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What is the BEST book ever?

 
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Jan, 2007 12:51 am
oops/posted sans seeing GeorgeOB's view.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Jan, 2007 01:03 am
So, I read Karamazov at sixteen, rather painfully for the first part with what in the world were all those names. Might have read War and Peace just after that. I suspect I lie, that I read W & P first. Read Dickens back then too.


Never mind all of us who read this stuff. This stuff that formed part of our structure of ourselves....


but where is the equivalent for today as the preface for reading these.

I have to add that I read these on my own for my own enjoyment, not in either my 4 year catholic high school or my one year of catholic college or my next four years (though that would be my fault) of state university.
I read them in summer, at my job taking x-rays and evenings between.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Jan, 2007 01:06 am
I don't mind that choices change, as long as there are lists of good tomes or bits to read.

My primary worry is that the interest in reading seems to have dived toward the visual and easy.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Jan, 2007 01:08 am
ossobuco wrote:
I'll show you two who I am, and give you fodder for dismissal. I liked d'maupaussant's stories, read now almost fifty years ago, and remember nothing except liking them, almost remember the book.

But... I'll claim that however we process what we read and for however long, it gets interwoven into ourselves. Sometimes for some silly phrase, and sometimes for a keen idea - whether or not that idea's source is remembered twenty years later. Sometimes the keen ideas just agree with already held ideas. That's good too, additive.

Await the challenging thought; in my case it is usually from myself. Keeps one blinking..


Oooh, osso, you raise a good point. I think that when we read something we like or that grabs us, it does stay with us even if we've moved beyond the point we were when we read it. I think this happens because it gave us something we needed or wanted when we read it. And what it gave us does become a part of us. I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn over 40 years ago. I have no idea whether it's a great book and don't much care. I loved it and still love it in my memory.

George, Haven't read Hemingway in decades, but I remember the dialogue feeling stilted even way back when. However, I thought he brought other things to his writing that might stand the test of time. I did reread Faulkner's The Light in August about a year or so ago. It held up for me. I admire Faulkner greatly.

The works of the writers you mention will, I agree, always be great works. Herein is the distinction between good and favorite. There's another distinction. Personal taste. There are writers I know are good and books I know are good, but I just don't like them. It's that simple.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Jan, 2007 01:26 am
Well, I am not putting up favorites for best book ever at this point.

I'll say that of the a2kers I know somewhat, they all have books they will talk about in conversation, books from literary/philosophical history which made a dent on them.

Let me just doubt that all a2kers who mention books have read all these book as a whole. None have read all possible books and written all possible theses about them - except maybe Set, and even then...

We all gather our wits from sources and from ourselves as we can.

My favorite book in terms of sheer loving a book is not even my favorite any more. But I did read The Virginian by Owen Wister many times.



For the sex scene.








What sex scene?







Well, I was thirteen, I thought it was a sex scene.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Jan, 2007 01:44 am
ossobuco wrote:
Well, I am not putting up favorites for best book ever at this point.

I'll say that of the a2kers I know somewhat, they all have books they will talk about in conversation, books from literary/philosophical history which made a dent on them.

Let me just doubt that all a2kers who mention books have read all these book as a whole. None have read all possible books and written all possible theses about them - except maybe Set, and even then...

We all gather our wits from sources and from ourselves as we can.

My favorite book in terms of sheer loving a book is not even my favorite any more. But I did read The Virginian by Owen Wister many times.



For the sex scene.








What sex scene?







Well, I was thirteen, I thought it was a sex scene.



I rarely talk about books on a2k with anyone, so I don't know who's read what or who talks about what or who's read what they talk about.

I studied literature, so, at least theoretically, I know a good book when I see one. Have some understanding of what makes a book great, which is why I make the distinction between great and favorite. There are great books that I don't like on a personal level. Taste is involved, and who I am is involved, but on an intellectual level I can see that the book is a good one.

And I agree with you that "the interest in reading seems to have dived toward the visual and the easy."
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Jan, 2007 02:26 am
I cannot help returning to "Middlemarch" and parts of "Daniel Deronda".


But I am thinking only of fiction, not books in general.
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georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Jan, 2007 06:03 pm
Good points from both Osso and Roberta. I could be wrong about much of Faulkner, and, yes, taste and inclination matter in the identification of both 'best' and 'favorites'.

We all bring our own limits to the literature we read, and, as osso suggests, are in turn affected by it. I gues the only element of my point that I will prress is that the discovery by many people that certain works have continued meaning for them, even after long periiods of time, is a key factor in identifying what Roberta has called the 'best' literature.
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The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Jan, 2007 04:58 am
Roberta:
Could you explain further?
What theoreticlaly would make a novel great?
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Jan, 2007 05:37 am
The Pentacle Queen wrote:
Roberta:
Could you explain further?
What theoreticlaly would make a novel great?


Sure, I'll give it a shot. First the writing. The use and choice of words. The power of the words and the images that the words create. A facility with language that's unique and specific to the writer and to the work that's being written.

Next, characters that are fully formed, complex, and believable. With inner life as well as actions.

A plot that is coherent and intelligent and that moves forward almost on its own power.

These three things must combine to create a reality, even if it exists only in words and in our mind's eye. And there's the intangible quality--talent. A gift that is almost indefinable. But without it, the book just doesn't work.

I read a book a while back that was exquisitely written. I actually stopped occasionally to admire the writing. I stopped and reread a line or a paragraph to admire the words. The characters were fully drawn. The plot moved me forward. But I was bored. That intangible element--at least for me--was missing.

There are books that have all the qualities needed to be considered great. I admire the writing. I believe the characters. The plot moves me forward. The writer has talent. But I don't necessarily like the book. I can admire and respect what the writer has achieved and can acknowledge that it may be a great book. But my own personal taste requires more. Passion, powerful emotion.

I'm sure that more astute and knowledgeable students of literature could come up with more elements that make a book great. It's possible that I used to know more and forgot them. But the things I mention here are the what have remained with me and that are necessary for me.
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Debacle
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Jan, 2007 10:05 am
That was a home-run response, Roberta. I believe you admirably rounded all the bases.

Personally, I have no idea what the best ever book might be; most likely it's one I haven't read, nor perhaps even heard of. Therefore, it seems that one can only be a subjective judge, making it a question of "favorite" as opposed to "best." And even one's favorite may be subject to frequent changings. I think much depends on a variety of factors: what the reader brings to the book in experience, temperament, present mood, etc.

One little book I've recently enjoyed, which was published only last year, is "Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile" by Verlyn Klinkenborg. It's based on the life of an 80-some-year-old tortoise residing at Gilbert White's Selborne estate. Wonderful language, imagery and sentiment.

An interesting aside: Gilbert White's "The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne" which was first published in 1788(or '89) is fourth on the list of most published books in English, behind the Bible, the Oxford English Dictionary, and the works of Shakespeare. Now, how many readers have even heard of "Selborne", as opposed to, say, Don Quixote, Breakfast of Champions, Harry Potter (which, BTW, I understand has now eclipsed "Selborne" for the number 4 spot) Moby Dick or War and Peace? And yet, White's book has never been out of print.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Jan, 2007 02:41 pm
Debacle, Great to see you!!!

Whenever we ascribe the word "great" or "best" to something, we can for the most part only be stating an opinion. I haven't read every book, so I can't state definitively that I've found the best one. I can read a book and recognize that it's a great work. All the necessary elements are there, and then some. But if it doesn't touch something special inside me, it won't be a favorite.

BTW, I'm one of the masses who never heard of White's book. Should I look for it? I will look for the book about the toitle. It sounds like something I'd enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation.
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Debacle
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Jan, 2007 03:22 pm
It's grand to see you, too, Roboida!

I think you'd enjoy "Timothy". Here's an Amazon link where (at the bottom of the page) you'll find some reviews.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Jan, 2007 03:43 pm
We humans are split-gaited creatures. Love that. I'm gonna have to wait until the used prices go down. But I will read this book. Thanks, kid.
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Debacle
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Jan, 2007 06:19 pm
I thought the term was stilt-gaited, but it makes little difference to the expressed opinion.

The book is filled with gems of that sort; rather take us down a peg or two in our own conceits, which can only be good therapy, I should think.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Jan, 2007 06:32 pm
Debacle wrote:
I thought the term was stilt-gaited, but it makes little difference to the expressed opinion.

The book is filled with gems of that sort; rather take us down a peg or two in our own conceits, which can only be good therapy, I should think.


You're right (so what else is new?). Stilt-gaited it is.


Embarrassed
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Luciene
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Apr, 2007 09:38 am
The Beach-Alex Garland

But then I read it last night and I can't get it out of my head.

Lord of the Flies is up there as well.
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sensfan19
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Apr, 2007 07:27 pm
Moonfleet by J.Meade Faulkner is an incredible read. I think it would make a good movie.
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Quincy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2007 07:51 pm
"The Great Gatsby" by F.S. Fitzgerald?
"The Lord of the Rings" Tolkein?
"Superforce" by Paul Davies
"Brave New World" Aldous Huxley
Most of Nietzsche's work....
....and many other books....

As far as humour goes, I do enjoy Tom Sharpe:
"Wilt"
"Indecent Exposure"
"Ancestral Vices" etc.

And ofcourse, Terry Pratchett
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The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 May, 2007 01:39 pm
The Beach is a really great book- but the film is pants! Nothing like the book at all. I hate it when that happens. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
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