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This is a question Books

We love books. Tell us about your favourite books and authors, and why they are so good. And while you're at it - having dined out for years on the time I threw Dan Brown out of a train window - tell us who to avoid.

(, Thu 5 Jan 2012, 13:40)
Pages: Latest, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, ... 1

This question is now closed.

Chuck Palahniuk

This is the only story I've ever had to put down and not finish.

A short story about a swimming mishap. Truly gruesome.

linky: chuckpalahniuk.net/features/shorts/guts

Edit: This is included in a big book of Palahniuk's short stories titled "Haunted".
(, Thu 12 Jan 2012, 10:49, 1 reply)
Have to give a plug for a fellow b3tan...
...my wife bought me 'The Third Intervention' by Alasdair C Morrison as a Christmas present. It's a great read and is well written by the b3tan we know better as The Hedgehog From Hell.
A highly recommended read about conspiracy theorists who may not be as nutty as we think...
(, Thu 12 Jan 2012, 10:40, 8 replies)
Possible pea?
Apologies for clogging the board. Doesn't really count as a book but I don't know where else to put this.

'twas a nice day in Kalbarri with my brother and I as a young'un and we met a nice boy there, who was quite entranced by my horrible drawings. We spent a few days hanging around, long story short, until we finally met his mum living in a caravan.
She seemed nice enough. She somehow picked up that I liked books, and handed me a couple of tiny comics and sent me on my way.

They were CHICK TRACTS. Dark Dungeons and that one about the construction worker killed by Death for reasons I don't even remember. I was a fundie back then but even I knew they were shit. Chucked them in my dad's comics box for posterity, although I have no idea where they are now.
Didn't contribute to my atheism at all, since I long forgot about them until someone on the internet brought it up years later. Oh and I play D&D quite a bit now, suck on that Jesus
(, Thu 12 Jan 2012, 5:51, 4 replies)
hairy bottom
I was more of a Tolkien kid. I'd never even heard of Harry Potter until my aunt cheerfully handed me Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire one Christmas. It was the fattest book I'd ever seen, and while my aunt gushed about it I wasn't entirely sure how to react. I did love dragons though, so the cover looked nice.
I opened it up some days later in what may have been one of the most ill-advised moves of my childhood.
"What the fuck is a Portkey? Who are these people? Where are the dragons?"
After some confusion, I quit on the second page and decided, because I was one of THOSE kids, to read the publishing information.
"What's this? There are three more before it?"

That was how I was dragged into Harry Potter. I honestly don't even remember how I got a hold of the other books. I liked them, and Prisoner of Azkaban was my favourite. I read through each new book within the day, because I was one of THOSE kids. I guess I got them because it was a series that was guaranteed to be decent in a wave of horrible shite young fiction (This was before Twilight was popular, a goth friend of mine was reading the series and gushing over it, but I didn't hold much interest. She spurns the later books and the films, funnily enough. Probably the only sane Twilight fan in the world).
I even watched all the films up until the very last. Yep, I read every book and watched every film, I stayed with the series for ten years, but decided not to see the very last part. Maybe I'm over it now. Maybe it's because I already know how it ends. Or maybe it's because I grew out of soft fantasy ages ago and I now prefer sci-fi. That said I will be watching The Hobbit because TOLKIEN IS STILL BETTER.

Oh, every copy of Order of the Phoenix from the store we got it from came with Barry Trotter, a rather rude adult parody which was in no way appropriate for the age range of fans of the series. I found it both disgustingly horrifying and utterly hilarious, although I'll have to pick it up again to see whether or not it's still funny or just horrifically immature. I think there are more books in the series too, anyone know about this?

Length? You should see the size of Hagrid's schlong.
(, Thu 12 Jan 2012, 5:33, 1 reply)
The Space Odyssey quadrilogy
I was 16 when SBS decided to show 2001 A Space Odyssey late at night as part of their Kubrick Week, and I stayed up to watch it. I was hooked. Granted, it did drag on a bit, but the soundtrack and cinematography was fantastic. I'd never seen anything like it.
So I hopped onto Wikipedia only to discover that it's only the first part in a 4-book series, only the first two having been adapted to film. And it was by sheer luck that a few years later as a university freshman, I found a copy of 2010: Odyssey Two at a second-hand bookstore. It was to become my companion through freshman year and one of the finest books I'd ever read. I immediately set off on a quest to find the last two chapters of the series only to discover that it was a bit like the four books of the Mythic Dawn Commentaries: Everyone knows the first one and some people the second, but the last two might as well be virtually unknown.
I asked my dear granny to purchase me a copy of 2061: Odyssey Three from the interbutts, and that was fabulous reading. I finally found the last part last year, 3001: The Final Odyssey, in a nerdy bookshop. I'm yet to read it- after all I hear it's crap - but its beautiful cover art serenades me even now, an image of a monolith standing in a plane of pure rainbow light. The Space Odyssey series remains my favourite books of all time. Maybe it's the hope of a utopian future where humanity has finally united, or the story grounded in hard science, or the fascinating descriptions of alien life evolved into harsh climates. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for computers.
It's a shame Arthur C Clarke died before I got to appreciate his work. I'd have liked to have met him.

Also, the 2010 movie is okay. It's not very accurate since the director added a crapton of Cold War references to, uh, 'reflect' the times the film was made in, despite it not even existing in the books' universe, and several rather nice scenes were cut out, but it's not a bad film in and of itself.
(, Thu 12 Jan 2012, 5:21, Reply)
Tolkien ...
yes, yes, I know. For many of you Tokien was something you had to suffer through high school. But for me, it was a most sensual experience.

Let's wave those lines back to 1998. It's winter in Edinburgh. Mr Que and I have been married only a few short months. We spend the weekends hiding from the cold in cafes, probably right next to JK Rowling.

Over coffee, croissants and the paper, we were discussing the exciting news that Peter Jackson had been commissioned to produce a three movie, squillion pound budget extravaganza from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

"You know, I've never read it," I said wistfully over my cappuccino. My Beloved dropped his paper, looking at me with an expression somwhere between mortified and piteous. Oddly, we had never had the, 'what's your position on LotR? Love or Loathe' conversation.

"I read The Hobbit as a kid. Loved it. I just grew up in a family where there weren't a lot of books about. I became a library card carrying bona fide girly swot as a result."

Without a word, my Beloved bade me abandon the table, paid the bill, and we sallied forth on a new Quest. To Waterstones! To my consternation, we spend a bloody fortune on a beautiful hardcover LotR set and The Sillmarillion, which we still have.

Now for the sensual bit. This was on Good Friday 1998. Once we got home I lay on the bed and started with The Sillmarillion. I spent the entire bank holiday weekend in bed, naked, warm, waited on hand and foot whilst I read and read and read. The sheer luxury of it all. The richness of the prose, the companionable silence in our grotty little bedsit, the glorious lovemaking. Ah, yes, the moment.

Easter Tuesday dawned and I was halfway through The Return of the King. Couldn't wait to get home from work to finish it.

It was a special time in my life. We conceived our firstborn child that weekend. And now, I am reading those same lavishly overwritten tomes to her.
(, Thu 12 Jan 2012, 4:32, 9 replies)
Just read a brilliant collection
Of short sci fi stories, that won Hugo awards. Edited and introduced by Isaac Asimov, who is a brilliant author himself.
Some absolutely brilliant tales, and a few that really make you realise sci fi isn't all ray guns and tentacles. One story (The Darfstellar) tells of an old actor, replaced by robot actors, who contrives one last performance. But the one that really got me was "Flowers for Algernon". It is the tale, told in first person by his progress reports, of a man with an IQ of 68. He is used as a test subject in an experimental operation that increases his intelligence threefold. The writing goes from basic, poorly spelt to flowing dialogue, and (without giving it away) the tale is brilliantly thought out but quite sad.
(, Thu 12 Jan 2012, 2:01, 4 replies)
Shelter, by Lloyd Kahn.
Apart from my personal preferences for F&SF along with the occasional thriller and some dry historical tomes, I especially enjoy house porn, and Shelter is one of the best books to start with. In its pages you will find no Christopher Wrens and you will find no Frank Lloyd Wrights. Instead, you will find hand built homes, house trucks, portable fabric structures and hollowed out cave dwelling societies that have outlasted the civilizations which periodically claim dominance over the region. You will find pages on building with wood, grass, mud/dirt/sod, and the inevitable use of plastics and other manufactured materials. You will learn why dome houses photograph well but are a bad idea when it comes to living in something which is weather tight and comfortable. You will see the beauty of an abandoned cruck cottage slowly collapsing into the ground, reclaimed by the soil from which its materials have sprung. You will understand why you don't see saltbox houses in the tropics or adobes in northern climes (unless the builders were being aggressively stupid). Hopefully, it will send you on your own journey towards making wherever you live more like a home and less like "a pile of stuff with a cover on it" (thank you for that apt description, George Carlin).
(, Thu 12 Jan 2012, 1:51, Reply)
Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter
Though it's now entering its 4th decade of publication and much of its content is dated in light of advances made since its first release, GEB:EGB is still an exceptional, entertaining look into the processes of human thought as well as an example of why the sciences can be a lot of fun. Take caution: reading this and other Hofstadter works can lead one to excessive use of puns and obscure references which only a few will truly understand.
(, Thu 12 Jan 2012, 1:47, 1 reply)
I enjoy a good autobiography
and John Osborne's 'Never Explain, Never Apologise' is probably the best title of anything ever. For those not in the know, he's a British playwright who wrote 'The Entertainer' and the utterly glorious 'Look Back In Anger' the title of which defines his oeuvre really. He is a bitter, resentful, fantastically erudite and articulate man whose turn of phrase and mastery and glorification of the delightful and delicious English language makes reading utterly worthwhile.

Honourable mention to Peter Ustinov's autobiography which comes a close second.

But the best book ever is 'Gormenghast' by Mervyn Peake - bindun? Dunno?

(, Thu 12 Jan 2012, 0:52, Reply)
Here are some of my favourites, literally...
Evelyn Waugh (early ones) - Funny and beautifully written.
Robert Graves Goodbye to All That - A good introduction to some of the realities of war
John Betjeman Summoned by Bells - Amusing and moving
Lewis Carroll The Hunting of The Snark - Mad and amusing
Kellow Chesney The Victorian Underworld - An exhaustive look at our proud heritage of criminality
Derek Robinson Goshawk Squadron - Painfully realistic WW1 aviation fiction
George MacDonald Fraser Quartered Safe Out Here - Excellent WW2 soldier's autobiog (couldn't stand Flashman)
P. G. Wodehouse - still makes me lol (particularly Jeeves and Wooster)
Terry Pratchett - subtle propaganda about basic human decency imho
Christopher Hitchens - stuck it to Mother Theresa, need I say more
Ian McEwan - thinks before he writes
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám translated by Edward Fitzgerald
Brian Thompson A Half-baked Life: My Story So Far by Claude Jenks - the delusions of a man with a Rudge
Henry Mayhew London Labour and the London Poor - convinced me to try to avoid being poor
George Orwell (particularly Down and Out in Paris and London)- see previous comment
Jung Chan The Wild Swans, Mao: the Unknown Story - background to modern China
Bill Bryson - generally well written, amusing and informative
Jonathan Swift Gulliver's Travels - probably one of T. Pratchett's influences
Charles Darwin The Voyage of The Beagle - not just because of what it led to

The Harry Potter books were great inasmuch as they started a fair few people reading and created quite a lot of work in the film industry. Could have used a more rigorous editor. Authors who really annoyed me include Tolkien, Dickens, Paul Auster, Don Delillo and, of course, D. Brown. I find that buying books for a quid or two second-hand makes them that much easier to fling across the room when they fail to please.
(, Thu 12 Jan 2012, 0:19, Reply)
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
It's hard going at times - most of it is stream-of-consciousness accounts from the point of view of lots of characters, at least half of which are actually insane, but it's a gloriously absurd, moving, funny and tragic story.
(, Thu 12 Jan 2012, 0:01, Reply)
My dad used to read stories to me at bed time.
Treasure Island stands out, mainly because it gave my dad an opportunity to try out his pirate voices. I remember looking forward to being able to read "big books" for myself. It's a wonderful thing to instill a love of books into a child.
Occasionally he would say there wasn't time for reading, leaving me disappointed and story-less. The mystery of these lacks of time was resolved when he was caught one evening giving the woman next door a swift knee trembler and had a fight with her husband on the front lawn. Nice one dad.
(, Wed 11 Jan 2012, 21:58, 5 replies)
The book that made me like my degree again
Reading books when it's for work is a rather dull activity to participate in. I hated every dry publication and dessicated article I was forced to grate across my eyes over the course of my undergrad degree. Author x says blah, author y says meh... ad infinitum. All these writers and their damned, comprehensively explained, thoroughly argued opinions! I detested them... all bar one.

I found it nestling in between maps and journals in the Oriental Studies Library, and it was a thing of beauty. The covers were embossed, tooled and gold-leafed leather; they'd been worn from the fervid handling of a hundred-and-fifty years of academic fingers, and the spine was shot to buggery.

And inside was this intrepid, Victorian vision of eager archaeology in the wilds of Iraq - where locals were on hand to do the digging for tea and cake, and the overawed government was quite happy to sell its nation's treasures to the highest bidder.

It was highly romanticised, skipped over the horrors of disease amongst the workers and poor artefactual recording... but it was popular archaeology. It was written to entertain, enthuse, and decorate the coffee tables of the nouveaux riches. And the author's interpretations were the only bloody interpretations, because he wrote about them first.

I also liked it because it had nice pictures in it. Most academic books don't have pictures :-(

incidentally, it was Austin Henry Layard's "Nineveh and its Remains"
(, Wed 11 Jan 2012, 21:20, Reply)
also but not in the same league as the last post
i would like to take this moment and say ASIMOV yes him of the large pulsateing brain full of ideas and plots who predicted things like video recorders in the early 50's, and his foundation trilogy is a master piece of scifi and a bookset that i still read
(, Wed 11 Jan 2012, 20:54, 6 replies)
the cat sat on the mat
a great book with a fast paced and enjoyable story line that leads you on wild and thrilling roller coaster ride of emotions before the climatic and surprise ending
(, Wed 11 Jan 2012, 20:49, 1 reply)
repost - but it's still true...
The book...
..that changed my life, was the one I wrote.

I would link to it on amazon, but then my precious B3TA anonimity would be gone forever, but I did write one, honest I did.

Anyway, cos of writing I met my current girlfriend who is perfect in every way and makes me happier than I've ever been, and we're getting a place together soon.

And then it got really silly and we've written a book together, and it's on shelves in September. Oh, and I've got my second book out next month which I wrote all on my own with hardly any plagiarism at all.

Er, except I can tell you which one it is either, cos then, y'know, B3TA, anonymity, all that....

I'm not very good at this publicity malarky - my publisher hates me.
(, Wed 11 Jan 2012, 20:47, 6 replies)
I dont Know why every one hates dan brown. i think he's a wonderful author that writes very good mystery books and i simply adore them, whilst people are saying its not good enough to wipe your arse with. i just dont understand.
anyhoo, i quite enjoyed reading gary paulson's hatchet it made quite a good book to read. i havent really got any dislikes when it comes to books
sorry for length and all that. be gentle this is my first post
(, Wed 11 Jan 2012, 20:23, 2 replies)
Orson Scott Card
Boring as shite. The first one in the 'Enders' series was ok...but it'd have to take a 2 year old not to realise the 'twist' after the first chapter.
The others after that were much of the same, and quite hard to read without looking around for something, anything, else to do instead.
For some reason, he's talked about in the same breath as Asimov, Clarke etc...
Not in the same league in my humble opinion.
(, Wed 11 Jan 2012, 20:08, Reply)
It's an old book I found in a library
when I was up in New England. There was this quaint old university with a stone library building, nicely gothic looking. I went in and poked around, and found this ancient book all by itself in a case. No one else was around, so I opened the case and helped myself.

I was immediately fascinated- the author was an Arab, but the book was in English. (Well, parts of it were.) It had a lot of ancient history in it, as well as some very interesting descriptions of ancient marvels. I was so taken by this book that I decided to take it home. As no one else was around, I couldn't check it out, but decided that I would just borrow it for a couple of days.

That night I sat up reading late, and read chunks of it aloud to myself as I sounded out the syllables. Imagine my amazement when a strange doorway appeared in the room, one which led to a different place- a place where all the angles were wrong, where there were buildings made of cyclopean blocks with elaborate carvings on them of barrel-shaped creatures with star-shaped heads.

I have been there many times since, and have no intention of ever returning this book. It holds deep dark secrets, things that have been unknown for centuries.

͟ ̧̛͟ ͡ Y̵̷'҉AĮ̀'̧͘N̷G͜͝'̕͘͝ŃǴA̸̛H̴̵
̶̨ ̀ ͝ ̷ ̢Y̕O̵̡G̢-̀S̛O̡͢T̶̢͟H́́̀Ơ̧T̀H
͏ ̀ ̴͢͝ ̷H͟'̸̢͟E̴͠E̡͟͡-̸͏L̡'͢͝G͜͠É̵B
҉ ̧ ́ ͞҉ ̡́F̸'̛͟A͞Í͢ ̢̢̀T̨̡Ḩ̴̨R̢͠O̴͟D͢O͟G
̵ ̡̡ ͠Ų̷͞A҉͠ĄÁ̡H͡ ̛

Iä! Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!
(, Wed 11 Jan 2012, 19:26, 8 replies)
It is not quite a book,
But it could be read as one. I kinda like this mainly:


It reads quite well, it has great moments, but every now and then you can see where the author is just trying too hard.
(, Wed 11 Jan 2012, 18:21, 12 replies)
It doesn't really matter that I've forgotten the title.
My terrier hated me reading, for some reason it really seemed to piss him off. I could watch TV, poke my stubby fingers ineffectually at the piano or bumble about the net for hours and not so much as a whimper, but pick up a book and he was off into a rage, shaking cuddly toys, pawing at my hands and growling at me.

I was about half way into a novel I'd picked up from the bargain rack at the Esso station and left I'd it on the kitchen table to go out for a few pints.
On my return I discovered that the bugger had utterly torn my book into confetti and left it in a reasonably neat pile on the tabletop.

With a fucking great Mr Whippy curly turd on top.

Now that's criticism.
(, Wed 11 Jan 2012, 17:49, 3 replies)
The Girl That Kicked The Hornet's Nest
...was one of my Christmas presents from my dear old mum this year.

"Thanks," I said, "I'll go and buy the first two and read them so I can enjoy this one"
(, Wed 11 Jan 2012, 16:55, 6 replies)
Is it too late to say that I think
that Brett Easton Ellis is not only a really bad writer, but a sick fuck as well?

'Less Than Zero' is one of the few books I've actually stopped reading in disgust and binned. Call me a prude if you like, but I think he should have been put down...and I don't mean like you'd put a book down on a coffee table.

I can't understand how so many people rate him so highly - OK, not everyone will like the same books as me, but really, how can you come away from reading one of his books feeling anything other than dirty?
(, Wed 11 Jan 2012, 16:15, 9 replies)

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