02 May 2008

The 50 best cult books

The Telegraph have posted a list of the 50 best cult books.
What is a cult book? We tried and failed to arrive at a definition: books often found in the pockets of murderers; books that you take very seriously when you are 17; books whose readers can be identified to all with the formula "[Author Name] whacko"; books our children just won’t get…

Some things crop up often: drugs, travel, philosophy, an implied two fingers to conventional wisdom, titanic self-absorption, a tendency to date fast and a paperback jacket everyone recognises with a faint wince. But these don’t begin to cover it.

Cult books include some of the most cringemaking collections of bilge ever collected between hard covers. But they also include many of the key texts of modern feminism; some of the best journalism and memoirs; some of the most entrancing and original novels in the canon.

Here's the list; see the link above for brief descriptions of each book.

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
The Alexandria Quartet, by Lawrence Durrell (1957-60)
A Rebours, by JK Huysmans (1884)
Baby and Child Care, by Dr Benjamin Spock (1946)
The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf (1991)
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath (1963)
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller (1961)
The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger (1951)
The Celestine Prophecy, by James Redfield (1993)
The Dice Man, by Luke Rhinehart (1971)
Chariots of the Gods: Was God An Astronaut?, by Erich Von Däniken (1968)
A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
Confessions, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1782)
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, by James Hogg (1824)
Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health, by L Ron Hubbard (1950)
The Doors of Perception, by Aldous Huxley (1954)
Dune, by Frank Herbert (1965)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (1979)
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe (1968)
Fear of Flying, by Erica Jong (1973)
The Female Eunuch, by Germaine Greer (1970)
The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand (1943)
Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas R Hofstadter (1979)
Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon (1973)
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln (1982)
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith (1948)
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, by Italo Calvino (1979)
Iron John: a Book About Men, by Robert Bly (1990)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach and Russell Munson (1970)
The Magus, by John Fowles (1966)
Labyrinths, by Jorge Luis Borges (1962)
The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1958)
The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)
No Logo, by Naomi Klein (2000)
On The Road, by Jack Kerouac (1957)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S Thompson (1971)
The Outsider, by Colin Wilson (1956)
The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran (1923)
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, by Robert Tressell (1914)
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, translated by Edward FitzGerald (1859)
The Road to Oxiana, by Robert Byron (1937)
Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse (1922)
The Sorrows of Young Werther, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774)
Story of O, by Pauline Réage (1954)
The Stranger, by Albert Camus (1942)
The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge, by Carlos Castaneda (1968)
Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain (1933)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1883-85)
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (1960)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry into Values, by Robert M Pirsig (1974)

Some of these books I've never even heard of, but I've bolded the titles of the three I've read*. (I did buy a copy of Dune from the SFBC back around 1980 or thereabouts, but I still haven't gotten around to reading it.)

* Only one of which I enjoyed.

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