Thursday, 22 May 2008

On the Fly: Good Books to Read; not that I' ve been doing very much

The second five

Here are the second five in my top ten. The first two of these are fiction (which I arranged in alphabetical order) but the last three are non-fiction, because I think good non-fiction is as interesting to read as fiction.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Oprah picked a new translation of this classic, and sent millions on a time travel into 19th century Russia. This is a vast, engulfing read, the perfect thing to start when you have time to spare.

The Dram Shop (L’Assommoir) by Emile Zola

This great novel from Zola’s series about an French extended family during the mid-19th century. English language literature has no equivalent, unfortunately.

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Terrific nature writing, better than fiction, full of beauty and humour.

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin
I read this for the first time on a long road trip across the United States when I was just becoming interested in geology. We were young, life was pleasant, and sleeping on the ground presented absolutely no problem at all. Darwin was about that age when he took his world-changing voyage, and it is absolutely fascinating to read his careful observations and his dawning understanding of what he was seeing.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

This seminal book in city planning also arises out of an inquiring, carefully observing mind. Jacobs’s ideas, as presented here, have had a great influence on my appreciation of the world. It’s no accident that my next book is The Walkable City: From Haussmann’s Boulevards to Jane Jacobs’s Streets and Beyond.

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