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Your desert island reading list. Now with affiliate links!
November 25, 2013 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Just One Book is a site that asks for the single book you'd recommend to someone.

I'm particularly fond of the lack of aspiration toward comprehensiveness. Includes a few metafilter favorites in its first few selections, Italo Calvino, Jo Walton and others.
posted by DigDoug (42 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dear Mods, I am dumb.

Italo Calvino - If On A Winter's Night A Traveler link
Jo Walton - Among Others link
posted by DigDoug at 1:03 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ishmael.
posted by ZaneJ. at 1:15 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ishmael.

Hey, you just met me, and this is crazy, but here's my number, call me maybe?
posted by Noms_Tiem at 1:18 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Luzhin Defense - did they change the title just to match the movie? Back in my day, the book was just called The Defense.

Best book I've seen listed so far - Asterios Polyp.
posted by mattbucher at 1:19 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wish Project Gutenberg had an affiliate program.
posted by Iridic at 1:28 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


[is promptly handed a bill for all the Gutenberg bandwidth he's drained over the years.]
posted by Iridic at 1:29 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Zeroville by Steve Erickson.
posted by dobbs at 1:37 PM on November 25, 2013


The only people a question like this makes any sense to are people who don't read very much.

(Whenever someone enthuses about their very favoritest book of all time at great length, I usually think to myself, "This person is so very young," or "This person must not read very much." A similar phenomenon like this is the celebrity or CEO who has skimmed a particular book in the last year and therefore wants everyone else in the world to read this one book they experienced too because it's so amazing to have read a book.)

(Now get out of my library you damn kids.)
posted by aught at 1:39 PM on November 25, 2013 [26 favorites]


Your favorite book sucks.
posted by blue t-shirt at 1:43 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I try and tailor my book recommendations to the person I'm talking to. This is like recommending a single dessert, or wine, or liquor. There's some joy to puzzling out where subjective interests overlap, but a dogmatic recommendation of one book for everyone seems like an admission of defect more than anything.

Now a project that let you look up a favorite author's general recommendations could be interesting, but it doesn't look like this site lets you search.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:44 PM on November 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Uh, the only correct answer to this question is Choose Your Own Adventure #22, Space Patrol, by Julius Goodman.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:58 PM on November 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Nicola Griffith -- Slow River: a young woman of a prominent family disappears herself deliberately, shacks up with a small time criminal for a couple of years and once she find her belief in herself, goes to work a honest job in a London sewage treatment plant.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:58 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


This seems like a good thread in which to plunk down the latest podcast from To the Best of Our Knowledge, which is all about books. Of course it has the obligatory "Are e-books evil?" but it's worth it for the later interview with the bibliotherapists.

(A term I would have coined myself and a business I would have gone into had I thought of it. And here I've been recommending books to people for free.)
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:59 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would trade some of my records for an equal number of books.
posted by BWA at 2:01 PM on November 25, 2013


(Now get out of my library you damn kids.)

Or, now stay in my library you damn kids and try some other stuff?
posted by Ennis Tennyone at 2:03 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


OMG, their "you recommend one now" clickie is a mailto: link so it works even with NoScript running. Fuller thoroughly approves! Nothing good depends on javascript (let alone flash.)
posted by jfuller at 2:19 PM on November 25, 2013


Warren Ellis. Top kek.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:21 PM on November 25, 2013


I'd probably go with the complete works of Samuel Johnson. That's some good shit right there.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:24 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


This seems particularly ill-conceived. Bookish folk will scoff and realize that book recommending is much more personal and choosing a book is often akin to standing in the supermarket when you're hungry but not knowing what you want to eat.
Nonbookish people will never choose any one of these books because they haven't been vetted by Oprah or whatever popculture forces drive the sales of mass market paperbacks these days.
There is no one book that i've loved that I could recommend to all of my friends, but i do think that everyone should read Pale Fire.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:27 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


See, I always have a book with which I am obsessed and which is my personal Greatest Book of All Time [of the moment]. Right now, I am obsessed by A Stranger In Olondria, which is just excellent. My default Best Book Evar is Franco Moretti's At Home In The World.

I don't scoff, by the way.

posted by Frowner at 2:36 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I recommend (just reread and am currently re-recommending) the fuck out of "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell. Go read it! It is not high art but I love it. Science fiction and God and lack thereof.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 2:50 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


> The Luzhin Defense - did they change the title just to match the movie?

I presume they changed it to match Nabokov's title, which was Защита Лужина (The Luzhin Defense).
posted by languagehat at 2:50 PM on November 25, 2013


Whenever someone enthuses about their very favoritest book of all time at great length....

Oh I don't know, there's a sticky, treacly kind of joy when you've read something truly fantastic, a fervency that persists for at least a few weeks after and can lead (in my case at least) to some indiscriminate recommendations, flush as you are with the belief that this particular book transcends genre, petty fashion, general literacy and/or interest.
posted by smoke at 3:24 PM on November 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


oh get thee behind me, Satan!

There isn't a single book post in the world that doesn't make me rush out and buy several books. This one already has caused me to buy Among Others and Daughter of the Samurai, and I've barely brushed the surface.

I don't have a single favorite book, but I do recommend The Last Samurai, by Helen DeWitt, perhaps more often than any other. No, that's not true, but it's probably one of five or ten I recommend frequently.
posted by janey47 at 3:25 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Tale of the Unknown Island.
posted by yoga at 3:44 PM on November 25, 2013


Being excited about a book is a good thing. I doubt these people are only excited about ONE book. But c'mon, recommending a book is a great starting point for conversation.

Trying to narrow it down to one is ALSO a good conversation.
posted by DigDoug at 3:58 PM on November 25, 2013


Not to carp, but I was rather expecting to find something I could actually sign up for and unleash Opinions on, rather than be straight-up sold to. If I wanted to email in & cross my fingers I was internet-puissant enough to be blessed as an early adopter I'd still be running Web 2.0.

Funnily enough, I tend to avoid recommending books I really, really love, partly because I find doing them justice whilst still making them sound interesting so difficult and I'm leery of putting people off a decent read they might yet discover for themselves.
posted by comealongpole at 4:18 PM on November 25, 2013


I can't entirely tell if this is: "If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one book what would it be" or "if you could make other people read just one book what would it be."

Because:

1. "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman

2. "Junkie" by William S. Burroughs
posted by 256 at 5:14 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only people a question like this makes any sense to are people who don't read very much.

I guess it depends on what you mean by "read very much". I like stuff like this because in general it widens my literary diet. knowing that some book is the bees-knees to someone makes me think that a book has at lease some potential redeeming quality and is maybe worth a look.

I stick almost exclusively to career related non-fiction with "fun reading" almost exclusively non-career related non-fiction, scifi and comic books/graphic novels. In general is stay away from "literature" mostly because I've had a bad track record picking it on my own, and I get few recommendations from others because I'm not entrenched in any social circles that read much of it. seeing only two authors who's names even ring a bell (Warren Ellis, for obvious reasons and Nabokov from my single college literature class) means that I'll probably buy a couple of them and give them a whirl just because they are so foreign and the recommendation makes me feel like I have a leg up on getting something good.
posted by Dr. Twist at 5:18 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


On a desert island, none of these! I'd return to one of my books that I've read so often it has fallen apart, like To Kill a Mockingbird, or Hobbit/LOTR, or The Master and Margarita, or Huckleberry Finn.
posted by bearwife at 5:29 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


What? Of course that answer is Catch-22. Or Slaughterhouse Five, or On The Road, or Catcher in The Rye, or Howl, or, or ,or...

Why yes, I did come of age in the 70's, why do you ask?
posted by evilDoug at 5:58 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


or, or, or, His Master's Voice, because it's been 20 years since I read it and it's still pointing me at unanswered questions. For example, I've just finished reading a long series of papers/posts about statistics for climate science, and I very much relate to what Lem is talking about. Where do these stories come from? I'm not necessarily saying this is a Great Book, but it seems to accumulate more depth with time.
posted by sneebler at 6:25 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The cool thing to me about recommending a "favorite" book (or album or movie) is the unspoken disclaimer that the answer is only valid at that exact moment in time.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:27 PM on November 25, 2013


Uh, the only correct answer to this question is Choose Your Own Adventure #22, Space Patrol, by Julius Goodman.
Illustrated by Ralph Reese!
posted by usonian at 8:40 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Colour me confused. I can only find ... like... 12 books, on that thingy. What am I missing here? How do I find the rest through this annoying interface?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:53 PM on November 25, 2013


BEWARE OF THE MAN OF ONE BOOK

UNLESS IT IS THIS BOOK

The Boat of Longing by O.E. Rolvaag.
posted by Teakettle at 9:45 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


HOW TO DALE INFLUENCE AND CARNEGIE PEOPLE BY FRIEND WIN
posted by Teakettle at 9:46 PM on November 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh man, I first came across this very idea in the mid-90s on Usenet. It was called the "One Book List". Intro being something like "If someone could only read one book, what would you recommend?"

Well. The bastards. i discovered the One Book List in the middle of high school, and once you filtered out the Bible and the Quran, the most popularly cited book was Atlas Shrugged. That's right. 15 year old me tried to read this horror of a tome and I have not forgotten it to this day. Never finished it either. Regardless, I curse you One Book List!

And now I feel old.
posted by aclevername at 9:55 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


See, what I immediately think for either question - desert island or only one book ever - is that it should first and foremost be something VERY LONG. You're going to be very bored on a desert island, so you're going to need something that will last you. And if you're only going to read one book in your life, you might as well make it something that a bunch of books' worth of book in it, if you get what I'm saying. Then, after that, an important secondary consideration is that it should at least be pretty good. A long book you hate isn't going to help here.

So I never understand why these lists aren't completely dominated by Remembrance of Things Past -- at 3,000 pages, you might even be rescued after just a couple of rereads, and it's generally acknowledged to be a great book, so it's the total desert island package there. And for the one-book person, it's like ten books for the price of one!

Then, way down on the recommendations, you'd get a decent number of people recommending good translations of a couple of nice long works from countries with "hefty book" traditions -- Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a nice bet at 2,300 pages, but Les Miserable and War and Peace would both stand you in good stead. After that, all you'd have is a few cranks arguing for their favorite "thousand-pager" (stuff like Infinite Jest, Women and Men, Miss MacIntosh My Darling, and the inevitable single nutter arguing loudly for Atlas Shrugged), who would claim that the re-read value makes up for the fact that these books are so pathetically short.

I mean, the question is desert island or one book ever. If they meant favorite book, that's a totally different question.

There are practical considerations here.
posted by kyrademon at 3:01 AM on November 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


(Now get out of my library you damn kids.)
Or, now stay in my library you damn kids and try some other stuff?


Well, maybe, but I dunno if I trust them near the signed first editions.

Your favorite book sucks.

No; just your favorite book is likely very good but it'll almost certainly not be my favorite book. And that's okay!
posted by aught at 6:44 AM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


But c'mon, recommending a book is a great starting point for conversation.

I've got way too many books to read to be having these "conversations" that you speak of.
posted by aught at 6:49 AM on November 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am very late to this comment thread. I can't recommend my one single favorite book of all time, but of the books I've read in the past decade, the one that most closely approaches perfection for me and that I would unreservedly recommend to anyone is The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. It's a glittering, perfect little gem of a book.
posted by spacewaitress at 9:00 PM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


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