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existentialism

By Adam Scott,2014-02-06 09:49
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existentialism

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    Not the 50 books you must read before you die

    27 Mar 2011

    1 Ulysses by James Joyce

    Only a “modern classic” could condense one man’s day into an experimental epic that takes years to plough through. If the early description of the protagonist going to the lavatory doesn’t make your eyes swim, the final 40 pages, untroubled by punctuation, will.

    2 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

    The finest dystopic novel of the 20th century, coining such terms as “doublethink” and “thought crime”, but indirectly responsible for the rise of reality television

    and the career of Davina McCall.

    3 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    Directly responsible for too many newspaper articles starting: “It is a truth universally acknowledged„”

    4 Emma by Jane Austen

    Often cited as Austen’s most flawless romance, but even the author had to admit she had created a heroine “whom no one but myself will much like”.

    5 Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence

    Infamous, explicit tale of an aristocratic woman and her gamekeeper that’s pompous and verbose more than it is naughty.

    6 The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

    Not nearly as bawdy or easy to understand as your English teacher promised (“Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth„”). Plus no cover puff from Stephen Fry, so probably not worth reading.

    7 The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

    Jay Gatsby is not as great a character as everyone thinks he is. Neither is this book, or the author, or the million of people who pretend to like it. Full of people doing tedious things, breaking off only to sleep with each other’s wives.

    8 Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

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    See above. Bizarrely, was given as a present by Michael Howard to woo his future wife. Even more bizarrely, it worked.

    9 Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

    One of the great 19th-century novels, taking in war, politics, religion and retribution. But not as catchy as the musical.

    10 Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

    Better than the musical, which lasted two months in the West End. But not as good as the film, which honed the line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

    11 by Gabriel García Márquez One Hundred Years of Solitude

    Like trying to get to grips with seven generations of your Colombian exchange student’s family tree.

    12 The Outsider by Albert Camus

    Read by generations of schoolchildren in the original French, this slim volume is solely to blame for the ability of thousands of A-level students to regurgitate rote-learnt essays on existentialism and their inability to ask the way to the

    Louvre.

    13 Candide by Voltaire

    See above, replacing “existentialism” with “Leibnizian optimism”.

    14 The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

    See above, replacing “Leibnizian optimism” with “Kafkaesque” and “the Louvre” with “the Brandenburg Gate”.

    15 The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    A touching story of doomed young love to some; a big steaming dollop of self-pity for others. Young Werther is in love with a girl and works himself up into such a frenzy of misery that he eventually shoots himself. Read this, and you may be tempted to do the same.

    16 Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos

    Some fine words, but all of them in French, and no semi-clad pictures of the actress who played Buffy and starred in the epistolary novel’s film adaptation, Cruel Intentions, which at least is in English.

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    17 War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

    A 1,225-page history textbook, sometimes compared to an epic soap opera in its broad sweep of events and characters. Neighbours is much more accessible. 18 Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    A tale of mental anguish and intense moral dilemmas. Mercifully, it’s shorter than War and Peace.

    19 The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

    When superior life forms come to write the history of the extinct human race, they will cite this distinctly unhelpful self-help book masquerading as literature as a turning point in our decline. Stunningly trite, it has sold more than 65 million copies in 56 languages and was highly enjoyed by Madonna.

    20 The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

    Its set-up is almost as protracted as the dull protagonist’s endless cups of coffee. Then it suddenly descends into graphic sexual violence. Sweden’s most overrated export since Ikea.

    21 Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

    Eat, pray, love, wallow, whine, travel, indulge, write, check bank account. 22 Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

    A defining moment in Jewish American literature now most famous for a masturbation scene featuring a piece of liver. Disappointingly, this is not as interesting as it sounds.

    23 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

    A psychedelic road trip across America makes for gonzo journalism at its unreadable best, or worst. And not as good as The Hangover.

    24 Snobs by Julian Fellowes

    Downton Abbey without the ad breaks.

    25 by Stephen Hawking A Brief History of Time

    No, you haven’t read it either.

    26 A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

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    More readable than Hawking, but looks a lot less impressive on your bookshelves. Bryson’s notion of “short” can be defined as twice as long as Hawking’s “brief”.

    27 A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

    Misleading title for a family comedy set in Peterborough. And probably responsible for the plague of equally annoying titles that followed.

    28 Polo by Jilly Cooper

    Skip straight to page 61: a sex scene in a helicopter.

    29 by Sebastian Faulks Birdsong

    See above, replacing helicopter with pre-war France, and page 61 with pages 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72 etc.

    30 The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

    Even more depressing than the Bible, although it made its author more money. 31 Does Anything Eat Wasps? by the New Scientist

    Yes. Does this book make your loo library look erudite? No.

    32 Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray

    No, they are not. And Gray is from Texas, which tells you all you need to know. 33 The Game by Neil Strauss

    A pick-up guide for desperate men. Less enjoyable for feminists than, say, The Female

    . Eunuch

    34 The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

    A less enjoyable read for men than The Game.

    35 Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

    A lucrative, eloquent, teeth-pulling exercise in stating the obvious, including the fact that New Yorker journalists who have a successful book with a catchy title under their belt are more likely to have another commissioned.

    36 How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    Step one: don’t let them catch you buying self-help books.

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    37 The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry

    Would be more bearable if reduced to a 140-character tweet.

    38 Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton

    The thinking man’s Stephen Fry. Still annoying, though.

    39 Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

    A lovely book about an Irish childhood, although indirectly responsible for a decade of misery memoirs: “No, Daddy, not there” etc.

    40 A Journey by Tony Blair

    First-class fiction. Bad sex. Annoying X Factor title.

    41 Courage by Gordon Brown

    A tantalising prequel to the former PM’s future publications: “How to Get a Good Price for Your Gold”, “Debt Management for Dummies” and “Workplace Harmony”.

    42 Jordan: Pushed to the Limit by Katie Price

    Disappointingly thin on insights into the Hashemite Kingdom east of Israel. 43 Saturday by Ian McEwan

    What the author learnt after spending two years getting in the way of a neurosurgeon. Not as good as Enduring Love, which is not as good as Amsterdam, which is not as good

    as Atonement.

    44 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

    Loved for its description of wartime Cephalonia, but now ruined by the constant appearance during civil partnership ceremonies of the passage about tree roots. 45 The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

    Useful only as a shorthand to know whom to avoid on the Tube. 46 Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

    See above, especially if they’re grown-ups, who really should not be fixating on

    vampires.

    47 Harry Potter„ by JK Rowling

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    See above, especially if they’re grown-ups reading a version with an adult cover. 48 One Day by David Nicholls

    A wonderful book that follows a relationship over 20 years, spoilt only by people telling you how wonderful it is, while trying not to give away the ending (hint: very, very sad).

    49 Scouting for Boys by Robert Baden-Powell

    Awkward to ask for in a book shop.

    50 by Vladimir Nabokov Lolita

    Scouting for girls.

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