Booker Award: 5 Favorite Books

One of my lovely readers, Addy, nominated me for The Booker Award (whatever that is). Thanks! It’s a pleasure to know that someone not only reads my crap, but thinks highly enough of it to call me out.

Still, I can’t help feeling like I’ve just been chain lettered. Look at the rules:

The rules of this award are simple:

1.  Nominate other blogs, as many as you want but 5-10 is always a good suggestion. Don’t forget to let your recipients know.

2.  Post the Booker Award picture.

3.  Share your top 5 books of all time

So, in order to win this award, I also need to pass it along. It feels very much like those old school chain letters, now emails: “Congratulations on winning! Send this award to 5-10 people in the next 112 seconds. If you don’t pass it along, 15-20 puppies and/or kittens will die in the fiery pit of death.”

Only you can save us from the fiery pit of death.

Fiery kitten/puppy deaths aside, it is an excuse for a post and I haven’t been doing a lot of that in recent days, so I shall post five favorite books.

There are so many books that I love that there’s just no way I can count them from one to five. The books that follow are not necessarily my top 5 favorite books ever; they are merely the first that came to mind. In no way do I mean offense to any of my books that didn’t get mentioned.

This also applies to nominations for bloggy awards. So, as for nominating 5-10 bloggers to carry on the torch, I’m not going to single anyone out. You know who you are, blogs that I read, because I comment on you or I link you or I like your posts. Some of them are permanently advertised in the right hand column. Click those. The puppy/kitty fiery pit of death killing ends here with me, dammit.

Anyway, five favorite books:

The Last Night Of The Earth Poems by Charles Bukowski


Poems deal with writing, death and immortality, literature, city life, illness, war, and the past.

Why it’s on the list:

This is a book of poetry. I generally hate poetry. It surprises everyone, most of all me, that it is my favorite book of all time. And it is my favorite book of all time. It is a desert island book. It is a book I have given to people as a housewarming present, no foolin’. I have bought probably twenty copies of it in my lifetime since I’m always giving it away to people who haven’t read it and should. My current copy is dog-eared and well-loved. It lives in my bedside table for easy access.



there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams


Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

Why it’s on the list:

If there’s one book that makes me want to go wandering and explore it’s this one. Packed full of absurdity, ridiculousness and tons of humor, The Hitchhiker’s Guide is just plain awesome. I could really go on quoting this book forever. Suffice it to say, it’s goddamn brilliant. Read it if you haven’t. And if you have, read it again.


“But the plans were on display . . .”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a torch.”
“Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.”

“If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.”

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

Arthur looked up. “Ford!” he said, “there’s an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they’ve worked out.”
“Ford,” he said, “you’re turning into a penguin. Stop it.”
“But that’s not the point!” raged Ford “The point is that I am now a perfectly safe penguin, and my colleague here is rapidly running out of limbs!”

Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis


Spider Jerusalem dedicates himself to fighting the corruption and abuse of power of two successive United States presidents; he and his “filthy assistants” strive to keep their world from turning more dystopian than it already is while dealing with the struggles of fame and power, brought about due to the popularity of Spider via his articles.

Why it’s on the list:

I’m not sure if this counts since it’s a graphic novel, not a proper novel, but fuck it, it’s my list and I say it belongs. Transmet is my favorite graphic novel of all time. It’s even better than Batman or Watchmen, I don’t care what you say.


Instead of simply quoting since this actually has awesome artwork by Darick Robertson, here are some page scans:

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson


Cryptonomicon zooms all over the world, careening conspiratorially back and forth between two time periods- -World War II and the present. Our 1940s’ heroes are the brilliant mathematician Lawrence Waterhouse, crypt analyst extraordinaire, and gung-ho, morphine-addicted marine Bobby Shaftoe. They’re part of Detachment 2702, an Allied group trying to break Axis communication codes while simultaneously preventing the enemy from figuring out that their codes have been broken. Their job boils down to layer upon layer of deception. Dr. Alan Turing is also a member of 2702,and he explains the unit’s strange workings to Waterhouse. “When we want to sink a convoy, we send out an observation plane first… Of course, to observe is not its real duty–we already know exactly where the convoy is. Its real duty is to be observed… Then, when we come round and sink them, the Germans will not find it suspicious.”

All of this secrecy resonates in the present-day story line, in which the grandchildren of the WWII heroes–inimitable programming geek Randy Waterhouse and the lovely and powerful Amy Shaftoe–team up to help create an offshore data haven in Southeast Asia and maybe uncover some gold once destined for Nazi coffers. To top off the paranoiac tone of the book, the mysterious Enoch Root, key member of Detachment 2702 and the Societas Eruditorum, pops up with an unbreakable encryption scheme left over from WWII to befuddle the 1990s protagonists with conspiratorial ties.

Why it’s on the list:

It’s a toss up between this book and Snow Crash for favorite Stephenson book, but overall, I think this is the better complete work of the two. Cryptonomicon is dense with so many characters and plots that you’re not even sure if they belong the same book. It frequently diverges into pedantic disquisitions and has long layovers in “why the hell should I care about this?” territory. It concerns itself with “present day” technology that is already very dated, e.g. how cathode ray computer monitors work. So far, I haven’t really said much positive about it, so why is it on this list? Because for the last 800 pages or so, I could not put it down. I got so involved in the story that I didn’t eat, drink, hardly peed and barely slept. I made it into work, but it was really tempting to call in sick so I could finish it. But most of all, when I finally devoured all 1,168 pages, I was so sad that it was over, that I almost started reading it again right then.


“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker’s game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.”

“Enoch…why are you here?”
“Why has my spirit been incarnated into a physical bodi in this world generally? Or specifically, why am I here in a Swedish forest, standing on the wreck of a mysterious German rocket plane while a homosexual German sobs over the cremated remains of his Italian lover?”

“There’s a bed, a little fold-out table, and cabinets made of actual wood. These in combination with the photographs of family and friends give it a cozy, domestic flavor which is, however, completely ruined by the framed picture of Adolf Hitler on the wall. Waterhouse finds this to be shockingly poor taste until he remembers it’s a German boat.”

“…the insects here see you as a big slab of animated but not very well defended food. The ability to move, far from being a deterrent, serves as an unforgeable guarantee of freshness.”

Journey To The End Of Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline


Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s revulsion and anger at what he considered the idiocy and hypocrisy of society explodes from nearly every page of this novel. Filled with slang and obscenities and written in raw, colloquial language, Journey to the End of the Night is a literary symphony of violence, cruelty and obscene nihilism. This book shocked most critics when it was first published in France in 1932, but quickly became a success with the reading public in Europe, and later in America where it was first published by New Directions in 1952. The story of the improbable yet convincingly described travels of the petit-bourgeois (and largely autobiographical) antihero, Bardamu, from the trenches of World War I, to the African jungle, to New York and Detroit, and finally to life as a failed doctor in Paris, takes the readers by the scruff and hurtles them toward the novel’s inevitable, sad conclusion.

Why it’s on the list:

Journey to the End of the Night, the original honey badger.

I think every writer has at least one great book inside them. Some have more, but most have one. This is Celine’s. It is full of caustic humor, rash comeuppance and a general honey badger-esque don’t-give-a-damn-ness. Whether you sympathize with the protagonist or not (for me, it was impossible not to), you simply have to marvel at the events of his life. There are more simple truths and one liners in here than at a stand up comedy showcase.


“A man should be resigned to knowing himself a little better each day if he hasn’t got the guts to put an end to his sniveling once and for all.”

“The sadness of the world has different ways of getting to people, but it seems to succeed almost every time.”

“Lots of men are like that, their artistic leanings never go beyond a weakness for shapely thighs.”

“I warn you that when the princes of this world start loving you it means they are going to grind you up into battle sausage.”

“They came from the four corners of the earth, driven by hunger, plague, tumors, and the cold, and stopped here. They couldn’t go any further because of the ocean. That’s France, that’s the French people.”

“There’s something sad about people going to bed. You can see they don’t give a damn whether they’re getting what they want out of life or not, you can see they don’t even try to understand what we’re here for. They just don’t care.”

“Love is like liquor, the drunker and more impotent you are, the stronger and smarter you think yourself and the surer you are of your rights.”

“The coldest most rational scientific madness is also the most intolerable. But when a man has acquired a certain ability to subsist, even rather scantily, in a certain niche with the help of a few grimaces, he must either keep at it or resign himself to dying the death of a guinea pig. Habits are acquired more quickly than courage, especially the habit of filling one’s stomach.”

“The plain truth, I may as well admit it, is that I’ve never been really right in the head.”