1. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll – The most concentrated pleasure ever between two covers. Your favorite book when you were 8, could be still.
2. Come Back, Dr. Caligari, Donald Barthelme – Comes as close to #1 as the world will allow. Short stories, tiny little diamonds. I think I loaned it to somebody, somebody who should give it back.
3. The Sears Catalog (~winter ’82 – winter ’85) – Nobody has ever wanted anything like an eight-year-old wants an Intellivision in the Christmas of ’83. Every moment of every life is a pale shadow of this primal need.
4. assorted travel writing, V.S. Naipal – A bunch of books which should be called “The World’s Most Gapingest Asshole Goes To ______”. And he really is. And he writes so well and sounds so easy you want to break your keyboard and your fingers and sew your mouth shut. Seriously, fuck you, Sir Vida, on about seventeen billion different levels, and fuck God while you’re at it. I’ve never really liked his fiction, but I’ve never read any as an adult. Paul Theroux is a credible Mini-Me, but let us be at least slightly serious.
5. AD&D Monster Manual, E. Gary Gygax – Yes, the one with the cover painting by Napoleon Dynamite – my nerd-fu is that chronically fucking invincible. I know an ogre has 4+1 hit dice – don’t waste my time. How about something harder: do I know how many hit dice a remorhaz has? Maybe I do, and then again, maybe I don’t. Before you test me, you gotta ask yourself: do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk? I have heard vulgar rumors that there are later “editions”. What nonsense people talk.
6. Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy – So, yes, it is, like much of the wasteland that is Modern American Literary Fiction, a style exercise. The plot is very similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 80’s classic “Commando”, if you replace Alyssa Milano with an eight-foot-tall hairless Satan, and if you replace what remains of the plot with more pointless killing in a silly tone of voice. Having recited The Reader’s Manifesto, I confess I have spent more than a few moments re-reading and thinking about this book, and suspect there may be some Truth underneath.
7. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe – Is not a style exercise. 8 out of 10 Greek Tragicians believe this may be utterly perfect and without flaw. When Don Delillo goes to Hell for being boring and pointless and windy and generally wasting everyone’s time, I’m going to smack him right across the mouth with this book. Fucking yeah. Inexcusably, I have read nothing else he has ever written. I blame diapers.
8. The 20 Year’s Crisis, E. H. Carr – The densest, most penetrating piece of poli-sci writing I am aware of. Marxism can’t be all bad. Dialectic, bitches.
9. Lasers, Seigman – I would say that my Master’s degree is worth about 40 pages of this book. It’s ~1100 pages. Dielectric, bitches.
10. The Cosmic Code, Heinz Pagels – I faked my way through a supposedly difficult physics class with this pop sci book. I am the biggest science phony.