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Author Topic: Books you HAVE to read before you die.  (Read 5607 times)

Offline Kazreemo

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Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« on: May 07, 2015, 04:46:04 PM »
Come on folks! I want to know what book you hold above all others, or series of books given the genre. That book that left you speechless when you finished it, or connected with you emotionally. We all have books that we love. I could rattle off so may 9/10 books that I could talk about for weeks but I'm asking you for that one book that is as close to perfect as you can get. Obviously it will be different for everyone so I'll go first.

Gates Of Fire by Steven Pressfield

I'm sure many of you have read it but for those who haven't it is a novelisation of the battle of Thermopylae that recounts the tale through Xeones, a helot slave/squire, and one of only three Greek survivors of the battle

I first heard about it when watching Lone Survivor, a great movie based on a true story about a group of navy seals that are sent to Afghanistan. Throughout the film Gates of Fire is quoted and it turns out this book is actually on the Commandant of the Marine Corps' Reading list. It is taught at West Point, the United States Naval Academy, and at the Marine Corps Basic School at Quantico.

The book is intense throughout, the idea of being a Spartan warrior is a notion and source of inspiration every person who has ever competed, trained or struggled against obstacles has aspired to. The story itself is brutal, poetic and made me question my own morality more than once. The Spartans living by their strict military law, every individuals worth is deemed only by their honour. 

Having seen 300 the movie I had a particular picture in my head of the terrain and people, I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed with that as the descriptions given seemed more realistic but the ingrained image of King Leonidas being Gerard butler kept returning! It is obvious the movie took a lot of guidance from the book.

By the end of this relatively short book my heart had raced, my muscles tensed up every time a battle took place and I am not ashamed to say cried twice.

I know not all will feel this way. For instance my friend read it and said "Yea not bad that". Another friend read it and immediately bought a copy for his father.

Anyway Gates of Fire is definitely my recommendation!

I look forward to reading what you guys suggest!  ;D       
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Offline JMack

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Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2015, 05:12:05 PM »
Hey, K. Great shout out for Gates of Fire. I listened to it as a recorded book and it was superb.  300 was a comic book of a movie, of course. It would be fascinating to see a movie done truly off of Pressfield's novel.

So many books blur together... For me, LOTR was my most intense experience reading fantasy. But I have enough perspective to know this was partially because of my age at the time (probably 13?), even given my lifelong love for the thing.

Away from adventure stories, when I closed Dicken's Bleak House I felt I was coming up from an incredible immersion. Love that book.

But to pick something more modern (only 50 years old or so...  ;) ) and a little more in the way of adventure: Charles Portis's True Grit. For me, sort of the perfect short novel about the American West. Funny, exciting, meaningful - great characters, great mood and tone.

And finally, getting back to SFF, Brin's Startide Rising left me gasping. Intelligent dolphins on a jointly crewed spaceship with humans are pursued by hostile aliens and crash land in a water world. The following book, The Uplift War, might have been even better.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2015, 05:33:40 PM by Jmack »
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Offline Kazreemo

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Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2015, 05:31:11 PM »
Looks like my bookcase just got bigger! It is funny how our perceptions change as we get older. LOTR was the one for me too. I remember thinking nothing can come close! I'm glad I was wrong. I would love a movie adaptation of Gates Of Fire or maybe a tv series given the scope. I would be mortally wounded if they messed it up though.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2015, 05:47:46 PM »
I read LOTR at a similar age and loved it, but can no longer stand the prose...

Probably the best for me is the Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb. Can't really pinpoint what's so good about it, since I found them to be almost flawless. I think it's quite telling that the majority of the bad reviews are "I didn't like it because I wanted more Fitz"...  :P

Non-fiction I'd say Collapse by Jared Diamond. Absolutely brilliant book, so many fascinating stories about different cultures, and it gives great insight into the different factors that influence the fall or survival of civilisations. Should be required reading for anyone who wants to build their own world.  :)

(Close second for non-fiction would be The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins.)
« Last Edit: May 07, 2015, 05:50:26 PM by Raptori »
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Offline Hedin

Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2015, 06:06:18 PM »
I really liked Gates of Fire when it first came out, it's been years since I read it but I would recommend it anyone who is into that sort of story.

As for my must reads, I would have to go with the Malazan series, although I should probably say that it's more of a must try to read thing.  We've obviously talk about it a lot here and camps are pretty well divided into "Best Series Ever" and "I couldn't get past the first book", but I think its definitely something that should be attempted at least.

For standalone books I would have to go with The Stand by Stephen King.  I remember the first time I read it back when I was in high school, I didn't leave my room at all except to eat and for bathroom breaks.  Yes it can be a little bloated at times but it definitely kept me enthralled while I was reading it.

Offline Kazreemo

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Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2015, 06:08:37 PM »
I loved the Liveship Traders! At the risk of sounding Fitzy I didn't like them as much as the Farseer/Tawnyman trilogies but not for any lack of Fitz or the rest of the six duchies. Mammoth reads. The serpents were amazing! Preferred them to the dragons actually. Ironic.... 

I've heard a lot about the Malazan series. It will no doubt make it to my collection soon  :)
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Offline Eclipse

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Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2015, 06:13:44 PM »
I loved the Liveship Traders! At the risk of sounding Fitzy I didn't like them as much as the Farseer/Tawnyman trilogies but not for any lack of Fitz or the rest of the six duchies. Mammoth reads. The serpents were amazing! Preferred them to the dragons actually. Ironic.... 

I've heard a lot about the Malazan series. It will no doubt make it to my collection soon  :)

Oh no you mentioned Malazan now you going to get this topic overthrown by Malazan Fanboy/Girls BTW it's Brilliant in my option anyway  ;)

I really enjoy the  Travis  Mcgee books, that might just be me through  :)
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2015, 06:18:56 PM »
I find it very hard to choose 'best books'... I feel that some I might say today won't be the same in 10 years, for example...
There are a few that marked my life throughout the years, at different points of my long years hehe
As I stand here now, thinking (not much...), a few are:

* Prince of Thorns, Mark Lawrence
* The glass book of the dream eaters, G.W. Dahlquist
* Duncton wood (series), William Horwood
* The mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
* Alamut, Judith Tarr

And non-Fantasy,
* Farundell, L.R. Fredericks
* Sarum, Edward Rutherfurd

And non-Fiction:
The fabric of the cosmos, Brian Greene

I know there have been others, but I look at this list and I see very specific times of my life :)
« Last Edit: May 07, 2015, 06:22:49 PM by ScarletBea »
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Offline Kazreemo

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Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2015, 09:57:31 PM »
It's cool that a book affects you on such a way  :) almost makes it a time capsule ;D
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Offline Yora

Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2015, 10:13:37 PM »
In German we have this wonderful word (don't we have a lot of those) called "Bildungslücke". Not just a "gap in education", but a gap in the most basic standards of art and entertainment. If you haven't read or watched these works, you're an embarassment for all the people you associate with.  :D

Even though I don't actually consider it a really great story myself, you just can't talk about popular literature if you have not read The Lord of the Rings.

Another work that is often sadly forgotten is A Princess of Mars. It's not exactly high art, but it may possibly be the most important work of adventure science-fiction and fantasy. If you're a Star Wars fan, you can't get through a single chapter without finding one or two things you recognize. That book had hover bikes back in 1917! It's not what I would call "great", but it's also short and easy to read.

Similar, anyone with an interest in heroic fantasy should have read at least a couple Conan stories. My recommendations are The Scarlet Citadel and The Tower of the Elephant, but even all stories combined are still shorter than many single volume novels written these days.

Also, I still can not believe how many people there are who never read any Lovecraft. You don't have to like it, but anyone interested in science-fiction monsters should be at least familiar with it. The Shadow over Innsmouth is probably the best, having good pacing, decent length, but being still relatively simple. The Dunwhich Horror, The Color out of Space, and At the Mountains of Madness are also among his best stories.
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Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2015, 10:41:28 PM »
In my short time on Earth, I'd say Frankenstein by Mary Shelly impacted me the most so far. If you're spiritual  or religious, you need to pick this book up. Love the outlook between creator and created.
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Offline Skip

Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2015, 03:16:41 AM »
As a young 'un, it was
The Martian Chronicles
Stranger in a Strange Land
Lord of the Rings
The Foundation Trilogy

but others stand out like lesser stars. Pierre Boule's A Garden on the Moon, for example. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea.

But I can't pass by my grown-up books
Neuromancer
Stand on Zanzibar
War and Peace
Lord Jim
Dos Passos' USA trilogy
The Once and Future King

Aw heck. I have a whole spreadsheet.

Speaking of which, I started that some years ago. I have three grown children. The spreadsheet has a page for movies, one for books, and one for music. What's on there is what I think *they* should see, read, and hear. Over the years it has provided a very nice point of contact between us.


Offline Raptori

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Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2015, 03:31:54 AM »
As a young 'un, it was
The Martian Chronicles
Stranger in a Strange Land
Lord of the Rings
The Foundation Trilogy

but others stand out like lesser stars. Pierre Boule's A Garden on the Moon, for example. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea.

But I can't pass by my grown-up books
Neuromancer
Stand on Zanzibar
War and Peace
Lord Jim
Dos Passos' USA trilogy
The Once and Future King

Aw heck. I have a whole spreadsheet.

Speaking of which, I started that some years ago. I have three grown children. The spreadsheet has a page for movies, one for books, and one for music. What's on there is what I think *they* should see, read, and hear. Over the years it has provided a very nice point of contact between us.
That's a really cool idea, usually for me it's me buying books for my dad these days! Several on that list that I've had on my to-read list for an age, and I've come close to picking up Stand on Zanzibar multiple times. :)
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Offline Nora

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Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2015, 04:01:43 AM »
I don't think we can truly share those types of lists. Some people would list as best-ever books that would bore me or never touch me.

But still, besides all those books I really enjoyed but wouldn't force on anyone's lifetime, I'd say some stand out for for me because they left a lingering feeling in me, images and strong impressions, even years after reading them.

The Royal Game by Stephan Zweig. I like a lot of his work, but this novella really blew me way. It's deeply intriguing, touching and disturbing.

Le Horla or The Horla for you english speakers, is the title of two fantastical novellas by Guy de Maupassant, that we studied in school and I read again in adulthood and was left just as mystified. The story is cited as having inspired Lovecraft's "the call of Cthulhu". How can you get any better?
It's about a man losing his mind, or maybe, just maybe, an actual extra-terrestrial being living on water and milk and messing with people's brain. It's tense, it's odd, it leaves strong impressions.

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa, a franco/chinese writer. It's a short love story written in french, pretty dramatic, pretty poetic. Maybe it's because I'm a go player myself, but it left a deeper impression on me as a star crossed lover story than Romeo and Juliette did.

The Metamorphosis By Franz Kafka. It's a favourite of mine I listened to, read by Benedict Cumberbatch dozens of times. So strange, still haven't come to term with all it's implications.

I would recommend any geek/science lover, even the mathematically inept ones like me who do multiplications on a calculator, to read What if? by Randall Munroe, the guy formerly from NASA who does the XKCD comics. It's delightful. He answers the stupid questions of people with scientific accuracy.
Other science or history related books have made my intense delight, but it's not for everyone, so not making the list I guess?
I still consider The Grand Design and The Nature of Space and Time by Hawking absolute must reads.

The adventures of Sherlock Holmes are also on the list I guess?

 



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Offline sennydreadful

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Re: Books you HAVE to read before you die.
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2015, 09:54:51 AM »
Find the books that move you, that's what you have to do in your lifetime  :)

A small selection of books that are to me pretty much perfect :

The Liveship Traders trilogy, Robin Hobb (hell yeah)
Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay
The Last Unicorn, Peter S Beagle
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson