I was born without a working visuospatial sketchpad, and as a result, words have always played a significant role in my cognitive processes. The written word, and especially Literature presented as long-form Novel, strikes a chord in me that very few other forms of expression are capable of achieving.
I accidentally, though quite fortunately, stumbled upon The Modern Library’s List of the Top 100 Novels and have been working my way slowly through it over the past few years. I’m enthralled not only by captivating stories, but also by interesting or unconventional forms of presentation, complicated sentence structures, and obscure diction.
William Faulkner‘s recondite form and compelling portrayals of family-drama bordering on classic tragedy makes him my favorite writer. I have other favorites, but I tend to prefer each writer’s finest individual achievements, rather than their entire collected works, and so won’t suggest any additional penhands.
I’d rather celebrate the crowning achievements of a variety of authors rather than a single writer’s suite containing one amazing production and a few mediocre efforts. Careers in literature, far more so than other art form, tend to produce an inordinate percentage of one-hit wonders, but literary “one-hits” also tend to offer remarkable value.
Some of my personal favorites, each of which came highly recommended, include Faulkner’s absolute masterpiece The Sound and the Fury, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Works that have become both increasingly relevant and increasingly disturbing in recent years, include the outstanding pair of Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell, Brave new World by Aldous Huxley, Anthony Burgess’s disturbing A Clockwork Orange, the incomparable Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and Kurt Vonnegut’s hilarious Slaughterhouse-Five.
For sheer entertainment value, I also suggest Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Robert Graves’ historical drama I, Claudius, and Ken Kesey’s fantastic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And while you’re at it, make sure to check out Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test– a stunning achievement in documentary journalism that successfully captures the essence of the Hippies, offering a tantalizing and revealing glimpse of Ken Kesey’s band of Merry Pranksters.
I’ve also experienced my fair share of disappointmenting reads, but in the interests of promoting optimism and positive thinking, I’ll keep them to myself. After all, I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from reading something that they might thoroughly enjoy.
And someday, though probably not any time soon, I plan on finding the time to actually read Ulysses (but I hope I don’t hate it as much as this guy).