Saturday, March 20, 2010

Reading List for a Young Friend I

A Early Book

The following list of books is a reading list for a friend of mine who asked me a few months ago for a list of books I could recommend that he read to help him develop as a writer and enlarge his mind and vision.

The following list is a list of books which I think will do that. The choices are mine and reflect my own personal preferences and prejudices. Have divided them into various area of interest such as Philosophy, Novels, History etc. although I vouch for the quality of my selections I do not by any stretch of the imagination claim that this list is comprehensive or complete. I have made an effort to avoid the more conventional choices.


The Faith of a Heretic, (1962 C.E.) Walter Kaufmann. A book that outlines the importance of thinking outside the box.

The Analects, (6th century B.C.E.) Confucius. A rational approach to human life.

Ecce Homo, (1890 C.E.) Friedrich Nietzsche. Philosophy as the gateway to madness.

The Consolation of Philosophy, (c. 520 C.E.) Boethius. Basically an excellent summing up of classical philosophy.

Mo-zi, (c. 450 B. C.E.)Mo-zi. A clever argument that universal love is logical, practical, useful and in everyone’s self interest.

The Upanishads, (c. 1000 B.C.E – 200 C.E.) Anonymous. Philosophical documents at the fine line between philosophy and religion.

The Age of Reason, (c. 1800 C.E.) Thomas Paine. An effective polemic on the usefulness and primacy of Reason in Human life.

Discourse on Method, (c. 1650 C.E.) Descartes, How to know what to know.

Why I am not a Christian, (c. 1925 C.E.) Bertrand Russell. How reason can be comforting and supportive.

Fear and Trembling, (c. 1855 C.E.) Soren Kierkegaard. The foundation basis for all modern Existential thought.


Popul Vuh, (c. 1000-1550 C.E.) Anonymous. The sacred book of the Quiche Maya an exploration into a very different religious mind set.

Tao Te Ching, (c. 600-300 B.C.E.) attributed to Lao Tzu. A Rorschach test of book you find in what you want to find in it to help you.

A Diatribe or Sermon concerning Free Will, Erasmus. A classic short account written in a humble spirit concerning God’s power and man’s freedom.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead, (c. 1500-500 B.C.E.) Anonymous. An engaging look at a very different mindset.


The Epic of Gilgamesh, (c. 1200-1100 B.C.E.) attributed to Sin-liqe-unninni. One of the earliest of the great works of literature and its focus is on death.

The Homeric Hymns, (c. 800-400 B.C.E.) Anonymous. A view of the ancient Greeks.

The Gods, (c. 1980 C.E.) Dennis Lee. Interesting poems about what “really” matters.

The Circle Game, (1966 C.E.) Margaret Atwood. Very good poems.

Spice Box of Earth, (c. 1955 C.E.) Leonard Cohen. Classical Leonard Cohen.

The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, (1968 C.E.) Richard Brautigan. Very good and a great deal of fun.

The Poetry of Li-Po, (c. 700-800 C.E.) Li Po. Excellent poetry by a man who lived for the good times.

Poems, (1st century B.C.E.) Catullus. A collection of excellent poems about love and loss.

Poems, (late 19th early 20th century) Rabindranath Tagore. Jewel like poems.

The Cursed Poets, (late 19th Century) Paul Verlaine et al. Poetry as a way of challenging societies precepts.

Flowers of Evil, (1857 C.E.) Charles Baudelaire. Pushing the envelope with some purpose.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, (c. 1100 C.E.) Omar Khayyam. Crystal clear poetry about the fleeting nature of life.

The New Life, (c. 1300 C.E.) Dante, Romantic poem about poetry and romance.

The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot. A caustic view of modern life.


Lady Susan, (c. 1792 C.E.) Jane Austen. Austen being nasty; really nasty!!

Grendel, (1971 C.E.) John Gardner. Beowulf from the monster’s point of view.

The Source, (1962 C.E.) James Michener. Not a great novelist or a great novel by a long shot however the section called The Law is deeply human and moving.

The Ten Peg, (1978 C.E.) Aritha van Herk. A biblical story retold and transformed.

I Claudius, (1934 C.E.) &

Claudius the God, (1934), Robert Graves. Perhaps the best English historical novels of the twentieth century.

Gulliver’s Travels, (1727 C.E.) Jonathan Swift. A lacerating satire by a man who loved people but hated mankind.

I the Supreme, (1986 C.E.) Augusto Roa Bastos. A novel about political madness.

Hard Times, (c. 1855 C.E.) Charles Dickens. Dickens under control is excellent.

The Sorrows of Young Werther, (c. 1785 C.E.)Goethe. Life sucks when your young and in love with a married woman.

Funeral Games, Mary Renault. The aftermath of Alexander the Great's death was pretty dramatic.

The Tale of Genji, (c. 1020 C.E.) Lady Murasaki Shikibu. Probably the worlds first true novel.

The Story of the Stone, also called The Dream of the Red Chamber, (18th Century C.E.) Cao Xueqin and Gao E. Rise and fall of a Chinese Mandarin family. The great masterpiece of Chinese prose writing.

The Carpetbaggers, (1965 C.E.) Harold Robbins. Probably the worst English language novel of the twentieth century should be read to find out how NOT to write.

Life Before Man, (1978 C.E.) Margaret Atwood. Yep a novel that faces up to the fact the human race could become extinct.

The Temptations of Big Bear, (1972 C.E.) Ruby Wiebe. A look at another point of view.

Beautiful Losers, (1966 C.E.) Leonard Cohen. A look about how nasty we can be and how beautiful we can be.

The Idiot, (1869) &

The Brothers Karamazov, (1881) Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Brilliant insights into the human condition and of course The Brothers Karamazov brought us the story of the Grand Inquisitor.

Against Nature, (1884 C.E.) J. K. Husymans. A very strange novel about a very strange man.

Live from Golgotha, (c. 1992 C.E.) Gore Vidal. Bizarre and very funny.

The Master and Margarita, (written in the 1930’s C.E.) Mikhail Bulgakov. Probably the supreme magic realism novel.

As for Me and My House, (1941 C.E.) Sinclair Ross. A novel about how loves blinds and enables one to see.

The Tin Drum, (1964 C.E.) Gunter Grass. A brilliant parody of twentieth century Germany.

Science Fiction.

Foundation Trilogy, (1950-1953 C.E.) &

I Robot, (1951 C.E.) Isaac Asimov. Some of the Best Science Fiction ever.

We, (1921 C.E.) Yevgeny Zamyatin. The first great dystopian novel.

The Last Man on Earth, (1830 C.E.) Mary Shelly. Little read today and yet has had enormous influence on the end of the world novel.

A Boy and his Dog, (1969 C.E.) Harlan Ellison. Profoundly unsettling and funny.

Ape and Essence, (1948 C.E.) Aldous Huxley. A hate letter to the human race with a hopeful ending.

The War of the Worlds, (1898 C.E.) H. G. Wells. The baseline for the alien invasion story.

The Dispossessed, (1974 C.E.) Ursula Le Guin. A novel about the interaction between a Utopian world and a non Utopian world. The subtitle says it all “An Ambiguous Utopia”.

Lest Darkness Fall, (1939 C.E.) L. Sprague de Camp. A time travel story that involves changing history; much imitated but not improved upon.

Paris in the mid Twentieth Century, (c. 1855 C.E.) Jules Verne. An almost incredibly accurate prediction of what life would be like in the late twentieth century written in the mid 19th.

Two Misc. items.

The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, (1876-1890 C.E.). The letter of Vincent to his brother Theo, moving, and a brilliant insight into the mind of an artist.

The 120 Days of Sodom, (c. 1785 C.E.) Marquis de Sade. Not for the squeamish or delicate of stomach but definitely a frightening portrayal of evil.

That is it for the time being later on I may add to the list.

Pierre Cloutier

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