough cookie to fully digest.


It is, but hugely fun. And nourishing.
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#13  Postby monkeyboy » May 03, 2012 5:15 pm

Shogun-James Clavell. I actually read my first copy to death, fell apart in my hands. Second copy is already looking ragged.

Currently reading European history.
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#14  Postby SafeAsMilk » May 03, 2012 5:20 pm

UtilityMonster wrote:
SafeAsMilk wrote:Godel, Escher, Bach by Hofstadter. Can't say I understood it all, but it definitely gave me some food for thought about the nature of cognition.


I have a friend who has been "reading" that book for a few years now. He moves through it like a snail. Apparently it is one tough cookie to fully digest.

I hope he's taking notes, I couldn't imagine getting everything out of it on a first read. Definitely text book-like in its density. Fortunately he has an engaging writing style, so I didn't mind re-reading chapters to freshen up.
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#15  Postby MacIver » May 03, 2012 7:36 pm

UM, I would highly recommend R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing series if you like GRRM. It's fantasy but written by a philosophy lecturer. SOIAF is brilliant, and feels really real, but PoN is something else. It's going to be two trilogies set about twenty years apart. We're currently on the first book of the second trilogy. A longer recommendation by me can be found here.

But besides that my favourite book ever would be a toss up between Absolution Gap by Alistair Reynolds and His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. Also, the Sandman series of graphic novels by Neil Gaiman is brilliant, but not everyone considers GNs to be "proper" books.
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#16  Postby Fallible » May 04, 2012 8:52 am

Ahhh yes, His Dark Materials! How could I forget them?

I think I must try the R. Scott Bakker books again. I got half way through the second one before finally releasing my tenuous grip on the plot and giving up. However I've seen them praised up and down the land by people as the best thing since sliced bread, so I was probably missing something big. Might have to do with the fact that I was mostly drunk at that point in my life. :shifty:
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#17  Postby Loren Michael » May 04, 2012 9:45 am

ASOIAF is the best fiction, hands down. It's the The Wire of fantasy.

EDIT: MacIver's mentioning of Sandman is definitely worthwhile, but I'm an even bigger fan of the Lucifer spinoff from that series, which is essentially an extended meditation on "free will" and determinism with a great many pages torn from Paradise Lost, and is just goddamn brilliant.

Nonfictionwise, I don't have a favorite, more a top 5, and most of these are my favorites because they've had a strong effect on the heuristics I tend to use in my understanding of the world. The Stuff of Thought by Pinker, The Origins of Political Order by Francis Fukuyama, Nonzero and The Moral Animal, both by Robert Wright, and A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine are the current five I tend to keep in my brain.

It's interesting to me in that my appreciation for Fukuyama's and Irvine's books stemmed immediately from the understanding I gleaned from Wright's two books, and my reading of both Pinker and Wright affected my appreciation for Irvine's book.

I think Wright was the most influential for me. My top five prior to reading Wright probably would have been some combination of Dawkins, Shermer, Sagan, and Harris' books. I think I've almost totally lost my appreciation for them now.
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#18  Postby UtilityMonster » May 04, 2012 5:38 pm

Loren Michael wrote:ASOIAF is the best fiction, hands down. It's the The Wire of fantasy.


Seconded. That series are the only fiction books I have read since AP English in high school. I do want to start reading fiction again though.

Loren Michael wrote:
Nonfictionwise, I don't have a favorite, more a top 5, and most of these are my favorites because they've had a strong effect on the heuristics I tend to use in my understanding of the world. The Stuff of Thought by Pinker, The Origins of Political Order by Francis Fukuyama, Nonzero and The Moral Animal, both by Robert Wright, and A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine are the current five I tend to keep in my brain.


Interesting you are a big fan of Wright. He actually did a talk at my university and during the reception we got into a verbal brawl over whether the "moral progress of humanity is a sign that there is some type of plan to the universe." I'm not simply going to dismiss him because he thinks there may be some type of supernatural being responsible for human progress, but that did lower my opinion of him. Nevertheless, his lecture was largely about how much conflict owes to the fact that people think gains are nonzero, and I thought it was fascinating and true. He spoke of how people once believed in many gods, but only served one god. They viewed defeats in battle as a sign that their god was more powerful than their opponents' god. However, eventually they came to give the ultimate insults to their opponents by simply denying that their gods existed, and this contributed to the development of monotheism.

In regards to The Moral Animal, I find evolutionary psychology fascinating as well. It has so many implications for policy that I simply cannot believe how few people have drawn the connection. In fact, that is why I loved The Blank Slate so much. I also loved How the Mind Works. I studied evo psych in college largely because of these.

Fukuyama came and gave a lecture at my university as well, but I MISSED IT. Tragic. I just looked up the book on Stoic joy - it looks fantastic. I will definitely add it to my list.

Loren Michael wrote:
I think Wright was the most influential for me. My top five prior to reading Wright probably would have been some combination of Dawkins, Shermer, Sagan, and Harris' books. I think I've almost totally lost my appreciation for them now.


If I were to list my top five, I'd say:

The Blank Slate - Pinker
Eating Animals - Jonathan Safren Foer
The Rational Optimist - Matt Ridley
A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
The God Delusion - Dawkins

These books have been the most influential in shaping my outlook in life. Amazing what a few good books can do to your life.
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#19  Postby Animavore » May 04, 2012 5:41 pm

You should probably ask your friend, Mr. Samsa, what he think of The Blank Slate.
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Re: Favorite Book of All Time

#20  Postby UtilityMonster » May 04, 2012 5:46 pm

Animavore wrote:You should probably ask your friend, Mr. Samsa, what he think of The Blank Slate.


Oh, we have already had that discussion. We also battled it out over The Language Instinct, vegetarianism, and behaviorism. I have never met a more civil debater on the board, though, which is why I put up with his shit and now claim that he is no longer my archnemesis. :lol:
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