One Hundred Favorite Books

Voice Card  -  Volume 19  -  John Card Number 6  -  Thu, Mar 21, 1991 2:32 AM

Recently Paul and I agreed to try to compile a list of our one hundred favorite books. This project, although certainly of no apparent redeeming value, is more interesting and revealing than it may appear at first glance. I hope some of the other bookworms in the group will be inspired to submit partial lists.

When I finally sat down to compile my list I was in for several surprises. I stumbled across one book I had been searching for for years without realizing I already had a copy. And there were several books that were very special to me as a teenager that I had almost forgotten.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that I don't have a hundred favorite books yet. Apparently I am too young (or too slow a reader). I had little trouble assembling a hundred candidates, but ultimately only 64 of these qualified as "favorites."

I wish to emphasize that these are not the "best" books I've ever read. Absent from this list are many great works of literature. Included in this list are several pulp science fiction novels that might make any critic wince. But each book on this list was special to me at one point in my life. Each book changed me in a significant way. I have read many of these books more than once and I'd like to read every single one again (and again and again).

In making my selections I have resisted the temptation to make one entry for "the collected works" of author x. In fact in some cases I have made two or three entries from the works of a single author so that I could point out specific stories or works that stand out in my mind. Thus there are three different selections by Mark Twain and two by Tolkien. Instead of listing Dubliners by James Joyce, I picked just two stories from that collection that turned me inside out. I picked just one of Shakespeare's wonderful plays. Several of the books in this list troubled or annoyed me but are included because they got under my skin and stayed with me.

In most cases it was immediately obvious whether or not a given book should be included. But there were a few borderline cases and a number of near misses, so I reserve the right to fiddle a bit with this list in the years ahead. If I can find an average of one new book a year to add to this collection I will be able to finish the list just about the time I reach my allotted three score and ten. So this will be a life-long project. If any of you have any questions about any of these books PLEASE ask and I will merrily babble away. And if any of you have any favorite books you think I might like, PLEASE give me your list so that I may reach my goal all the sooner. Anyway, here they are:


  • "A Painful Case" and "The Dead" by James Joyce
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  • The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell
  • "The Artist of the Beautiful" by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald
  • The Beauty of Fractals by H. O. Peitgen and P. H. Richter
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  • Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
  • Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Compleate Enchanter by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt
  • Creative Dreaming by Patricia Garfield
  • Dragons by Pamela Wharton Blanpied
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • The Elder Edda
  • "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses" by Mark Twain
  • Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter
  • The Green Child by Herbert Read
  • The Haunted Woman by David Lindsay
  • The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
  • I Ching translated by Richard Wilhelm
  • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
  • Inanna - Stories from Sumer trans. Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Kramer
  • Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
  • The Invisible Core: A Potter's Life and Thoughts by Marguerite Wildenhain
  • Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
  • Lady Chatterly's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
  • "Letters from the Earth" by Mark Twain
  • "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Andersen
  • Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Lust for Life by Irving Stone
  • The Mabinogian
  • The Mind's Eye edited by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
  • The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg
  • The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain
  • Narcissus and Goldman by Hermann Hesse
  • Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams
  • The Oxford English Dictionary
  • Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Numbers by David Wells
  • Perfume by Patrick Süskind
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  • The Recursive Universe by William Poundstone
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • Robots Have No Tails by Henry Kutner
  • The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Slan by A. E. van Voigt
  • The Society of Mind by Marvin Minsky
  • The Starship and the Canoe by Kenneth Brower
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare
  • The Tolkien Reader by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Titus Groan and Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
  • The Universal Baseball Association, Inc. by Robert Coover
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • Walden Two by B. F. Skinner
  • Well at the World's End by William Morris
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig