........................................... .......Books in My LIFE

or Encountering GREAT Literature


This, and associated pages, is in response to a request - for a list of stuff I've read over the years and an assessment of it (see separate PAGE). The request appeared like this (with a few already filled in to get me started):


Intend to read:

Don't recommend:

(For an example of why I love random book-dipping click HERE.) A more accurate title to this page would begin: 'SOME OF...' because there's loads of arbitrary tomes and authors soaked-up in my brain that made less impact than those in the list. And I can't say what I don't recommend because being an idler means I'm also a giver-upper - if I start something and find after a couple of pages that it's a trudge, then unless there's some overriding reason to continue, I just give up. Why bother if it's no pleasure? I've given-up on several books that I've tried again and discovered to be fine, even outstanding as with 'Lolita'. For 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', I was luckily advised that it actually began around page-50... for 'The Magus' it was page-20... otherwise I'd have missed those exquisite descriptions of Greece evoking images that make you feel really there, smelling the flora, the earth. It's well known that an author needs to get into the atmosphere of a story, which means very often the first few pages or so need to be re-written or cut. An experienced author will usually do this, but occasionally they don't.

Which partly explains why I prefer short stories: the time investment is small. I once tried 'War & Peace' - because it's spoken so highly of, and is extremely well written... but it dwells almost exclusively - up to page-238, at any rate - on the hassle and turmoil of war and the weird manoeuvrings between upper-class 19th Century Russians with all the ritual and rigmarole and other trivia... which for me was irrelevant tosh about as removed as it's possible to be from what I enjoy reading about or wished to know. Who hasn't done this with TV: just letting the programmes glide through your brain because they're reasonably well made but are actually tripe, or at least of no interest to you - yet there you are caught-up, wasting several hours that could have been spent on things you positively enjoy or maybe would benefit from.

The list below of stuff I've read also indicates that YES, I read it so it must have been OK - at the time I read it! Which means I have a positive memory of it. What particular aspect of a work kept me reading is another issue: gripping style, great knowledge to be gained, weird events.... any one of numerous attributes can make a work compelling or worth reading. Some works, though, have been outstanding, and I explain HERE what's impressed me.

I could include some not in the list below, such as 'Greene's 'The Honorary Consul', Webb's, 'The Graduate', Levin's 'Rosemary's Baby', Segal's 'Love Story'... the last three purely for the intimate style, even if the content was not especially interesting - in the case of 'Love Story' I even loathed the characters.... yet was still gripped. That's what I call: skill in technique - the worst reader-response is indifference! Then again, Doctorow's 'Ragtime' shone like a beacon above those aforementioned merely finely-written works.... as did the astounding, unique, mind-blowing 'The Dice Man'. And there are others... many others... including some impressive (auto)biographies like Stephen King's candid memoir 'On Writing', 'Michael Crichton's 'Travels', Ken Kesey's 'Demon Box', Robert de Ropp's 'Warrior's Way', Carl Jung's remarkable 'Memories, Dreams, Reflections', or even Daniel Farson's various (eccentric) observations... all have/had their particular impact.... as with numerous other fine works now lost (yet still absorbed) in a lifetime of memory...

...because unless it's jogged, a memory may never be recalled. Just take a walk; notice the multitudinous unimportant details: a bit of discarded orange-peel, someone's name chalked on a wall, a broken red biro.... a micro-sample of all the trivia we normally ignore... then if someone asks: 'Did you notice a broken biro?' you'd think and reply, 'Ummm, I don't think so.' But walk back the way you came, and there are the hundreds of insignificant little things you forgot you'd seen, and probably a few major items too, but on seeing them again recall them all perfectly.

Had I been one of those diary fiends who keep a record of everything, like what they read and when, then this would all be easy. But the only record I have is in my head, jogged awake when perusing the bookshelves here - which don't contain all the tomes I've read or dipped into: before the internet and Amazon, I was a frequent library borrower; a year or two ago I threw out a BIG wad of slips each containing the title and author of books I'd ordered, which in those days could take months to arrive from another library, and might have come from Surbiton, York, Inverness or Eastbourne...

Other pages on this site reveal yet more of my weird reading 'choices'; ie: 'Meaning', 'Authors and Reading', 'Writing Stories', 'On Short Stories' and 'Updates' as well as in the 'Great Minds' dropdown list on the Home Page, (and scattered around various other pages throughout the site).

The list below indicate some of the titles I've read and am familiar with (those in brackets are only part read) - there are many other books - mostly obscure - I've read too but haven't listed; some are mentioned above.

shows what I'd rate especially highly: tomes, some of which I make notes on at this link.

So here's the list, in alphabetical order, of the most significant (and remembered) reading I've indulged in over the decades... which by alphabetic coincidence starts with my first REAL encounter, without which maybe I wouldn't have bothered to pick-up many of what follows (see note below):

Isaac Asimov
The Rest of the Robots

I, Robot
Asimov’s Mysteries
The Naked Sun
Foundation’s Edge
The Robots of Dawn
Building Blocks of the Universe - non-fiction 

Plus many more novels, stories and non-fiction.

J G Bennett

Roberto Bolaño

Last Evenings on Earth
The Return
The Insufferable Gaucho (stories + essays)
The Secret of Evil
Between Parentheses (essays)

Heinrich Böll
The Train Was On Time
What’s to Become of the Boy 
Irish Journal - non-fiction
(The Clown)

Paul Bowles
The Sheltering Sky
Too Far From Home
Their Heads are Green - non fiction

Ray Bradbury
Zen in the Art of Writing
Several short stories

Charles Bukowski
Tales of Ordinary Madness
Post Office 
Ham on Rye 

Albert Camus
Lyrical & Critical Essays
The Stranger
The Plague

Exile and the Kingdom

(The Rebel)

Raymond Carver

Many short stories

Truman Capote
Other Voices, Other Rooms
Music For Chameleons
The Dogs Bark (but the Carnival moves on…)
Answered Prayers
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The Grass Harp 

Ray Chandler
All the novels 
Some short stories

Anton Chekhov
The Steppe
The Black Monk
On The Way
The Kiss
The Bet
Many short stories

Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Crime and Punishment
Poor Folk
Notes from The House of the Dead 
Notes from Underground 
The Idiot
The Insulted and the Injured
Netochka Nezvanova

The short stories, inc
A Strange Man’s Dream

F Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby
The Last Tycoon
The Crack-up (non fiction)
Many short stories

Max Frisch
Homo Faber
(A Wilderness of Mirrors) 
(I'm NOT Stiller)
(Sketchbook 1966-71)

Eduardo Galeano
(Voices of Time)
Upside Down

García Márquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Love in the Time of Cholera
+ short stories

Nikolai Gogol

The Overcoat
Dead Souls
Diary of a Madman
The Nose
The Carriage
(Village Evenings Near Dikanka)

Maxim Gorky
Fragments from My Diary
(My Universities)

Meetings with Remarkable Men

Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms 
A Moveable Feast - non-fiction  
The Old Man and the Sea 
various short stories

Donald Henderson
Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper

Eugen Herrigel
Zen in the Art of Archery (1953)

Hermann Hesse
The Glass Bead Game
Journey to the East
Narziss & Goldmund
Peter Camenzind
Beneath the Wheel
Klingsor’s Last Summer
If The War Goes On (non-fiction)
A Guest at the Spa      ..   ditto
+ many essays and short stories in various titles:
Strange News from Another Star
Pictor’s Metamorphosis

Autobiographical Writings

Stories of Five Decades

Victor Hugo
Les Miserables

Eugene Ionesco

The Hermit
Fragments From a Journal
Notes & Counter Notes

Franz Kafka
The Castle
The Trial
All the short stories, inc: 
The Metamorphosis

Jack Kerouac
On the Road
Big Sur
Desolation Angels
The Dharma Bums
Satori in Paris  

Laurie Lee
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning
Cider With Rosie
A Moment of War

Mikhail Lermontov
A Hero of Our Time

David Lindsay
A Voyage to Arcturus
The Haunted Woman

Arthur Miller
The Crucible
Death of a Salesman
I Don’t Need You Anymore 

Henry Miller
The Tropics
The Colossus of Maroussi
The Rosy Crucifixion
The Air-conditioned Nightmare
Many essays and a few stories…

Alberto Moravia
The Woman of Rome
The Conformist
Two Women
A Ghost at Noon
The Empty Canvas
Two Adolescents
Most of the short stories

Vladimir Nabokov


Pyotr Ouspensky
The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin
Talks with the Devil 
(In Search of the Miraculous)
(A New Model of the Universe)

Harold Pinter
The Birthday Party
The Caretaker
(The Dumb Waiter)

Luigi Pirandello
Henry lV
Short stories 

Robert Pirsig
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Mainenance

Alexander Pushkin
The Queen of Spades
The Station Master
The Snowstorm

Carl Sagan
Contact (fiction)
Billions & Billions
The Demon Haunted World
The Dragons of Eden

William Saroyan
Little Children
The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze
Seventy Thousand Assyrians
The Human Comedy
I Used to Believe I had Forever…
Plus many other short stories and essays

Jean-Paul Sartre
(Saint Genet) (bits) 
No Exit
(Being and Nothingness)

Rod Serling (& associates)
Many short stories from ‘The Twilight Zone’

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Short stories

John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath
The Moon is Down
Working Days
East of Eden
Journal of a Novel
Tortilla Flat 
Cannery Row

Leo Tolstoy
The Death of Ivan Ilych
 various short stories

(War & Peace - to page 238)

Robert Tressell
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Ivan Turgenev
(Sketches From a Hunter's Album).

Candide & other stories

Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse 5
Several short stories

R H Ward
A Drug Taker’s Notes
A Gallery of Mirrors

Alan Watts
The Wisdom of Insecurity
In My Own Way
The Way of Zen
The Watercourse Way
Does it Matter?

H G Wells
The Time Machine
The War of the Worlds

Nathanael West
Miss Lonelyhearts
The Day of the Locust

Colin Wilson

The Outsider 
The Occult
The Craft of the Novel
A Criminal History of Mankind
Religion & the Rebel
Below the Iceberg
Frankenstein’s Castle
The Strength to Dream
Poetry & Mysticism
The Books in My Life
Adrift in Soho
The World of Violence (fiction)
Man Without a Shadow   ditto
Ritual in the Dark            ditto
and a few others

No sooner do I scan my eyes down that list than several more important tomes spring from memory.... but I guess that'll do for now. For details on those marked click here.


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NOTE: Several highly significant events have happened in my life which have seemed of little significance at the time. One of these was discovering Asimov. Possibly this was at precisely the right moment: a few years earlier and it might have been above me, a few years later and the impact muted?

Likewise, in my first job after leaving school - see 'The Button' - the boss, Nip, told me I'd have to attend college one day a week. My heart sank. I thought: not bloody school again! I'd spent most of the previous year truanting to escape the fiasco of insane regimentation, rules, rituals and punishments (the cane in those days). Nip said, 'See how it goes; if you don't like it we'll discuss it.' I sighed and nodded warily. And - EUREKA - it was the same as with discovering Asimov a year later; college, it turned out, was NOT run like a military boot-camp for wayward psychos as I'd half expected. It was a real place of learning.... and so I remained a student for the next 12-years, the last 4 full-time. I loved it, relished it - never once realising that the intention was to set-me for life as a corporate slave. I conformed for a while.... till I reached 40.... but what direction, I wonder, might my life have taken otherwise?


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