News from the Book World

100 Books to Read in a Lifetime: A List by Amazon

amazon 100 books to read in a lifetime

Here’s hot news for the booklovers. Amazon has recently announced its pick of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime. It’s a pretty intriguing list because it differs substantially from similar existing lists.

Sara Nelson, the editorial director of Amazon said that the list is not based on sales figures or any other typical benchmarks. The list was compiled by the editors based on how much the books appealed to the readers over the years. They whacked off homework books like Joyce’s Ulysses and focused on the ones that readers of all ages enjoyed.

The list includes books from Victorian era to the post-modern and contemporary period. The books are not ranked in any particular order to emphasize that all are equally important. While Harry Potter made it to the list, classics like Moby Dick and Les Misérables were left out.

Amazon has also compiled another list based on user votes on Goodreads. Click here to check it out.

What’s your reaction to this list? Happy, angry, excited, surprised?

Amazon’s choice:

  • Meet Big Brother: 1984 by George Orwell
  • Explore the Universe: A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • Memoir as metafiction: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  • A child-soldier’s story: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  • Wicked good fun: A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
  • The 60s kids classic: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • A short-form master: Alice Munro: Selected Stories by Alice Munro
  • Go down the rabbit hole: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Unseated a president: All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  • An Irish-American Memoir: Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
  • The angst of adolescence: Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  • A literary page turner: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  • The ghosts of slavery: Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Why and how we run: Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
  • A journey from Haiti: Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  • Launched its own catchphrase: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Vintage Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • The timeless classic: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • Ambitious and humane: Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • Vulnerability breeds courage: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
  • For reluctant readers: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 by Jeff Kinney
  • A science fiction classic: Dune by Frank Herbert
  • “It was a pleasure to burn.”: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Gonzo journalism takes flight: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
  • Marriage can be a real killer: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • First published in 1947: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Dickens’ best novel: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Understanding societies: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond
  • Meet the boy wizard: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • True crime at its best: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Award-winning short story debut: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • A literary milestone: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • A brilliant graphic novel: Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
  • Don’t eat while you read this: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  • One of the best of 2013: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • Childhood on the frontier: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Nabokov’s triumph: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • A Latin American masterpiece: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • A saga set on the reservation: Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  • A life-changing book: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • Funny and poignant: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  • A beautifully-written novel: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Rushdie’s breakthrough: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  • Lewis hits it out of the park: Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  • A writer’s writer: Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  • The essence of the Beats: On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • A remarkable woman’s story: Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  • A groundbreaking graphic novel: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • Roth at his finest: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  • The perennial favorite: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The birth of ecology: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  • The absurdist WW2 novel: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • How Lincoln led: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • 19th Century high society: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • Chabon’s magnum opus: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • A classic modern autobiography: The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  • The international sensation: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The trials of a “ghetto nerd”: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • Meet Holden Caulfield: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Exploring a mother’s past: The Color of Water by James McBride
  • Great, but divisive: The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • A triumph of narrative nonfiction: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
  • Moving and eloquent: The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
  • A soulful young adult novel: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Classic dystopia: The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Pullman’s fantasy classic: The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  • The rich are different: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Feminist speculative fiction: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • A boy, a bear, a honeypot: The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
  • Reality tv writ large: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Race, ethics, and medicine: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • A darkly funny memoir: The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
  • Monsters, Mythology, and a boy: The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
  • Unique and universal: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • First-rate Chandler Noir: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  • The history of terrorism: The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
  • One ring to rule them all: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • A deeply human account: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
  • The origins of food: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
  • An odd and original journey: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • Missionaries in Africa: The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Enforcer: The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
  • The inner life of astronauts: The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  • This way to the apocalypse: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • A modern classic: The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • Chilling and thrilling: The Shining by Stephen King
  • Existentialist fiction: The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • Meet the Lost Generation: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • The best book on Vietnam: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  • Baby’s first book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Mole, Toad, Rat, and Badger: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • From the modern Japanese master: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami
  • Beware the “Undertoad”: The World According to Garp by John Irving
  • Life, Love, Death: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • Tradition vs. change: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • A beloved family story: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • An American inspiration: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Addictively entertaining: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  • The joys of imagination: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • Let the wild rumpus start! : Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Continue reading

Cover of the Week / Historical / Reviews

Cover of the Week: Those About To Die by Daniel P. Mannix (Mayflower, 1972)

Daniel P. Mannix - Those About To Die Daniel P. Mannix - Those About To Die

“Hail Caesar! We who are about to die salute you!”

Mannix’ “Those About to Die” probes deep into the bloody games of imperial Rome. A  provocative work of historical fiction, Those About to Die provides a disturbing account of the lives of the Gladiators. The sadism and torture which ancient Rome forced on its Gladiators have been described with minute detail.

5000 men fought to death, women fed to crocodiles, leopards taught to rape girls. Intensely shocking, yet a true story of savage Rome. May be the Nazis aren’t qualified to make it to the top of “Most Disgusting People Ever” list.

Continue reading

Horror / Fantasy / SF / Reviews

Book Review: Drums of the Dark Gods by W.A Ballinger

drums of the dark gods w.a.bellinger

One solid reason why I hate Stephen King is that he can’t seem to write no-nonsense, straight forward, to the point, pure horror stories. King evoked an eerie atmosphere in Salem’s Lot only to spoil the mood with section titles like Prince of Ice Creams. He stretched The Dark Tower series to the crack of doom just to screw it up with a lame ending. But of course, he is the “Sartre” of horror literature and most readers of the genre devour Stephenesque brand of spooky stuff. It’s a pity because books like Cujo and Dead Zone are not really horror though they overshadow outstanding works like Drums of the Dark Gods — an out of print black magic novel written by W.A Ballinger.

A story not for the faint hearted:

You read the first few pages and sit bolt upright. You feel voodoo all around you. You sense diabolical corruption and bloodbath.

It starts with a naked girl roped to ground, violated, and gruesomely sacrificed to voodoo gods in the jungles of Haiti. Her beating heart is ripped out of her chest. The girl is actually a Scotland Yard narcotics officer investigating a drug operation in Haiti. To dig into her murder case, Richard Quintain — a fraud investigating officer having prior experience with the occult — appears on the scene with his secretary Julia Wellsley.

Richard, with the help of Julia,. desperately tries to stop a terrifying voodoo plot. They infiltrate secret cells of Satanists but get trapped and encounter supernatural forces that threaten destroy them and change the future of mankind. The story involves an international drug racket as well.

A hell ride that freaks you out:

If print can shake your fundamentals, this book will. You start believing in the nightmarish Gorga — the voodoo high priest. You end up having delusions of Richard drinking blood out of a pitcher. You fail to wipe out memories of the dreaded secret police of Haiti.

Why won’t Stephen King write something like Drums of the Dark Gods? If Ballinger can make us nervous, King can scare us shitless. We have had our share of melodrama. Let someone bring back raw, naked horror.

Long live Drums of the Dark Gods. Continue reading

Classics & Cult Books / Reviews

Book Review: On the Eve by Ivan Turgenev

A forgotten classic. A masterpiece by one of the best novelists of all time. A deliciously chewy book from the golden age of Russian literature. Ivan Turgenev’s On the Eve is a memorable experience that introduces you to a transcendental and aching tale, which touches the deepest part of your soul.

What’s it about?

Friendship and love, sacrifice and loyalty, idealism and philosophy

This is a love story with a historical background, told with consummate skill, moving inevitably to its sad conclusion. A small group of young Russian aristocrats deal with intellectual issues on the eve of the Crimean War. The protagonist — the twenty year old Elena — and two other men in her social circle search for answers through earnest philosophical discussions. The arrival of the fourth element — A Bulgarian revolutionary — to this friendly triangle suddenly makes everything unpredictable and life takes unexpected turns. You suspect a tragic ending all along, you feel a melancholy tone throughout and your apprehensions turn out to be true. “I sought happiness, and I shall find—perhaps death.” says Elena. But hope somehow remains alive and you don’t feel vanquished when the journey is over.

What’s so good?

This is not a spider web in terms of plot. But Turgenev’s flowing, seemingly artless prose keeps you mesmerized. You would recognize a faint atmosphere of rose water. On the Eve is not too passionate, yet it is beautiful in form and full of emotion. Even though the pace is not too fast, the story keeps you hooked right from the beginning.

This novel is rich in brilliant characterizations. You may not identify with the characters (who may seem a bit strange in 21st century), but you do feel for them and you do recognize their sad sentiments. And this is perhaps the only Russian classic with a Bulgarian revolutionary — Insarov — as a hero. He is a head-strong champion who wants to liberate his motherland from the Turks and eventually meets a tragic fate.

A historical fact

On the Eve is now considered as one of Turgenev’s major works. Surprisingly, it was not warmly received by the critics at that time and Turgenev’s reputation suffered a feedback after its publication. Being highly sensitive to the opinion of his friends and critics, Turgenev didn’t write much in the years that immediately followed.

Is it a “must read” novel?

On the Eve was written almost 150 years ago. But it hasn’t become irrelevant, nor has it lost its charm. You shouldn’t skip this book particularly if you admire vintage Russian novels. Continue reading

Horror / Fantasy / SF / Reviews

Book Review: The Fantastic Pulps by Peter Haining (Editor)

Peter Haining, who was widely considered as a leading authority on horror, edited some of the best pulp anthologies of our time. One thing was common in all Haining collections — the often repeated stale stories never made their way into his books. Our favorite editor loved to surprise the readers with obscure and rare gems. The Fantastic Pulps (Victor Gollancz, 1975) is a typical Haining work, reflecting the brilliant and atypical qualities of its editor.

This is one book you badly want on your bookshelf. It seems to have stories starting from the very inception of pulps. (which means you have stories starting from 1800’s). Each story is accompanied by editor’s note, which throws light on the contemporary situation in pulp industry.  This book is an amazing combination of living history and sensational stories from the golden age of pulp fiction.

Haining lived in a 15th century house, which was said to be haunted. No wonder he would come up with such fascinating collections of horror, adventure, and fantasy.

Continue reading