Yet Another Damn Meme…

…this one about literature. Now with embedded commentary!

The Big Read thinks the average adult has only read six of the top 100 books they’ve printed below.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own LJ so we can try and track down these people who’ve read only six and force books upon them.


1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien A lot of folks have read this, but not read The Silmarillion. Folks, without The Silmarillion, you’re missing a lot of context.
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling You know, I’ve just never been able to get into the premise or the story. I’ve seen the movies, and they make the adults all seem more or less incompetent. I want to grab Dumbledore by the neck and say “Do something!!”
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee Read it during recess when I was about 12. I didn’t much like my fellow classmates.
6 The Bible Cover to cover, twice. I am firmly of the opinion that nobody can read this book, and think about what it says, and remain in any way Christian.
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell What a stupid book. Seriously. Orwell was a Communist-hater of the first degree, and wrote mediocre books as a thin cover for Red-baiting. Seriously, how did this book get to be considered great? Mediocre characters, implausible setting, hack writing. Had it had any other name, it would never have received much attention.
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens Read it for class, don’t remember a thing about it.
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy Read it for class, don’t remember a thing about it.
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller OMFG this book is hysterical, in a particularly dark sorta way. I’ve read it twice, and it’s so good. I think a lot of people are put off by it because it’s always described as Serious Literature, and we all know Serious literature is boring. But this book is funny.
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare Love the tragedies, don’t care for the comedies, don’t like th poetry. But one thing you gotta say for Shakespeare: he really is very good, despite all the people who say he really is very good. I read Macbeth at recess when I was 12 as well, and can still quote long parts of Hamlet. Oh, and if oyu love Shakespeare, do give Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (by Tom Stoppard) a whirl.
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien Not as good as LoTR.
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell Dreck. Through and through, beginning to end. Dreck. A mediocre romance novel dressed up as Literature. Dreadful beyond reason.
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald Here’s a secret: F. Scott Fitzgerald really isn’t very good, despite all the people who say he really is very good.
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams Once again, Serious Literature doesn’t have to be boring. Scathing social commentary disguised as absurdist humor, much like Terry pratchett on a more cosmic scale.
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck Read it, did a book report on it, then it went clean out of my head.
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll It gets even better when you realize that Carroll (Charles Dodgson) was a mathematician with a thing for his friend’s daughter Alice Liddell and a penchant for burying hidden messages acrostically in the poetry in his books. It’s hard for modern readers to fully appreciate Jabberwocky, because many of the nonsense words he made up have become real English words. How cool is that?
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis Again with the utter dreck. Mainstream Christian theology clumsily adapted to a story through the misapplied use of heavy-handed and transparent metaphor.
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis See above.
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne Less a story than a case study in neurosis. A charming case study in neurosis.
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell Once more with “I hate the Reds, so I’ll write a clumsy book about how much I hate the Reds.” Whatever.
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert I’ve only read this book, like, seven or eight times. I think I need to read it again. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant, beginning to end.
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens Meh.
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley So-so science fiction, implausible premise.
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck Read it, did the book report, very little stuck.
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov In this day and age, I wouldn’t be surprised if merely mentioning this book got one arrested as a sex offender.
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville Love, love, love this book. Herman Melville is da bomb. I’ve read it at least half a dozen times, and it keeps getting better every single time.
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker Meh.
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath Didn’t she stick her head in the oven or something?
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens You mean theres someone somewhere who hasn’t read this? It’s impossible to escape!
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White Read it for the first time when i was a kid. Even back then, I gotta say, I couldn’t understand why the folks who read the writing in the web assumed it was put there by the pig, and not the spider… Duh!
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Fun, if contrived.
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks He writes both science fiction (Excession, The Algebraist) and Serious Literature. His science fiction is brilliant. I haven’t read any of his Serious Literature yet.
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare Since the complete works of Shakespeare is already on the list, and Hamlet is contained within the complete works, one has to assume that someone is padding the list here…
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

80 thoughts on “Yet Another Damn Meme…

  1. 6 The Bible Cover to cover, twice. I am firmly of the opinion that nobody can read this book, and think about what it says, and remain in any way Christian.

    I did. More than twice. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it cover to cover. And I do understand what it says. I also understand that it was written by people, not any kind of deity. I still consider myself as falling under what I imagine you mean when you say “in any way christian.”

    To clarify: I was only irked because it bothers me when I’m dismissed as not–you know–existing. Considering my weirdness, it happens a lot, and it always bothers me. I don’t mind the fact that you have a dim view of christians. I would imagine most thinking people do, myself included.

    • Many folks might argue that the notion that the Bible is divinely written (or at least, divinely inspired) is a necessary tenet of Christianity. As you say, reading the Bible cover to cover tends to lead one to the conclusion that it’s written by people, rather than written by (or even inspired by) an all-knowing supernatural entity.

      • Many folks might argue that the notion that the Bible is divinely written (or at least, divinely inspired) is a necessary tenet of Christianity.

        Many folks might argue that having extremely short hair and fingernails is a necessary component of female queerness. The length of my fingernails has, in fact, been the topic of very heated debate among lesbian friends of mine, while my girlfriend was standing there with them.

        Many folks would argue that enjoying pornography means you’re not a feminist. Many folks argue that enjoying kinky sex is inherently anti-feminist, psychologically damaging, and maintains the cycle of abuse that it necessarily caused.

        Many folks would also argue that monogamy is a necessary tenet of a healthy/happy/loving relationship.

        Many folks argue that several of my best friends aren’t really women, because they were born biologically “male.”

        I could go on. At length.

        I find “many folks” tend to defend generalizations without considering individual experiences because it’s a convenient way to support their particular worldview. They define categories, and place people in them, regardless of how individuals prefer to identify themselves. It is at its best insulting, and at its worst dangerous.

        You can maintain your opinion by denying that I’ve read the bible (untrue), understood it (I suppose that’s debatable, but I’ve studied comparative religion and philosophy since about the time I started reading, both formally and informally), or that I’m actually christian, and that’s really up to you. By your definition, I’m probably not christian, particularly if your definition is “ignorant douchebag.” I’d like to think I don’t fall into that category.

        Again, to clarify, I’m not defending christianity. I’m merely defending my right to define my own identity, and pointing out that it feels really shitty when people make statements that deny your very existence. I’m also not upset with you. I’m just, you know, pointing something out.

        Additionally, I do understand the benefits of objective definitions and categories. It’s useful to be able to express the difference between a neurologist and an oncologist. Even politically, being able to define, for instance, who is queer and what that means can be useful in establishing things like how a particular group is being marginalized. But we use that system to categorize people based on how we think the world should be, and we give those categories value judgments, and that leads to problems.

  2. 6 The Bible Cover to cover, twice. I am firmly of the opinion that nobody can read this book, and think about what it says, and remain in any way Christian.

    I did. More than twice. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it cover to cover. And I do understand what it says. I also understand that it was written by people, not any kind of deity. I still consider myself as falling under what I imagine you mean when you say “in any way christian.”

    To clarify: I was only irked because it bothers me when I’m dismissed as not–you know–existing. Considering my weirdness, it happens a lot, and it always bothers me. I don’t mind the fact that you have a dim view of christians. I would imagine most thinking people do, myself included.

  3. 6 The Bible Cover to cover, twice. I am firmly of the opinion that nobody can read this book, and think about what it says, and remain in any way Christian.

    I did. More than twice. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it cover to cover. And I do understand what it says. I also understand that it was written by people, not any kind of deity. I still consider myself as falling under what I imagine you mean when you say “in any way christian.”

    To clarify: I was only irked because it bothers me when I’m dismissed as not–you know–existing. Considering my weirdness, it happens a lot, and it always bothers me. I don’t mind the fact that you have a dim view of christians. I would imagine most thinking people do, myself included.

  4. 6 The Bible Cover to cover, twice. I am firmly of the opinion that nobody can read this book, and think about what it says, and remain in any way Christian.

    I did. More than twice. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it cover to cover. And I do understand what it says. I also understand that it was written by people, not any kind of deity. I still consider myself as falling under what I imagine you mean when you say “in any way christian.”

    To clarify: I was only irked because it bothers me when I’m dismissed as not–you know–existing. Considering my weirdness, it happens a lot, and it always bothers me. I don’t mind the fact that you have a dim view of christians. I would imagine most thinking people do, myself included.

  5. I can recommend 38, 49, 51, 59, 62, 64, 91, and possibly 74. Bryson is a little like Pratchett on Lithium doing travel writing. Sometimes he’s very very funny, but not usually in the way he thought he was trying to be.
    The others you may find interesting to a greater or lesser degree, depending on how seriously you take them or how seriously you think they take themselves, or how well I estimate your sense of humor.
    You probably wouldn’t like 3, 7, 11, 73, 92, definitely not 46.
    84, the movie was interesting, haven’t read the book but it’s probably either incredibly intricate, deeply boring, or both.

  6. I can recommend 38, 49, 51, 59, 62, 64, 91, and possibly 74. Bryson is a little like Pratchett on Lithium doing travel writing. Sometimes he’s very very funny, but not usually in the way he thought he was trying to be.
    The others you may find interesting to a greater or lesser degree, depending on how seriously you take them or how seriously you think they take themselves, or how well I estimate your sense of humor.
    You probably wouldn’t like 3, 7, 11, 73, 92, definitely not 46.
    84, the movie was interesting, haven’t read the book but it’s probably either incredibly intricate, deeply boring, or both.

  7. I can recommend 38, 49, 51, 59, 62, 64, 91, and possibly 74. Bryson is a little like Pratchett on Lithium doing travel writing. Sometimes he’s very very funny, but not usually in the way he thought he was trying to be.
    The others you may find interesting to a greater or lesser degree, depending on how seriously you take them or how seriously you think they take themselves, or how well I estimate your sense of humor.
    You probably wouldn’t like 3, 7, 11, 73, 92, definitely not 46.
    84, the movie was interesting, haven’t read the book but it’s probably either incredibly intricate, deeply boring, or both.

  8. I can recommend 38, 49, 51, 59, 62, 64, 91, and possibly 74. Bryson is a little like Pratchett on Lithium doing travel writing. Sometimes he’s very very funny, but not usually in the way he thought he was trying to be.
    The others you may find interesting to a greater or lesser degree, depending on how seriously you take them or how seriously you think they take themselves, or how well I estimate your sense of humor.
    You probably wouldn’t like 3, 7, 11, 73, 92, definitely not 46.
    84, the movie was interesting, haven’t read the book but it’s probably either incredibly intricate, deeply boring, or both.

        • I know exactly what you mean; they haven’t been able to do a Heinlein movie right yet!

          Don’t even get me started on what a travesty Paul Verhoeven created.

          • Ah, well, there was The Unnamed Heinlein movie, with Denise Richards…and then there was Puppet Masters, which I think had Donald Southerland in it.

            Can’t think of any others, but I sure would like to see Moon is a Harsh Mistress done.

            I mean, done well.

  9. 52 Dune – Frank Herbert I’ve only read this book, like, seven or eight times. I think I need to read it again. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant, beginning to end.

    I did my 11th grade research paper on Frank Herbert since we had to chose an author to study that year. I’d already read Dune by then and in the course of writing the paper I read the rest of the Dune series. Of course after book 4 The God Emperor of Dune the series completely lost its course. Though truthfully you could say it lost itself after book 2. Dune though has always been a favorite. I should re-read…

      • This comment is actually on topic

        Dune is one of the most erotic series of books I’ve ever read, and to this day I can’t explain why it gets me so hot. I re-read them every couple of years or so.

        Additionally, and this is less on topic, Emperor: Battle for Dune is the one game I can play, no matter what mood I’m in, for hours and hours, no matter how recently I’ve played it. I never, ever get sick of it. The only other game I’ve played as consistently is WoW.

      • “I’m told the series picks up several books after that.”

        Dune is like discovering there’s a freeway and you have a 750cc Kawasaki Ninja.

        By the time you hit God Emperor of Dune, you realize you can’t kick it up past third gear and everyone is piling up behind you and honking and screaming.

        After that is when you suddenly can kick it up and are going full speed. On a freeway! And it’s finaly cool!

        And then you crash into a barrier, because Frank Herbert is dead.

        There are some things it’s best to not follow into the killing fields. Dune and Boxing Helena are two examples.

      • God Emperor is sitting in the pile of books I will read soon. Previously I had trouble getting through Children, but last time something clicked and I had no problems with it. Maybe it was watching the Sci-Fi Channel mini series a few years ago.

  10. 52 Dune – Frank Herbert I’ve only read this book, like, seven or eight times. I think I need to read it again. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant, beginning to end.

    I did my 11th grade research paper on Frank Herbert since we had to chose an author to study that year. I’d already read Dune by then and in the course of writing the paper I read the rest of the Dune series. Of course after book 4 The God Emperor of Dune the series completely lost its course. Though truthfully you could say it lost itself after book 2. Dune though has always been a favorite. I should re-read…

  11. Many folks might argue that the notion that the Bible is divinely written (or at least, divinely inspired) is a necessary tenet of Christianity. As you say, reading the Bible cover to cover tends to lead one to the conclusion that it’s written by people, rather than written by (or even inspired by) an all-knowing supernatural entity.

  12. Many folks might argue that the notion that the Bible is divinely written (or at least, divinely inspired) is a necessary tenet of Christianity.

    Many folks might argue that having extremely short hair and fingernails is a necessary component of female queerness. The length of my fingernails has, in fact, been the topic of very heated debate among lesbian friends of mine, while my girlfriend was standing there with them.

    Many folks would argue that enjoying pornography means you’re not a feminist. Many folks argue that enjoying kinky sex is inherently anti-feminist, psychologically damaging, and maintains the cycle of abuse that it necessarily caused.

    Many folks would also argue that monogamy is a necessary tenet of a healthy/happy/loving relationship.

    Many folks argue that several of my best friends aren’t really women, because they were born biologically “male.”

    I could go on. At length.

    I find “many folks” tend to defend generalizations without considering individual experiences because it’s a convenient way to support their particular worldview. They define categories, and place people in them, regardless of how individuals prefer to identify themselves. It is at its best insulting, and at its worst dangerous.

    You can maintain your opinion by denying that I’ve read the bible (untrue), understood it (I suppose that’s debatable, but I’ve studied comparative religion and philosophy since about the time I started reading, both formally and informally), or that I’m actually christian, and that’s really up to you. By your definition, I’m probably not christian, particularly if your definition is “ignorant douchebag.” I’d like to think I don’t fall into that category.

    Again, to clarify, I’m not defending christianity. I’m merely defending my right to define my own identity, and pointing out that it feels really shitty when people make statements that deny your very existence. I’m also not upset with you. I’m just, you know, pointing something out.

    Additionally, I do understand the benefits of objective definitions and categories. It’s useful to be able to express the difference between a neurologist and an oncologist. Even politically, being able to define, for instance, who is queer and what that means can be useful in establishing things like how a particular group is being marginalized. But we use that system to categorize people based on how we think the world should be, and we give those categories value judgments, and that leads to problems.

  13. This comment is actually on topic

    Dune is one of the most erotic series of books I’ve ever read, and to this day I can’t explain why it gets me so hot. I re-read them every couple of years or so.

    Additionally, and this is less on topic, Emperor: Battle for Dune is the one game I can play, no matter what mood I’m in, for hours and hours, no matter how recently I’ve played it. I never, ever get sick of it. The only other game I’ve played as consistently is WoW.

  14. “one has to assume that someone is padding the list here…”

    Probably.

    This list (I’ve read it elsewhere, as it’s spreading like a drunken teenager’s knees) reads a lot like the lists of TV shows, movies, records, and other “seeded” media, where 10% of what-we-really-want-to-be-cool is associated with 90% of what-really-is-cool in an effort to lend legitimacy to the 10%.

    Moby Dick, To Kill a Mockingbird and… um… Harry Potter? All in one breath?

    And certain things that seem a bit important, such as The Education of Little Tree, totally missing?

    A v-e-r-y subjective list (and by someone who doesn’t realize 36 is a subset of 33)

  15. “one has to assume that someone is padding the list here…”

    Probably.

    This list (I’ve read it elsewhere, as it’s spreading like a drunken teenager’s knees) reads a lot like the lists of TV shows, movies, records, and other “seeded” media, where 10% of what-we-really-want-to-be-cool is associated with 90% of what-really-is-cool in an effort to lend legitimacy to the 10%.

    Moby Dick, To Kill a Mockingbird and… um… Harry Potter? All in one breath?

    And certain things that seem a bit important, such as The Education of Little Tree, totally missing?

    A v-e-r-y subjective list (and by someone who doesn’t realize 36 is a subset of 33)

  16. “I’m told the series picks up several books after that.”

    Dune is like discovering there’s a freeway and you have a 750cc Kawasaki Ninja.

    By the time you hit God Emperor of Dune, you realize you can’t kick it up past third gear and everyone is piling up behind you and honking and screaming.

    After that is when you suddenly can kick it up and are going full speed. On a freeway! And it’s finaly cool!

    And then you crash into a barrier, because Frank Herbert is dead.

    There are some things it’s best to not follow into the killing fields. Dune and Boxing Helena are two examples.

  17. I want to know how they’re defining average.

    I’ve read 52, quite a few of them more than once. Never got through Dune, though – I should try it again. I think I was 11 when I attempted it, and I’d probably burned myself out reading LOTR earlier that year.

  18. I want to know how they’re defining average.

    I’ve read 52, quite a few of them more than once. Never got through Dune, though – I should try it again. I think I was 11 when I attempted it, and I’d probably burned myself out reading LOTR earlier that year.

  19. I’m tempted to post this, as I’ve read a lot of what’s listed and it would make me look uber-cool, but I just can’t. Who writes this? Who decides these are the books everyone should read? What’s the criteria here? Bridget Jones’ Diary?!?! Are they serious? The Five People You Meet in Heaven? Good God, no!

  20. I’m tempted to post this, as I’ve read a lot of what’s listed and it would make me look uber-cool, but I just can’t. Who writes this? Who decides these are the books everyone should read? What’s the criteria here? Bridget Jones’ Diary?!?! Are they serious? The Five People You Meet in Heaven? Good God, no!

  21. God Emperor is sitting in the pile of books I will read soon. Previously I had trouble getting through Children, but last time something clicked and I had no problems with it. Maybe it was watching the Sci-Fi Channel mini series a few years ago.

  22. You could probably include “At the Mountains of Madness” and cover practically every Lovecraft base in one fell swoop.

    And yeah, no Bradbury in the list? Fuck that noize.

  23. You could probably include “At the Mountains of Madness” and cover practically every Lovecraft base in one fell swoop.

    And yeah, no Bradbury in the list? Fuck that noize.

  24. Well, he wrote words that I can understand in a language I’m familiar with, so in that sense, I suppose he’s “readable.” Other adjectives, such as “dreadful,” “pompous,” and “ghastly” apply as well, but I am technically capable of reading the words he wrote.

  25. Wow, I’ve never thought of “The Metamorphosis” as SF 🙂 You’re right, though — it definitely belongs on the list.
    I’m not a fan of Asimov, too; except for some of “I, Robot” stories. You tried that?

    You know, I’m simply amazed that you didn’t like “1984”. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to say something about it, I feel it’s some kind of mistake 🙂 I know you only by your writings in LJ, but I was pretty sure you’re going to LOVE this one, because – well – you value the mind so much. This book is not about the Commies; it is about the rational independent mind, the ability of critical thinking – our biggest weapon in this world, our only tool to understand the universe around us.
    Orwell was considering the question: how to destroy this weapon beyond repair? Not even allow it to develop, or, if developed, how to systematically shut it down? As an aspiring evil overlord, the question should probably interest you, Franklin 🙂
    “1984” presents some interesting answers to this question. According to Orwell, the keys to shutting down independent thought are: redefining truth; pruning and redefining language; and the third idea is both more obvious and more subtle. But the first two are already extremely important. Maybe you were thinking “but it’s just an anti-utopia, nobody could have the power needed to redefine language”. Unfortunately, this is not the case. When I read some literature on mind control techniques of destructive cults (e.g. Steven Hassan, “Releasing the Bonds”), I kept thinking “Man! These people use 1984 as an instruction manual!” You know, they actually do that – some cults systematically prune the vocabulary of their followers, and redefine meanings of words, in order to both cut down communication with the outside world and shape the thought patterns as needed. You read Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language”, right? (If not, by all means do! Besides anything else, it’s funny, and a great piece of advice on writing). It’s on the same subject – the deep interconnectedness of language and thought, and how you can define the latter by controlling the former.
    Now, the redefinition of truth is also a step that you are very familiar with. Actually, the Reds didn’t think of that; the Americans did. That anti-intellectualism wave of the last decades, that bothers you so much (you wrote a few things on the subject here and there) – as you probably noticed, most of these folks start by denying that objective truth exists, and then redefine truth to mean social consensus, or some such. As soon as you accept that premise, you’re screwed big time. In terms of mathematical logic, as soon as you allow an inconsistency in your premises, you can prove anything you want.
    So again, Orwell did not just write about some unrealistic artificial world; there are essential parallels between what he wrote and things that exist here and now.
    Sorry about the long post, man 🙂

    -Ola

    P.S. A guess: your favorite Discworld novel: Small Gods. Yes/No?

    • My problems with 1984 aren’t from the ideas presented in the book; in fact, one could plausibly argue that members of the Bush Administration have used it as a sourcebook.

      My complaint with 1984 is simpler: George Orwell is a terrible writer. From a structural standpoint, the book is mediocre at best, and that’s if I’m being charitable. The characters are poorly framed and their behavior is shallow and inconsistent; the setting is, frankly, implausible; his motivations for writing the book were as allegory about the Evils of Communism rather than to tell a compelling tale. The ubiquitous surveillance society doesn’t even make sense; if every TV set is also a camera, and the police respond immediately to any perceived crie, who’s watching all these cameras? You’d need to have 50% of the population as part of the police force; and then who’s watching those guys?

      And the love story…ugh. Let’s just say I didn’t find it compelling and leave it at that.

      There are a lot of stories with the same themes that are just plain better written. Kafka’s “The Trial” is, I think, a lot more horrifying. “The Children of Men” is a more compelling story of he dangers of a government that oppresses its citizens by manipulating their fears.

      Orwell understood the power of language and the consequences of controlling it, no doubt about it. He just wasn’t a very good writer, that’s all.

  26. Wow, I’ve never thought of “The Metamorphosis” as SF 🙂 You’re right, though — it definitely belongs on the list.
    I’m not a fan of Asimov, too; except for some of “I, Robot” stories. You tried that?

    You know, I’m simply amazed that you didn’t like “1984”. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to say something about it, I feel it’s some kind of mistake 🙂 I know you only by your writings in LJ, but I was pretty sure you’re going to LOVE this one, because – well – you value the mind so much. This book is not about the Commies; it is about the rational independent mind, the ability of critical thinking – our biggest weapon in this world, our only tool to understand the universe around us.
    Orwell was considering the question: how to destroy this weapon beyond repair? Not even allow it to develop, or, if developed, how to systematically shut it down? As an aspiring evil overlord, the question should probably interest you, Franklin 🙂
    “1984” presents some interesting answers to this question. According to Orwell, the keys to shutting down independent thought are: redefining truth; pruning and redefining language; and the third idea is both more obvious and more subtle. But the first two are already extremely important. Maybe you were thinking “but it’s just an anti-utopia, nobody could have the power needed to redefine language”. Unfortunately, this is not the case. When I read some literature on mind control techniques of destructive cults (e.g. Steven Hassan, “Releasing the Bonds”), I kept thinking “Man! These people use 1984 as an instruction manual!” You know, they actually do that – some cults systematically prune the vocabulary of their followers, and redefine meanings of words, in order to both cut down communication with the outside world and shape the thought patterns as needed. You read Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language”, right? (If not, by all means do! Besides anything else, it’s funny, and a great piece of advice on writing). It’s on the same subject – the deep interconnectedness of language and thought, and how you can define the latter by controlling the former.
    Now, the redefinition of truth is also a step that you are very familiar with. Actually, the Reds didn’t think of that; the Americans did. That anti-intellectualism wave of the last decades, that bothers you so much (you wrote a few things on the subject here and there) – as you probably noticed, most of these folks start by denying that objective truth exists, and then redefine truth to mean social consensus, or some such. As soon as you accept that premise, you’re screwed big time. In terms of mathematical logic, as soon as you allow an inconsistency in your premises, you can prove anything you want.
    So again, Orwell did not just write about some unrealistic artificial world; there are essential parallels between what he wrote and things that exist here and now.
    Sorry about the long post, man 🙂

    -Ola

    P.S. A guess: your favorite Discworld novel: Small Gods. Yes/No?

  27. My problems with 1984 aren’t from the ideas presented in the book; in fact, one could plausibly argue that members of the Bush Administration have used it as a sourcebook.

    My complaint with 1984 is simpler: George Orwell is a terrible writer. From a structural standpoint, the book is mediocre at best, and that’s if I’m being charitable. The characters are poorly framed and their behavior is shallow and inconsistent; the setting is, frankly, implausible; his motivations for writing the book were as allegory about the Evils of Communism rather than to tell a compelling tale. The ubiquitous surveillance society doesn’t even make sense; if every TV set is also a camera, and the police respond immediately to any perceived crie, who’s watching all these cameras? You’d need to have 50% of the population as part of the police force; and then who’s watching those guys?

    And the love story…ugh. Let’s just say I didn’t find it compelling and leave it at that.

    There are a lot of stories with the same themes that are just plain better written. Kafka’s “The Trial” is, I think, a lot more horrifying. “The Children of Men” is a more compelling story of he dangers of a government that oppresses its citizens by manipulating their fears.

    Orwell understood the power of language and the consequences of controlling it, no doubt about it. He just wasn’t a very good writer, that’s all.

  28. I know exactly what you mean; they haven’t been able to do a Heinlein movie right yet!

    Don’t even get me started on what a travesty Paul Verhoeven created.

  29. I find that unlikely; the Little Red Book (the Collected Sayings of Chairman Mao) has outsold the Bible, and it’s hard for me to believe that The Wasp Factory (a book I want to read, now that I think about it) has outsold One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (a book strangely conspicuous in its absence).

  30. I find that unlikely; the Little Red Book (the Collected Sayings of Chairman Mao) has outsold the Bible, and it’s hard for me to believe that The Wasp Factory (a book I want to read, now that I think about it) has outsold One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (a book strangely conspicuous in its absence).

  31. Ah, well, there was The Unnamed Heinlein movie, with Denise Richards…and then there was Puppet Masters, which I think had Donald Southerland in it.

    Can’t think of any others, but I sure would like to see Moon is a Harsh Mistress done.

    I mean, done well.

  32. they sure published lots of books in the past 150 years

    I’ve read 63 of the books/series on that list.

    I don’t think we should force books on anyone any more than we should force partnerships on anyone. A book forced is a book scorned.

    • Re: they sure published lots of books in the past 150 years

      Yep. I suspect I would not appreciate Shakespeare as much as I do had I been forced to read him, and I suspect a lot of folks don’t appreciate him precisely because they’re forced to read him.

  33. they sure published lots of books in the past 150 years

    I’ve read 63 of the books/series on that list.

    I don’t think we should force books on anyone any more than we should force partnerships on anyone. A book forced is a book scorned.

  34. Re: they sure published lots of books in the past 150 years

    Yep. I suspect I would not appreciate Shakespeare as much as I do had I been forced to read him, and I suspect a lot of folks don’t appreciate him precisely because they’re forced to read him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *