What I’m going to give you here is not all of Foroux’s 100 recommended books (there will be a link to them at the end), only those of the 100 that I have read, and why I think you should, or shouldn’t read them. Here’s my selection:
- (1) Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. One of Rome’s best emperor’s, I suspect Aurelius has received special treatment from readers and publishers over the centuries for that reason. His history as emperor is interesting enough, but the the fact that his playboy athlete son Commodus, (who even as emperor would fight as a gladiator in the arena week after week – completely unlike the miswritten Commodus of the Gladiator movie) was one of Rome’s worst emperor’s, suggests to me that you could do without this wisdom, which I sometimes found a bit tiresome.
- (6) Quiet: Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t stop talking – by Susan Cain. When this book is a direct competitor of my book The Shyness Guide, you might think I wouldn’t want to recommend it. But I found it well done and interesting. Published by Penguin, it is of course a bestseller. But the two books complement each other more than they disagree. If you read and liked my book, you should read Quiet. If you read and liked Quiet, you should read The Shyness Guide.
- (19) The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. First I have to say that it would be best if you read a couple of volumes of The Story of Civilization by this husband and wife team first, who I rank among the finest historians of the twentieth century. They attempted a history all the way to the present, travelled together around the world researching it book by book, but sadly had to stop in 1975 with The Age of Napoleon. Lessons of History was one of the smaller books they were able to do after that. In love with each other to the very end, this wonderful couple died within two weeks of each other in 1981.
- (25) Man’s Search for Meaning by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. Half of this book is Frankl’s account of how he survived four Nazi concentration camps, which inspired the later alternative views in his therapy. It is a compelling read, and his ideas stay with you. I’m always pleased to see him in lists like these, but never surprised.
- (27) Civilization and Its Discontents – by Sigmund Freud. Though Freud is very much out of fashion in psychological circles now, he has never accepted his demotion. If you read him, his voice is as strong as ever, especially in this book.
- (35) A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. One of the most popular non-fiction books of all-time, it’s remarkable how easily Hawking condensed physics, astrophysics, his own ideas and charming sense of humor into this little book. Just keep in mind that Hawking’s fame and Brief History are a big part of why the ‘Standard Model’ of physics, declared repetitiously by mainstream physicists to be the most successful model in physics in order to drown out dissenters, has succeeded in winning over the media. You do still need to know that their central cosmological finding – the Big Bang – may never have happened.
- (37) A Movable Feast – by Ernest Hemingway. This account of Paris in the 1920s, though only published in 1964 after Hemingway’s death, is one of his best books. If you such journeys back in time, you should also read Canadian author Morley Callaghan’s That Summer in Paris, describing the few months when he and Hemingway (who had become friends while working together on the Toronto Star) were together again.
- (43) Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by psychologist Susan Jeffers. This little book punches far above its weight. If your response to Dr Jeffers is – “Easier said than done!”, you’re a prime candidate to read her book. I’ve talked more about her ideas in The Shyness Guide, adding some of my own advice.
- (69) The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr – I’m amazed how this little book published in 1918, advocating the tight direct style that Hemingway and others took off from, continues to sell. Amazon has several audiobook versions now! Yet, meanwhile, wordy, often loosely written, 600 page novels seem to have taken over today’s fiction. That, I don’t understand.
- (70) Walden – Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau. Another book that survives decade after decade. Keep in mind that it was not a success initially. One of the first ‘indie’ writers, Thoreau self-published and had to store unread copies of Walden in his house for years. But his message that in the presence of Nature the spirit thrives is alive and well today, and largely because of him.
- (78) Fahrenheit 451 – by Ray Bradbury – one of the most famous science fiction novels, and one his few stories that is accepted as authentic SF (Bradbury insisted that he was a fantasy writer). Like everything else he wrote, this book, is in a class of its own. If you can get a copy of the little book Ray Bradbury – The Last Interview and other conversations, you’ll see that Bradbury’s life and personality were as dazzling and interesting as his books. I consider him to be a prime example of what psychologist Elaine Aron (The Highly Sensitve Person) calls a sensitive extrovert.
- (81) Crime and Punishment – by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – I only got 1/3 of the way into this book. The darkness of where it was headed and the lack of anyone to like was too much for me. Foroux insists that there are rewards if you continue on. If I was you, I would read The Brothers Karamazov instead. The astounding, outrageous humor, and character, of the father is unmatched by anything in literature, as far as I know. But once he is murdered, the book slows and the going gets heavier. I stopped 2/3 of the way. So who am I to advise you?
- (85) The Great Gatsby – by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is the most famous of Fitzgerald’s novels, probably because it is his best, and is possibly the best novel of that golden decade of the novel. Hemingway, who provided a charming account of an afternoon with Fitzgerald in A Movable Feast, adored the book.
- (86) The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. The shortest of all Hemingway’s novels, it is the best. His direct connection to, and description of the magic of the natural world, is a literary accomplishment I still wonder at.
- (87) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Since this book is a favorite of high school teachers and university professors, you may already have read it. So far ahead of its time, maybe ahead of our time still, if you haven’t read it you should.
- (88) On the Road by Jack Kerouac. The famous novel of the 1950s beat generation. I’ve always found it over-rated, at least when I compare it to the fiction and non-fiction of his ’50s friend James Baldwin. But Baldwin was just getting started and would influence generations to come with many books. Kerouac wrote other books, but he seems to remembered only for this one, probably unjustly.
- (92 and 93) 1984, and Animal Farm by George Orwell. These two books have survived not just because of their powerful messages, but also because of Orwell’s simple powerful writing. He once said prose should be as clear as a pane of glass. No one achieved that more than he did. But my favorite Orwell novel is Coming Up For Air, the story of a middle-aged real estate salesman secretly going back to the town where he grew up.
- (95) The Catcher in the Rye by J. D.Salinger. So much has been said about this book that I’m not going to say any more. But Salinger was so talented a writer that I was among those who were hoping something more would be published after his death. So far we’ve been disappointed.
- (98) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. If you want to be entertained by off the wall writing and events, this is a book for you. But these documentaries of Thompson are, in my view, probably 70-80% fiction. I lost interest long ago.
- (99) Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut. This novel continues to be the # 1 book of Vonnegut’s. It’s not my favorite (so many to choose from – I pick Breakfast of Champions). Maybe it tops the others because Vonnegut never stopped talking of the allied bombing of Dresden, where he was a prisoner of war and required to dig out the bodies from the rubble, the event that inspired the book. In his ‘Last Interview’, Vonnegut says he was the only person in the world who profited from that bombing – because of the sales of Slaughter-House Five.
- (100) The Time Machine by H. G.Wells. There have been so many time travel stories that I grew tired of them long ago, and I wasn’t enthused with Wells to begin with. But after reading Michael Crichton’s Timeline (also a movie) and then Stephen King’s 11/22/63 (sometimes titled 22/11/63), the two best time travel novels I’ve ever read, I was forced to start writing one of my own! Read those two instead of Wells, and you won’t be sorry.
Does it surprise you that at age 75 I’ve read only 22 of Darious Foroux’s 100 books? Well, I’m surprised at how many I’ve read. I would have predicted 10-12. Foroux not only proposes that you consider reading these 100, but on his blog he offers advice on how to read 100 books a year! (something that would be beyond me) Here is his list, and below it his blog:
Darius Foroux – 100 Great Books to Read in a Lifetime
2 thoughts on “Rescuing Fiction and Non-Fiction | Darius Foroux and his 100 books for you to read.”
I have read or want to read most if the books you mentioned. I’m a big Orwell fan and have read most of his books. I did most of my reading when I was young and passed over books that now interest me, such as On The Road. We mature and our tastes change and intellect grows and matures.
Yes, we do change don’t we? And I wonder how many books we miss that might have been important ones.
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