The author over at The Reading Ape posted a list of what he calls The Swiss Army Ten. These are ten books which he would recommend to someone without knowing their reading preferences. He lays out a few basic assumptions about readers who would solicit reading recommendations from him in the first place and then lists his choices. The full post can be found here.
This is a fun mental exercise, and one that would have practical value as well. The Reading Ape’s assumptions about his readers are a pretty good starting point for a list like this:
…the Swiss Army Recommendation also assumes a few basic things about someone asking the Ape for reading guidance, including a desire to read literary fiction (ie no Grisham or Meyer or Patterson or Sparks and so forth), a willingness for books from all over the world and from many different social and political perspectives, and at least some tolerance for difficulty.
On points two and three, I have no objections. On the first point, however, I find that it can be hard to distinguish literary and popular fiction by author alone. John Grisham and Stephen King both make appearances on my lists in works that I find to have genuine literary value.
Also, fiction and non-fiction are two completely different beasts with very different sets of criteria. So, taking a cue from Rachael at A Home Between The Pages, I’ve come up with two separate lists.
With both lists, I’ve taken a more holistic approach – assuming that not everyone is going to like every book, the lists operate as whole entities, providing a variety of choices which contain works with the widest appeal. Bear in mind that these books are not necessarily my favorites (although some of my favorite books do appear on both lists). This is especially true on the non-fiction list: my favorite non-fiction reading tends to have a very narrow focus and, thus, a very narrow appeal.
And, on to the lists.
- 1984 by George Orwell
- A Time to Kill by John Grisham
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
- Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Blindness by Jose Saramago
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
- The Stand by Stephen King
- The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas Friedman
- Fast Food Nation by Eric Scholsser
- The Places In Between by Rory Stewart
- How To Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen
- On Writing by Stephen King
- A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
- The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
- Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
- Lenin’s Tomb by David Remnick
- Naked by David Sedaris