Off-topic: 15 minutes, 15 memorable books

Stephen Baker (BusinessWeek writer, author of The Num3rati and @stevebaker on Twitter) issued an interesting challenge via Twitter this morning:

In less than 15 minutes list the 15 most memorable books you’ve ever read. (Baker’s list.)

It was pretty easy to come up with an off-the-cuff list of memorable books in the alloted time frame (see below). But Baker’s challenge (actually a Facebook meme that he moved into the blogosphere) got me thinking about what 15 memorable books I would list that pertain to marketing, public relations and communications. That is a blog post for another day. For now, here’s my contribution to the 15 memorable books meme.

  1. The Collected Works of Flannery O’Connor. A master storyteller whose characters and descriptions offer a glimpse behind the veil of the material world. (I also recommend her collection of essays and letters, Mystery and Manners, for those interested in the craft of writing fiction.)
  2. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. Brilliant, spare tales from Vietnam, from one who was there.
  3. What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg. A great American novel about a great Americal obsession: blind ambition and the quest for fame.
  4. Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, by Lester Bangs. Bangs was the mad genius rock critic. His style was over the top and excessive, as was his lifestyle, but also insightful. This is a collection of his best writings, published and unpublished.
  5. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. Greatest comic novel ever.
  6. Geronimo Rex, by Barry Hannah. An underrated coming-of-age story from one of the south’s great writers of fiction.
  7. The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. This novel taught me more about theology and the human condition than any other book.
  8. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Not sure I have the fortitude to read this one again (read it twice) but its magical realism stuck with me.
  9. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey. Randall Patrick McMurphy: Christ figure.
  10. A Confession, by Leo Tolstoy. The great author’s spiritual journey. Ecclesiastes has nothing on this.
  11. The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning. Here’s where I learned about the power of forgiveness — of self and others.
  12. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. The second-greatest comic novel ever written.
  13. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. Exposed me to my racist self.
  14. Hard Times, by Studs Terkel. This oral history of the Great Depression should be required reading in every business school.
  15. Tales of Mystery and Imagination, by Edgar Allan Poe. The best writings from the master of suspense. Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock owe a debt of gratitude to Poe.

Creating that list took all of 10 minutes. (The links and descriptions took longer.) I could probably list another 15 memorable in another 10 minutes.

How about you? What are the 15 most memorable books you’ve ever read? If you want to play along, post on your own blog (or in the comments below) and leave a comment with a link to your list.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

7 thoughts on “Off-topic: 15 minutes, 15 memorable books”

  1. Have read most of these. Makes me want to list my favorites but it’s too late and you’ve got me thinking of Marquez, Poe, Terkel and Toole.
    What the hell, I’ll add Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison, an epic in three novellas.
    There’s more. There’s so much more. . . .

  2. Dennis – Would love to see your list. Do you plan to post it?

    Dave – Key takeaways from “Hard Times”: I could list quite a few, I think, but for starters, let’s go with Terkel’s masterful interviewing skills. He is completely in the background; the story of the Great Depression is told through the voices of the young and old, rich (or once-rich) and poor, government bureaucrats and homeless, train-jumping hobos. The result is a great cross-section of the Great Depression and its impact on all demographic segments of our nation. It’s a wonderful oral history. (I love oral histories, especially two about the history of punk in the U.S. – “Please Kill Me,” by Legs McNeil [which I thought about listing here], about the New York scene in the late ’70s, and “We Got the Neutron Bomb,” about the later burgeoning LA scene. But I digress.)

    Terkel’s “Hard Times” also should show us that despite our economic troubles today, they pale in comparison with the Great Depression. There was no safety net back then — no unemployment, no Social Security, etc.

    I could go on, but those are a couple of the takeaways I get from Terkel’s book. I should re-read it.

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