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Books To Read and Re-read

I’ve added a new Page: My Desert Island Library is the list of books that I enjoy re-reading, the books I’d like to find waiting for me when I am washed ashore on that proverbial desert island. My only rule was: one book per author. This list is not meant to represent the best in literature, but simply those books I would love to read multiple times.

Here is my Desert Island Library, as of the Ides of November, 2007.

Walter Abish. How German Is It.
J.G. Ballard. Empire of the Sun.
John Banville. The Book of Evidence.
Samuel Beckett. Malone.
Thomas Bernhard. Woodcutters.
Michel Butor. Passing Time.
Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness.
Robert Coover. The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.
Graham Greene. The Heart of the Matter.
Franz Kafka. The Castle.
William Maxwell. The Chateau.
Herman Melville. Moby-Dick.
Alberto Moravia. Contempt.
Harry Mulisch. The Assault.
Robert Musil. The Man Without Qualities.
Vladimir Nabokov. Lolita.
Peter Nadas. A Book of Memories.
Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet.
Jean Rhys. Wide Sargasso Sea.
W.G. Sebald. The Rings of Saturn.
Susan Sontag. The Volcano Lover.
Ronald Sukenick. Blown Away.
Virginia Woolf. Mrs. Dalloway.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. thanks for the list. I think I do have some of those and i have to find the other on the bookstore.

    Why one book per author?

    November 16, 2007
  2. My “rule” of one book per author was designed to force me to make choices. In several cases – Sebald, obviously, Thomas Bernhard, John Banville, Graham Greene – I like so many of the books that it would have been too easy to list four or five. And I also didn’t want the list to get weighed down with many titles by a handful of authors. But who knows? The list is something I think about now and then, knowing that I’m forgetting great books, worrying over titles that cry out for inclusion. I’m sure the list will evolve.

    November 16, 2007
  3. Any list that includes Butor’s Passing Time is a good list in my book. It’s a shame that book isn’t more widely known in the English-speaking world.

    November 16, 2007
  4. SD #

    no james patterson on the list, t? i am shocked and dismayed.

    November 16, 2007
  5. Maybe there is no James Patterson on my list, but I do read Donna Leon religiously and pretend I’m in Venice.

    November 16, 2007
  6. somehow one also has to add some that one does not know yet but this is so difficult. somehow books that cover the spirit of those mentioned before too, in Warburg-like synchronicity, one should blindly find them without knowing title and author, but when one reads them they perfectly belong to the desert island library.
    I like the Nadas on the list. and would have added Drummond de Andrade. Or Pierre from Melville and not Moby Dick. Or maybe…Emanuel Berl? Andre Dalmas? or – or….

    November 21, 2007
  7. I have just discovered your Sebald blog, while researching material on Sebald, and author I read over and over again (Vertigo currently underway for the umpteenth time). I have just finished Robert Musil’s, The Man Without Qualities, a book I had mixed feelings about. I came to it in the search for something as good as The Magic Mountain, but am not quite sure that it hit the spot. Have you read Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled? I think you might enjoy it.

    December 2, 2007
  8. Tom – Musils’ The Man Without Qualities is definitely problematic – it’s unfinished, which makes it difficult to evaluate as a book. But I think Musil’s writing and his concept for encapsulating an entire culture is endlessly astounding. I confess publicly to having never read The Magic Mountain. But I will definitely read The Unconsoled, a book I have picked up but not purchased a dozen times. Maybe I need to do my own list of 1,000 Books To Read Before I Die. Unfortunately, I’d be through 1,000 books in a few years – then what?

    December 4, 2007
  9. Antoniale, Thank you for suggesting several new writers. My bookshelves groan beneath the weight of things I have bought but not yet read. So why not a few more? Yes, you are right that Melville’s Pierre – Or the Ambiguities is worthy of consideration, but I cannot resist Melville’s great writing about places, which dominates Moby-Dick. To be honest, my absolute favorite piece by Melville is The Encantadas, which is a stunning work, more than a century ahead of its time. Alas, it’s scarcely long enough to be a short story.

    December 4, 2007
  10. No Stefan Zweig? or Broch? or Hoffmann?

    Thanks for the link, btw.

    January 1, 2008
  11. Phil, I have never read Zweig or ETA Hoffmann. Maybe one of these days. Hermann Broch, on the other hand, is a possibility for inclusion. While I think The Romantic section of The Sleepwalkers is terrific, I’ve never been able to finish The Anarchist or The Realist. However, I like Death of Virgil very much and have read it a couple of times. I’ll pull this down from the shelf soon and see if it still grabs me. All the best for 2008.

    January 1, 2008

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