When I logged onto Goodreads to see Gass's list, I checked my own list of favorite books, which happens to stand at 54 books. This is a very casual list that I've added a book to now and then since 2007, when I apparently first started a Goodreads account. It isn't a carefully compiled list that I agonized over to make sure I represented my various interests, had a good balance of different types of literature, and so forth.
But, as such, it may actually be more telling than a list that one I'd consciously compile for publication. Unedited list and comments after the jump.
- Airships by Barry Hannah
- A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor
- Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov
- The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
- Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
- Macbeth by William Shakespeare
- Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
- Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
- Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire
- On Being Blue by William H. Gass
- Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe
- The Stranger by Albert Camus
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
- The Lime Works by Thomas Bernhard
- Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson
- Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Almost No Memory by Lydia Davis
- Red Cavalry Cycle by Isaac Babel
- The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories edited by Ben Marcus
- Venus drive by Sam Lipsyte
- A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley
- The Collected Poems of Zbigniew Herbert
- Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
- The World Doesn't End by Charles Simic
- Pastoralia by George Saunders
- Mr. Cogito by Zibigniew Herbert
- Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
- Rock Springs by Richard Ford
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- The Complete Stories by Franz Kafka
- Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
- Our Dumb Century by The Onion
- Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
- The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano
- Novels in Three Lines by Felix Feneon
- Days Between Stations by Steve Erickson
- Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
- Basic Writings of Nietzsche
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
- Child of God by Cormac McCarthy
- Trout Fishing in America / The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster / In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan
- This Is About the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time, and Fate by Diane Williams
- Parables and Paradoxes by Franz Kafka
- Hunger by Knut Hamsun
- Taking care by Joy Williams
- Weathercraft by Jim Woodring
- An Elemental Thing by Eliot Weinberger
- Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser
- Une Semaine De Bonte by Max Ernst
The order is roughly the chronological order that I added the books. The first few dozen added in bulk on the day I joined Goodreads or within the next year. Une Semaine De Bonte being the last book added.
My first thought is that, yes, this list more or less displays my literary concerns and tendencies (the surreal, the darkly comic, books that dissolve that world and remake it into something odd, dark, and beautiful, etc.). There are very few works of straight domestic realism here, which I am more than fine with. There are certainly some books that I'm not sure belong (Murakami for example) and there are, of course, many that are probably missing. But overall a good list, for my tastes, as well as a decent balance of styles, eras, and nationalities.
Of the missing books, the list is heavily weighted towards books I read or reread in the last decade. There are many books that I remember being fascinated by in High School (Crime and Punishment, The History of the Peloponnesian War, As I Lay Dying, Greek tragedies, etc.), but which I didn't feel comfortable adding so many years since reading. Of course, why I haven't reread any of those is another question.
I also notice an almost complete lack of non-fiction. I count two works of philosophy (Debord, Nietzsche), two technically non-fiction books that read more like poetry (An Elemental Thing, Novels in Three Lines), and two more traditional non-fiction works by novelists (On Being Blue and Homage to Catalonia). My tastes are indeed heavily weighted towards fiction, but even so this seems a little thin. I've always considered philosophy important to me, and I am not sure how I've included only two books. Nothing by Kierkegaard? Or Cioran? Or the Greeks?
The list is also thin on poetry with Simic, Herbert, and Carson being the only representatives. I think this is due to the fact that I'm more likely to read individual poems as opposed to full collections of poetry. I've only included books I've read back to front.
I've got three graphic novels (Une Semaine De Bonte, Billy Hazelnuts, and Weathercraft) and two works of straight humor (Our Dumb Century and Deep Thoughts). I feel happy with the latter, as I think finely crafted jokes take as much linguistic skill as any great novel and I've honestly probably borrowed as many "moves" from Handey as I have form McCarthy.
Mostly this list just makes me realize how much more I have, as always, to read.