100 Books I Want To Read Before I Die – Part One

1. Ulysses by James Joyce.

My son wants to read this, and has prepared himself by reading the Odyssey first, although I told him he would be better off reading Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man.  This novel is kind of the Modernist Tai-Shan, more venerated than assayed, and I think I’d like to accompany my son in his ascent.

2. Ægypt by John Crowley

I could have cheated and made this four books.  Crowley has teased away a portion of the post-modern DNA better than any other writer.  He needs to be better known.  In a way, he appears to be continuing the work begun by Charles Williams 75 years ago in his novels, incorporating hermetic themes into the literary conversation but without promoting the diabolical element.

akita3. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

Another of my son’s suggestions.  I’ve started this book.  It is as cold, as bright, and as spare as an icicle on a cold, sunny day.  It is supposed to be the centerpiece of Japanese literature.  A novel written as haiku, and as descrete as the food in a bento box.

4. Book Of The New Sun by Gene Wolfe

Another cheat.  I have actually read the first volume of this, The Shadow Of The Torturer, and it deserves another read, in concert with its companions.

5. November 1916 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I will forgo the dubious pleasures of reading Proust.  If I have to read a book of over 1000 pages in which nothing actually happens, I would prefer it to be this one which would help me understand the twilight of the Christian Empire and the Russian Revolution.

6. Blindness by Jose Saramago

Portuguese is a language to get drunk on.  I believe there is some sort of Celtic substrate obtaining in Portuguese that isn’t so apparent in Castilian that accounts for the sheer enchantment of this language.  Having puzzled my way through Os Fidalgos da Casa Mourisca by Júlio Dinis, and enjoying it thoroughly, maybe I could tackle it in the original.

7. 2666 – by Roberto Bolaños

Yet another suggestion from my son.  Bolaños is everything a South American writer should be; subversive, transgressive, political, tongue-in-cheek, and  eclectic in his epistemology.  This is his magnum opus.  It also about the deeply disturbing ongoing holocaust of young women in Ciudad Juarez, an incident that draws several modern fault lines together; feminism, oligarchic capitalism, Free Trade, machismo vs marianismo.

8. The Fourth Ecumenical Council – All of the literature leading up to and culminating in it; the Letter of St Cyril to John of Antioch, the Condemnation of Dioscorus, the Acts of the Council, The Tome of St. Leo.   The Chalcedonian Definition answers more questions than we have yet put to it.

9.  English People – by Owen Barfield
10. Poetic Diction – by Owen Barfield
11. Saving The Appearances – by Owen Barfield

I am ashamed to say I haven’t read that  much Barfield.  His books are not available in libraries that are accessible to me, and I have little money with which to purchase them.  I so badly need to find out just what he is saying.

12. The Magic Mountain – by Thomas Mann

The period between 1912 and 1925 has a particular fascination for me.  maybe this is the reason I enjoy Boardwalk Empire  so much on HBO.  The Great War of 1914-1918 as the beginning of the Great European Self-Immolation and the period of deep disillusionment immediately following are approaching their centenaries, so even more urgent to understand this period of intellectual history.

13. Rumi

The few tastes I have had hitherto have only awakened my appetite for this world-class poet.

14. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

Indianapolis moves from agrarian polis to outpost of Empire.

15. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

I love Southern literature, and I’ve read Walker Percy, Flannery O’ Connor, and Robert Penn Warren.  I need at least one Faulkner.  I’m told this is the one.

16. Jurgen by James Branch Cabell

I don’t want to read the entire  Biography of Manuel, but somewhere in my future I hope there is a wood-fire-warmed, stuffy, bookcase-lined room with great bay windows overlooking a snowy street where I can devour this book.   I’ve read about 1/4 of it already.

17. A Critique Of Pure Reason along with “What Is The Enlightenment?” by Immanuel Kant

I need to be awakened from my dogmatic slumbers.

18. Personal Knowledge and
19. The Tacit Dimension by Michael Polanyi

After invoking Polanyi for 12 years to buttress my arguments on the Internet, it’s high time I actually read something by him.

Anubis_standing20. Russia’s Crimean War by John Shelton Curtiss

The struggle between the Revolution and the Reaction is fascinating to me.   The Crimean War was Phase Two as Napoleon’s nephew embroiled France and Britain in an international imbroglio over the Holy Places in the Middle East.

21.  The parts of the Bible I haven’t read yet.

When I became Orthodox, my Bible got bigger.  I haven’t kept up with it.  I need to read Ecclesiasticus,  2nd, 3rd, and 4th Maccabees, Judit, Tobit, 2nd 3rd and 4th Esdras, the additions to Esther, Daniel, and the Prayer Of Manasseh

22. Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Sigh, the world I am leaving to my children…  I figure if I read this,maybe I won’t  have to read anything by David Foster Wallace, who probably says the exact same thing, just in a far less entertaining way.  Anyway, any woman who admits that if you live by the Wonderbra, you will die by the Wonderbra deserves  a little of my attention.

23. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

I have heard that this novel contains the DNA of the United States of America in all of its batshit-crazy, Manichean glory.  I hope this is true. I have also heard that it is, if not unreadable, at least unfinishable.  I hope this is not true.

24. The Long Day Wanes – by Anthony Burgess

I loved Clockwork OrangeHoney For The BearsThe Wanting Seed, and Earthly Powers.  If I have to give too much attention to any one writer, it may as well be Burgess.

25. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers.

The literary legacy of Charles Williams lept forward 40 years and settled in John Crowley and Tim Powers.