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September 11, 2018 6:08 AM   Subscribe

 
My first-year university roommate's favourite book, or I should say, his only book that wasn't a textbook, was the SAS Survival Handbook, which I don't see on the list.
posted by misteraitch at 6:20 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


Well, fine, but my trench coat was green.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 6:21 AM on September 11 [23 favorites]


If your roommate says their favourite book is Dune by Frank Herbert, bless the maker.
posted by Fizz at 6:33 AM on September 11 [16 favorites]


Your new roommate either doesn’t read, or is really into a YA series about bdsm fairies.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:34 AM on September 11 [7 favorites]


To rebut this, I am pretty dang funny. I hope that Ignatius would think so as well. Or at least he would tolerate me in between shifts of selling hot dogs from Paradise.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 6:34 AM on September 11 [7 favorites]


My actual favourite is not there (Borges collected fictions), but of the ones I read and liked, can’t argue too much despite a lot of those going for the easy joke.
posted by juv3nal at 6:36 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


I mean the easy joke thing is kind of weird to me because I feel like Clarice Lispector is a bit of a deep cut.
posted by juv3nal at 6:37 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Hot tip: if you apply now, you can beat the rush of room-change requests. You’re welcome.


Heh.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:42 AM on September 11 [44 favorites]


My brother's college freshman year roommate's favorite book was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which had the effect of turning my brother from a reluctant reader to a voracious one. If I ever meet that kid I'm going to shake his hand.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:43 AM on September 11 [15 favorites]


This person is about to read Pale Fire and become deeply self-satisfied, intellectually pretentious and insufferably wordy. Just wait it out. They will become a nice person again soon.

Hey!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:43 AM on September 11 [22 favorites]


Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren

Your roommate may actually be two people, but you will never be sure. There will probably be some rowdy sex, but not as rowdy as if the book was The Mad Man. If the book is Hogg, transfer schools immediately.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:45 AM on September 11 [9 favorites]


I can't quite remember what my favorite book would have been my freshman year - certainly nothing like as classy as most of this list. I remember that I brought about a small shelf of books with me and that they included Lord of the Rings; the fanfic-esque queer fantasy novel Swordspoint; the hilarious Face In The Frost by John Bellairs (still, actually, a favorite); Glory Days, a wonderful novel about a working class woman artist from New Zealand which I still have in that edition and is still a favorite; and I think some Margaret Atwood - I was very into Cats Eye around then.

I don't think I read very much lit'ry fiction, as it were, until I was out of college. I was too busy with science fiction and fantasy, although I did manage to read a lot of Margaret Drabble.

I actually had a roommate who was a huge Ayn Rand fan. She was a lovely girl with a horrible boyfriend (also a Rand fan) and we got along very well. Would room again.
posted by Frowner at 6:46 AM on September 11 [11 favorites]


Easy joke? I don’t think anyone has ever joked about Ulysses before.

This was probably written as “What your OkCupid date’s favorite book says about them,” but a new title was slapped on it because it is 2018 and September.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:47 AM on September 11 [10 favorites]


Apparently I'm an aggressive hugger.

I don't quite understand the HP & the Deathly Hallows one, that's not been my experience of Potterheads at all.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 6:48 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


When I got to college I was really into reading plays, so Rhinoceros would have been my favorite. But going by books, I was a big Stephen King fan growing up, and I resent the implication that I would be some sort of slacker. I did, in fact, do my homework.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:49 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


My second year roommate's favorite book was the OED. No one could stand the guy. On or off campus.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:52 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


betweenthebars: "I don’t think anyone has ever joked about Ulysses before. "

"This Irishman went for a job on a building site and the foreman warned him that he'd have to answer some difficult questions.

"'That's OK,' said the Irishman.

"'You're absolutely sure?' asked the foreman.

"'Absolutely,' said the Irishman.

"'Right,' said the foreman. 'What's the difference between a joist and a girder. Think carefully.'

"'Well,' said the Irishman, 'Didn't Joyce write Ulysses and Goethe write Faust?'" [source]
posted by chavenet at 6:54 AM on September 11 [103 favorites]


This person is about to read Pale Fire and become deeply self-satisfied, intellectually pretentious and insufferably wordy. Just wait it out. They will become a nice person again soon.

This was probably true. I'd tell you to ask my freshman roommate, but her favorite book was "The Vampire Lestat," so . . .?
posted by thivaia at 6:55 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


I took this kind of seriously and thought about my favorite book when I was 18. I sincerely loved Lorrie Moore but never told people that because, I don’t know, it was domestic and subtle and not aggressively about Big Ideas so I usually told people it was Kurt Vonnegut or Catch 22 or something. I feel vindicated. Although I did need help at the time. A lot of help.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 6:58 AM on September 11 [11 favorites]


Re: Dhalgren: Where’s the lie.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:59 AM on September 11


My second year roommate's favorite book was the OED. No one could stand the guy. On or off campus.

Oooh another Ted Cruz roommate?

Actually, there were a lot of Malcolm Gladwell fans in my year. I always took that to mean that they didn't read very often, so they were quite proud of having read The Tipping Point and used it for small talk with their parents' friends (or friends' parents).

To me, Wide Sargasso Sea = "I'm creating my own major, it's a blend of history, women's studies, and English lit." These are the best girls, though probably not yet perceptive as LitHub would have us believe.
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:00 AM on September 11 [7 favorites]


Take out all the "This person is just like the protagonist of their favorite book!" and this would be hilarious.
posted by Etrigan at 7:01 AM on September 11 [13 favorites]


her favorite book was "The Vampire Lestat," so . . .?

Ah, I was just wondering where the Anne Rice was in this thread (because it's not in the linked piece). Freshman year? I don't know that I had a favorite book, but if I did, it was probably The Vampire Lestat. I re-read it a couple of years ago, and ... it holds up better than Interview, at least, whose prose skips right past purple into ultraviolet and keeps going until it's just a raft of sensory adjectives floating in blood.

To this day I'm pretty sure vampires are real and she got them exactly right, down to the last navel-gazing detail.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:04 AM on September 11 [18 favorites]


Shoutout to my first year room-mate Jon, who set me on a life long obsession/enthusiasm for anime. He took me to an "Anime Club" that I didn't know existed and I've been a fan ever since. We lost touch but I'll always remember that he was super nice in answering my newbie questions about this genre of film/television.
posted by Fizz at 7:06 AM on September 11 [8 favorites]


Weetzie Bat. Guilty as charged.
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:13 AM on September 11 [13 favorites]


Coincidentally, the summation of the last Harry Potter book tells me an awful lot about the person who wrote the list.
posted by codacorolla at 7:14 AM on September 11 [6 favorites]


This person wears charmingly mismatched socks and will soon move to the French house.

Half of this statement was true of me in college.
posted by tangosnail at 7:22 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


How do you pick just one favorite book?
posted by kyrademon at 7:26 AM on September 11 [16 favorites]


> I don't quite understand the HP & the Deathly Hallows one

I'll probably come out crispy and black for even saying this, but my experience with HP fans is that too often they don't read anything else. Literature begins and ends with JK Rowling, which, well, ugh. It's almost like a nerdier version of Stephen King or even Ayn Rand fans, who also, stereotypically, are often not equipped to talk about any other books.

I realize this 100% does not apply to HP fans here on MetaFilter. Don't hurt me.
posted by rokusan at 7:26 AM on September 11 [15 favorites]


I think my two favorite books my Freshman year were The Scarlet Letter and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Why yes, I was an English major, how did you guess?

I don't quite understand the HP & the Deathly Hallows one
I think this is an Extremely Millennial observation. Harry Potter is to super-earnest young activists of 2018 what Lord of the Rings was to super-earnest young activists of 1968.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:33 AM on September 11 [23 favorites]


I'll probably come out crispy and black for even saying this, but my experience with HP fans is that too often they don't read anything else.

Potter is such a huge phenomenon that its fandom encompasses a disproportionate fraction of people who would not have read much otherwise, in addition to a segment of well-read fans in closer proportion to that of other books.

I did not enjoy what I read of HP, so I'm inclined to notice the "read another book" segment, but I must acknowledge that they are not the entirety of the fandom.
posted by Svejk at 7:34 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


I see a few of my favorites at that age on here:
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day

You may never know what this person is thinking, but at least you will always be confident that they have impeccable taste.


Well, I'd like to think that was true.

Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

This person thinks they are the center of the universe—try not to be there when they find out they aren’t.


Ouch, but yes, very likely true.

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

There’s a teddy bear hidden in one of those suitcases, and you’re going to have to talk about it.


Yeah, I can see that too. Took me a while to process my childhood.
posted by peacheater at 7:37 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


I think this is an Extremely Millennial observation. Harry Potter is to super-earnest young activists of 2018 what Lord of the Rings was to super-earnest young activists of 1968.

Maybe it's a regional thing, because those are literally the people I'm surrounded by.
I'm very much a young millennial.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 7:43 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


My freshman roomie read nothing and was not particularly aware of the deficit. I, on the other hand, read too much Vonnegut and drank a lot. I eventually grew out of the Vonnegut.
posted by Cris E at 7:43 AM on September 11 [6 favorites]


I hesitate to discover what the Cryptonomicon/Neuromancer set reveal about themselves.
posted by Kikujiro's Summer at 7:52 AM on September 11 [14 favorites]


Having just read Black Hole, I appreciated that entry.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 7:56 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


Do high schoolers not read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas anymore? Also surprised that nothing by Tolkien was on there. Any Rand, on the other hand, was completely predictable, as was the description of the roommate that likes her writing.
posted by TedW at 7:57 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


A) Speaker for the Dead would have been my favorite going into college. I'm surprised Card has fallen so far off the cultural radar to not even rate a snarky dismissal.

B) I don't understand the joke on the House of Mirth.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 8:09 AM on September 11 [7 favorites]


You know, I just remembered - I think my favorite novel (novels, really) at that age would probably have been Robertson Davies's Deptford Trilogy. I'm pretty sure I got my own copy the summer before college (rather than just stealing my mother's) and I read it about a jillion times between when I was fourteen-ish and my early twenties.

That's someone whose work I almost never read anymore - so much of it is so weirdly essentialist about what kind of person someone is, and there's a lot of "men are like THIS and women are like THAT, amirite" (although that changes over the course of his career, and he always wrote a reasonable number of interesting women as a counterbalance). Like, I remember very clearly the whole incredibly dated rigamarole about whether one was an "Eros man" or a "Thanatosser" (this whole thing directed at a woman, too, so even sillier), which was determined by making these extremely boring, artistic-dude-centered choices the correct way, and thinking "very well then, I guess I am on the side of Thanatos because Eros-men are making choices I could never make and also they sound really smug".

I still like Tempest-Tost and The Manticore quite a lot, and the one about the painter. (I will read any number of books about painters, it turns out.)

But he was definitely my favorite author in high school.

Oh, I also brought David Foster Wallace's The Broom of the System (boring) and Girl With Curious Hair (not without interest and I stand by that even in these post-Wallace days) with me to college.
posted by Frowner at 8:12 AM on September 11 [13 favorites]


I thought this a pretty "accurate" list. Thanks for the link!
posted by dobbs at 8:12 AM on September 11


How do you pick just one favorite book?

I literally don't understand this premise. I can understand the one that fascinates in the moment, the last one read, or the one on the nightstand, even a few that one rereads for stimulation, comfort or pleasure. But a favourite for all time? One? For me, the answer to that might change weekly.
posted by bonehead at 8:15 AM on September 11 [13 favorites]


On the Road was indeed my fav book at that time. So close guess there, but my Road Trip became permanent and I never returned to college (until I was 45 years old).

Orient Express to Istanbul, hopped a freight, offshore oil rig work, beach bars in Mexico, motorcycle crashes, armed drug deals gone bad, many of the 9-lives used up....

But phew, was that a fun and educational trip!
posted by CrowGoat at 8:15 AM on September 11 [7 favorites]


My favorite novel at the time (and it might still be!) was Watership Down.

IDK what that says about me, but I'm the kind of friend who will burn their houses down when other people make fun of you for the same things I make fun of you for.

That probably has nothing to do with Watership Down. They were good rabbits.
posted by oddman at 8:19 AM on September 11 [14 favorites]


It was a suitcase, not a backpack. I stuck with the classics.
posted by brand-gnu at 8:23 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


I actually laughed out loud at the To The Lighthouse comment. I'm fairly certain that at least one Virginia Woolf was on my shelf as a freshman and I do love scarves.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:29 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


Pratchett/Gaiman - Good Omens: Your roommate prides themselves on having a quirky sense of humour that may or may not actually exist in practice. Be prepared for puns.
posted by Eleven at 8:29 AM on September 11 [12 favorites]


Hmm, yeah, would have been Vonnegut, Catch 22, and Catcher in the Rye. I was an awful roommate did piles of drugs and booze and woke up in strange places. I got around to reading On The Road when I dropped out, and as was said previously, didn't go back til much later. I do have regrets mostly for being mean to people but not about most of it, even waking up in jail.
Now like so many others, favorites, what day is it?
posted by evilDoug at 8:35 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: skips right past purple into ultraviolet and keeps going until it's just a raft of sensory adjectives floating in blood
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:37 AM on September 11 [11 favorites]


Yeah, okay, Kindred fans are going to be awesome history majors, but Parable of the Sower fans are going to be religion majors and just be...weird.

not speaking as the dweeb who ran up 11 flights of stairs with a box of nonsense because the elevators were busy and that box of nonsense included her copy of Parable of the Sower and a framed picture of Bela Lugosi as Dracula.

Um...nope. That wasn't me. At all.

posted by Katemonkey at 8:37 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren

This person will do all of their homework, and all the extra credit.


Ha ha ha! Oh honey, no. No.
posted by Splunge at 8:40 AM on September 11 [11 favorites]


Tunneling out of the room every morning prepares you for what's to come, OK?

More seriously, I'm not sure that Ferrante is for 18-year-olds.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:41 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


Katemonkey, if someone invited me to a meeting that I found out was a cult recruitment event, I would stay away. But if I found out that the cult leader was inspired by Parable of the Sower, I mean, I'd at least go and hear what they had to say. Rude not to.
posted by duffell at 8:42 AM on September 11 [5 favorites]


Guess it was a popularity blip that came and went but it was "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" for me. I *liked* Godel, Escher and Bach" but it wasn't my favorite.
posted by aleph at 8:42 AM on September 11 [10 favorites]


What if their favorite book is non-fiction?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 8:44 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


Seems like way too much literary fiction; most of my friends in college read science fiction or horror or nothing at all.
posted by octothorpe at 8:57 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to think of books I liked at that age and what they might say about me. (Never have had a roommate though).

My favorite book at that age was probably a toss up between Stanislaw Lem's "Peace on Earth" or Ian M. Banks' "Use Of Weapons". If I had to hazard a guess the meaning of that would be:

"Basically harmless if left alone. Has issues with people, mostly conceptual ones. Warning: In the event of Skynet, they will side with the robots."

Thinking about it more, a number of the books I like have "What if people weren't so... people-y all the time?" as a premise. Or in the case of Lem were written by authors who fairly obviously viewed characters as a necessary evil one was regrettably forced to use in order to comprehensibly introduce your thought experiments.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:58 AM on September 11 [6 favorites]


My own contribution, based on actually seeing this happen:

If their favorite book is Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep orA Scanner Darkly, they will eventually befriend a few other guys in the Sci-Fi club, and all move into an apartment together that they will all soon start calling "The Dick House". They will insist that it has that name in tribute to Phillip K. Dick, but their persistent giggles when they say the name aloud will quickly convince you that the unspoken, more prurient reason is the real one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on September 11 [9 favorites]


My college roommate's favorite books were Michael Moorcock's Elric series. He also liked to ostentatiously play with knives, and he's the one who introduced me to D&D. I'm probably lucky I got out alive.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:00 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


My favorite book at the time I graduated high school was Far From the Madding Crowd, but you wouldn't have known that since, perhaps appropriately enough, the very idea of having a roommate made anything but a commuter college a non-starter for me. And, I gotta say, reading the list of possible roomies doesn't lead me to second guess that decision.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:02 AM on September 11


I, by the way, was into any and all Asimov books. I invite your scorn as well-deserved.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:02 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


I can't remember if I would have preferred East of Eden, Catch-22 or Mary Beard's Pompeii at 18 but I think one of those three.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:08 AM on September 11


"'Well,' said the Irishman, 'Didn't Joyce write Ulysses and Goethe write Faust?'"

Despite being my favorite joke, it's not one you can tell you've just met.
posted by notsnot at 9:19 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


I didn't drink in college but probably true for me? Did find a book I should have read tho, so good list!
posted by fiercekitten at 9:22 AM on September 11


I can't remember if I would have preferred East of Eden, Catch-22 or Mary Beard's Pompeii at 18 but I think one of those three.

I suppose the jokes would be somewhat harder to make for a non-fiction list, though one could have a little cruel fun with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, or Brief History of Time, or Foxfire, or Closing of the American Mind, or Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, or God and Man at Yale, or Steal This Book.

For the record, for novels, put me down for True Grit. Or Decline and Fall.
posted by BWA at 9:29 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


I have only ever read one Kazuo Ishiguro book - Never let me go. Should I have read the Remains of the Day instead? I feel like the answer must be yes, but I need to be reassured.
posted by some loser at 9:34 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


The Remains of the Day is quite good. Alternately hilarious and heart-breaking.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:03 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


MonkeyToes: "More seriously, I'm not sure that Ferrante is for 18-year-olds."

I think this is true. But there is a variety of 18-year old that *thinks* they understand Ferrante.

But that's true of most of these books. What a book says to us at 18 and 45 are (often) quite different.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:04 AM on September 11 [6 favorites]


My favorite book going into college was The Mists of Avalon. I had lots of posters of castles on the wall (and one of that Lady of Shallot... you know the one); and I was too shy to join in the school's pagan club. Then I met the Naked Lunch people and it all changed.
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:19 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


I'm surprised there's no Nietzche on the list - although maybe that's more of a freshman-in-a-philosophy-elective thing. That's definitely a particular type of person who loves Nietzche at 18.

For the record, mine was The Handmaid's Tale. If you replace feminist activism with queer activism, that is 100% what I did.

A girl I liked loaned me Brave New World and later found out that she liked drugs a little bit too much, so that was an awfulsome little laugh.
posted by scruffy-looking nerfherder at 10:26 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


Regular tan trenchcoat, but with a button missing and odd stains. Hrm.

Heh, just kidding, I did actually have a black trenchcoat and a fedora, heaven help me. But Watchmen only started coming out during my last year of college, and I was the weirdo loner who read a lot of SF that didn't make this list. (I did read The Big U, Neal Stephenson's first novel, which was a decent satire of large state universities, and Neuromancer.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:36 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber

This person (okay, let’s be honest, this woman or queer person) will enroll in creative writing courses, attend lectures by visiting feminists, and most importantly, take zero shit from you or anyone. She may also adopt a familiar, but that’s neither here nor there.


I didn't discover Carter until junior year, but I'm still claiming this as me, and I will aspire to it. I nearly didn't get my diploma because I didn't want to return an out-of-print book of critical essays on Carter.
posted by gladly at 11:06 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


mine was definitely accurate, which was unfortunate for my roommate, who sure didn't like indie rock
posted by halation at 11:12 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Anyone else using this list as a syllabus for Becoming Who You Always Wanted To Be?

Just me? (Please leave a message, I'm out selecting a familiar.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:12 AM on September 11 [10 favorites]


Mine would've been "Et Tu, Babe?" by Mark Leyner but I don't know what that would say about me, except that he taught me there were rules that could be broken in literature. At least...that's what I remember thinking.
posted by Thistledown at 11:13 AM on September 11


I'm desperately hoping that I'm in the cool nerd and not the worst person you've ever met. (Infinite Jest)
posted by dbx at 11:19 AM on September 11


Ish, mine were a tattered collection of science fiction paperbacks (Asimov and the other usual suspects), Marvel comics, and of course LOTR. Asimov, Heinlein, etc have faded and been replaced by Stross, Scalzi, Jemisin, and Gladstone, haven't bought a comic in decades (except for Saga and Sandman) but damn, Tolkien endures. Still a nerd I guess.
posted by Ber at 11:21 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


> if someone invited me to a meeting that I found out was a cult recruitment event, I would stay away.

Hm. Not sure. What's the donut situation?
posted by rokusan at 11:28 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Happy to see Eco and some SF authors on the list, and the chuckles across the breadth of the list were consistently funny.

But no Hofstadter/smullyan/gardner, kesey/hst/tom wolfe, bible/torah/dawkins/ziggy, acdoyle/poe/lovecraft/derleth, ...
posted by lothar at 11:33 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


Or gygax and arneson. Those are the books I've probably read more than any other.
posted by bonehead at 11:48 AM on September 11


One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest would have been at the top of my list back then. A Clockwork Orange is the closest from the article, and yeah...not inaccurate.
posted by calamari kid at 11:54 AM on September 11


I LOLed. (Although I don't recall my roommate's favorite book, just that Rift by Phish was her favorite album and I can still sing all the words including the skip in the CD.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:40 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]


A giant list of books! My own fav of that period would have been which ever Dostoevsky I had most recently read, probably The Idiot or The Brothers K or some Harry Harrison pulp. But what to do with this list? Allow me to to introduce to you:

The Universal Patented 10 Bucket Zenon Method of Sorting Book Lists

1. Haven’t heard of it & probably won’t read (aka judging a book by it's cover)
Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy
Francesca Lia Block, Weetzie Bat
André Aciman, Call Me By Your Name
Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
Cheryl Strayed, Wild
Julio Cortázar, Hopscotch
2. Haven’t heard of this book or author: might read (and where I find lists like these are most interesting)
Lorrie Moore, Self-Help
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
Clarice Lispector, Near to the Wild Heart
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Danez Smith, Don’t Call Us Dead
Ian McEwan, Atonement
N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime
Chris Kraus, I Love Dick
Katherine Dunn, Geek Love
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
Kobo Abe, The Woman in the Dunes
Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Mary Gaitskill, Bad Behavior
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son
3. Heard of it: No. Life is too short.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch
Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Stephenie Meyer, Twilight
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
4. Heard of it: might read. Might have read and forgotten. Might have planned on reading on vacation 5 years ago.
James Joyce, Ulysses
Toni Morrison, Beloved *
Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine *
Charles Burns, Black Hole
Alan Moore, Watchmen
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces *
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Samuel R. Delany, Dahlgren
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian *
Don DeLillo, White Noise
Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint
Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley
Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Octavia Butler, Kindred
Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer*
*I own these ones and even know where they are. This is where I have anxiety about dying before reading all the books. ALL THE BOOKS WILL BE READ.

5. Heard of it: will read. AKA ON THE LIST.
Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend
Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
6. READING or re-reading:
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest - jokes on him I'm never going to finish.
7. Read it: actively harmful and discourages others
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
8. Read it: meh, if your english teacher didn't make you read it I'm not going to
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Daniel Clowes, Ghost World
William Golding, Lord of the Flies
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Stephen King, Misery
9. Read it: might recommend it to you, but you probably have an opinion
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
10. Read it: would recommend it to everyone who speaks/reads english.
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn
An interesting list, for me, has lots of #2 and #4, and while it's fun to poke at books listed under #3 and #8, who has time? These are books whose main criticism I have is that I am mostly just tired of them, and most #9 could just as easily be included in that catagory for someone else. I'm off to see if I should move Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities to THE LIST, and on preview Angela Carter as well. But really I should be reading.
posted by zenon at 12:48 PM on September 11 [4 favorites]


Anthem by Ayn Rand was my favorite going into college.

I got better.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:57 PM on September 11 [8 favorites]


Zenon: forget your sorting method, read Harriet the Spy. Just read it. Report back.
posted by chavenet at 1:22 PM on September 11 [8 favorites]


Not even a single mention of a Pynchon title...although, I suppose I hadn't actually read any of his books by the time I was a freshman, either...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 1:26 PM on September 11


I, by the way, was into any and all Asimov books. I invite your scorn as well-deserved.

You won't get any from me. I was really into Piers Anthony. *shudder*
posted by Quonab at 1:48 PM on September 11 [3 favorites]


These lists never have The Grey Gentlemen.

I can never decide whether to be slighted, or encouraged, before I lose interest.
posted by LD Feral at 1:49 PM on September 11


In ten years you will not remember this person’s name.

ouch.
posted by philip-random at 1:57 PM on September 11


The lack of HST is particularly glaring, at least for people who graduated, say, more than twenty years ago.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:59 PM on September 11


Could never pick just one favourite book, but my favourite author was Terry Pratchett. He is still dear to my heart in a way few other authors are. I know I wasn't the only one in my circle either!

Close second would be P.J Wodehouse.

I don't know what that says about me other than I prefer media that makes me laugh.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:18 PM on September 11


Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities Take heart: soon your roommate will declare that architecture major, and you’ll pretty much have the room to yourself.

Extremely, wildly incorrect in my case. I did not waver from my declared history major at any point in my four years (apart from adding another major), and having had a friend who was in an Urban Design/Architecture major, I knew how very much it was Not for Me. My love of Invisible Cities has nothing to do with architecture, and everything to do with dreamy, melancholic evocations of impossible cities that have never existed, but that I nonetheless felt wistful nostalgia/longing for.
posted by yasaman at 2:24 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


On the Road

Towards the end of my sophomore year of high school I went on a band trip to British Columbia, during which I shared a hotel room with two seniors who could not stop talking about On the Road, their desire to be bohemians, and their not-so-sneaky plans to get high, later. I was intrigued by that last part, but at the time I was way too shy to invite myself so instead I went off to hang out with my friends and talk about games involving elves. When I got back, a "happening" - I swear someone actually used that word - had transpired. The room was trashed, somebody had gotten a little artistic with a can of shaving cream and - if my memory does not fail me - there was a young woman curled in the fetal position in the cubby where the television was supposed to go.

It was a year or two later that I consciously decided that I also wanted to have bohemian adventures and to try every drug and a year or two more until I did, which I have since generally blamed on the older crowd I was "hanging out" with online, with their stories of buying research chemicals from the "JLF Poisonous Non-consumables" catalog, and on reading my dad's old Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe books. I've still never read On the Road - reading about that circle was more interesting to me, and getting Carolyn Cassady's side sorta dispelled the mystique. But I've got to admit, when I was fifteen I thought those (undoubtedly thoroughly obnoxious from an adult perspective) Kerouac kids were pretty cool.
posted by atoxyl at 2:26 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Had never heard of Hopscotch but based on the potential roomie and the book's description i've already bought it...
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:33 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Greg_Ace: My college roommate's favorite books were Michael Moorcock's Elric series. He also liked to ostentatiously play with knives, and he's the one who introduced me to D&D. I'm probably lucky I got out alive.

Scott, is that you? Long time no see, buddy!
posted by hanov3r at 2:33 PM on September 11


Yes, I too have been known to pick a random yard of books and a random question to answer for each. More fun options, though:

1) The author of this book is the principal of the school where you're about to start teaching 8th grade English. How fucked are you?

2) Your first day in prison, the guy who pushes the squeaky book cart hands you this book through the bars of your cell, with a conspiratorial wink. What the hell is he saying?

3) Are all people who like this book cannibals, and if so, how would they prepare the author?

4) If you had to burn this book for heat in order to survive, would you start with the first or last page? How about if you had to eat it?

5) If the only way to rid the world of the collected works of Enid Blyton would be to also destroy every copy of this book, how fast would you say yes? Dan Brown? Ayn Rand? Gogol?

6) Say your plan for the day was to finally start learning how to make pretty animated cursors in javascript. How close will this get you to your goal, and anyway isn't that better for everyone involved?

7) You're trapped on a plane for 9 hours. How many in-flight magazine articles on the best dim sum in Toronto will you read before giving up and reading this book?
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 2:59 PM on September 11 [16 favorites]


Mine was The Grapes of Wrath.

I also owned A Clockwork Orange, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Great Gatsby, both Rhinocéros and L’Étranger in French, and Einstein’s Relativity. Also Centering: In Pottery, Poetry, and The Person.

The truth about me at 18 was that I really wanted to be A Serious Intellectual.
posted by snowmentality at 2:59 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


lack of HST

Harmonized Sales Tax? Hubble Space Telescope? Helsinki City Transit?
posted by Frowner at 3:00 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]


hunter s thompson
posted by ver at 3:24 PM on September 11


Watership Down, my favorite at the time, (not counting my absolute-100%-all-time-super-mega-favotite-fantasy-series-that-no-one-has-ever-heard-of-or-read-besides-me) is not on there, so I was going to go with Wide Sargasso Sea. Not sure I understood what they were saying it meant, so chose the Angela Carter instead, and decided it was kinda close.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:25 PM on September 11


P.S. why no Grendel, I wonder?
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:27 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Harmonized Sales Tax? Hubble Space Telescope? Helsinki City Transit?

Harry S Truman, obvs.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:30 PM on September 11 [4 favorites]


(not counting my absolute-100%-all-time-super-mega-favotite-fantasy-series-that-no-one-has-ever-heard-of-or-read-besides-me)

Tell me 'cause now I'm curious.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 3:37 PM on September 11 [3 favorites]


Come on, it's MeFi, of course we know about it.
posted by oddman at 4:01 PM on September 11


Many of those I read after I got to college. I probably came in with Vonnegut's "Breakfast of Champions", which, charitably, would tell you I learned everything I knew in high school from going to the bookmobile on Friday nights.

Haruki Murakami? The person I know who loves him voted for Trump and is never going to be my best friend.
posted by acrasis at 4:05 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Picking a favorite book is hard but if we use number of times read/number of copies owned as a metric, mine is Dracula, and that was true around college freshman time too. I feel like this information would not have helped my roommates much because, okay, sure, I certainly have voluntarily eaten a number of insects in my life but, on the other hand, I've never memorized a train timetable.

(No, let's be honest - what Dracula really conveys is "This person aspires to gothness but is too much of a dork to really pull it off, has complicated feelings about religion, and is probably queerer than they currently realize," which is pretty accurate for college!me.)
posted by darchildre at 4:40 PM on September 11 [4 favorites]


What would "Hitchhiker's Guide" be? ... asking for a friend.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 5:10 PM on September 11 [11 favorites]


Always carrying a towel. People make fun of it until it's needed. And then you wish you had a towel too.
posted by Splunge at 5:19 PM on September 11 [6 favorites]


Crazy to think about...

Probably Lord of the Rings and Starship Troopers.

Didn't read Naked Lunch and F&L in LV until freshman year. Things changed.
posted by Windopaene at 5:28 PM on September 11


There's a subgroup of Naked Lunch readers who just get their drugs from the other Naked Lunch readers with the full backpacks, not that I'd know anything about that.
posted by invitapriore at 5:45 PM on September 11


It's weird. I can't think of a single book that stands out during my high school years. It may be because the first two years were a horror. I was assaulted and robbed in the locker room in my freshman year. Then one of the guys who did it actually showed up in my homeroom and sat on my desk. He threatened me. Don't tell anyone. Of course the other guy that was with me told everyone what happened. We were called into the Dean's office. To confront our attackers. I was terrified. But I told my story.

Ultimately we went to a hearing and again confronted our attackers. They were expelled.

That night I told my parents that I wasn't ever going back to school. Of course I did. I purchased a knife from another kid.

My last two years of HS were my time to get out of my nerd shell. I started wearing a cowboy hat. A Stetson. A real Stetson. I also had photography in my sophomore year. My parents bought me a Canon FTBn SLR. I joined the yearbook staff. I was then the guy who had a cowboy hat and took pictures of everyone. And everyone knew me. I was no longer afraid. I was known.

OTOH in my senior year I discovered weed and sex. As well I was in AP English with Mr. Mitty. His story, allegedly, was that he was a disgraced Oxford scholar. He taught us T.S. Eliot. He taught us The Waste Land. The Hollow Men. And of course Prufrock. His accent when reading poetry was sublime. So I guess Eliot was my thing. And ever grateful to Mr. Mitty for it.
posted by Splunge at 6:17 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


I don't quite understand the HP & the Deathly Hallows one, that's not been my experience of Potterheads at all.

Also, if your favorite book is a Harry Potter book, it's not Deathly Hallows. It's either Prisoner of Azkaban or Order of the Phoenix.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:51 PM on September 11 [6 favorites]


I shuffled around the dorms for 3 years and never had a roommate or neighbor express an interest in reading books of any kind, let alone state a preference for a particular one. Learning a person has a favorite book puts them leagues up in my estimation, without much regard to which book it is. I'll admit there's some suspicion around Ayn Rand, etc. But at this point I'd just rather more people read at all, you know?

Anyway, McCaffrey's Dragonsong was my favorite book. There are many better books, but that one has dragons that sing songs, and is therefore my favorite. The Ship Who Sang, by the same author, became a favorite as well some time later. It has a spaceship that sings songs, which is also very good, but not as good as dragons.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 6:54 PM on September 11 [7 favorites]


I didn’t read a lot at that age, but my senior year English teacher had recommended The Big Sleep to me, and I was obsessed with Raymond Chandler for a while. I think my favorite book would probably have been that or The Long Goodbye. I shudder at what that says about me, but I was a depressed high school dropout at the time, so that’s a data point there.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:08 PM on September 11


My freshman roommate hunted the palmetto bugs that invaded our room with a flamethrower improvised from air freshener and a Bic lighter. Then he crucified one of the burned bodies on a pair of toothpicks and propped it up in front of the hole under the bathroom sink where they were getting in as a warning to the others. This actually worked.

I have absolutely no idea what he read. I couldn't even swear that he was literate.
posted by Naberius at 7:12 PM on September 11 [7 favorites]


I lived off campus my freshman year, with a roommate. There were probably about 200 books on my shelves, no idea what was my favorite at the time. LOTR of course, Hitchhiker's Guide, probably The Stand. I picked my roommate based on her reaction to my books, which was basically "Oh, I've been meaning to read that, can I borrow it if I move in?"

The one girl who emphatically didn't become my roommate was the one who walked in, shook my hand in the limpest and weakest handshake I've ever experienced, then her eyes went super wide and she said - in a little-girl voice - "Wow!! I've never even seen so many books!" Man, I still giggle at my own reaction to that one...
posted by gemmy at 7:31 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Anyone else using this list as a syllabus for Becoming Who You Always Wanted To Be?

Just me? (Please leave a message, I'm out selecting a familiar.)


Sorta? Many of these I know of, a few I've read, many are new to me. This'll be fun to dig through in the darkening months -- I've been reading a lot of SF lately and I need a break.

Thinking about it more, a number of the books I like have "What if people weren't so... people-y all the time?" as a premise.

My favorite thing I've read recently has been the Murderbot Diaries, so, uh, it me.
posted by curious nu at 7:42 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


What would "Hitchhiker's Guide" be?

That's a good point - if those and Pratchett's Diskworld books had been around when I was in college, they definitely would have been my favorites.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:47 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


My freshman year in college, my first-ever roommate's favorite book actually was Ulysses, and I know she meant it seriously because, when I came down with mono and started spending huge blocks of time in bed, she (like the Head Coach at Camp Granada) read large chunks of it to me out loud.

It was incredibly sweet of her, and I was so touched by the gesture, so sick, and so tired, that I never quite got up the nerve to explain to her that in that weakened state I couldn't understand a word.

There are parts of Ulysses now that have for me a strange déjà vu, a familiarity beyond time and space, an ineffable nostalgia, and I can't tell for the life of me if it's a brilliant effect on Joyce's part or simply the fault of my college roommate.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 8:06 PM on September 11 [9 favorites]


P.G. Wodehouse, The Inimitable Jeeves: This person favors subtle power struggles and obscure jokes that you won't get until six hours later in the shower.
posted by Basil Stag Hare at 8:08 PM on September 11 [3 favorites]


The Bald Soprano, roast me
posted by en forme de poire at 9:59 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


I took Ulysses with me to university (where I was studying chemistry). One of my housemates came from an Irish family and was studying English. Poster on his wall of all the great Irish geniuses (Wilde, Beckett, Yeats, Joyce), big fan of hurling, Guinness bar towels all over the place, etc. He was talking to my roommate (a fellow Irish Londoner) once and saw the book -

"Why has he got that?"
"I think he likes reading it."
"Why would anyone want to read that?"

(Still my favourite book - parts of it are hard work, but that doesn't make it incomprehensible to an eighteen-year-old).
posted by nja at 3:38 AM on September 12


I hesitate to discover what the Cryptonomicon/Neuromancer set reveal about themselves.

Cryptonomicon fans will drop out to launch a new cryptocurrency. You'll need to block their emails before too long.

Neuromancer fans will eventually discover all the best vintage clothing stores in the area, but will look pretty silly for a while until the look comes together for them.
posted by Zonker at 4:10 AM on September 12 [10 favorites]


What would "Hitchhiker's Guide" be? ... asking for a friend.

Literally every other line out of their mouth is a quote from something, and if you don't recognize it, they either roll their eyes or convey eye-rolling without actually doing so.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:17 AM on September 12 [12 favorites]


Also owns / regularly wears one or more "wacky" hats (e.g., fez, propeller beanie, jester's cap).
posted by uncleozzy at 7:25 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


…regularly wears one or more "wacky" hats…

Presumably because they have two heads?
posted by TedW at 7:35 AM on September 12 [1 favorite]


In the words of Bart Simpson: "The Bible!? Ew..."
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:53 AM on September 12


In ten years you will not remember this person’s name.

I read this as a sick burn on Johnathan Franzen. Don't cross Oprah, bro.
posted by momus_window at 7:57 AM on September 12


None of my college roommates ever read for fun that I observed. I, however, loved Gone with the Wind, The Stand (Stephen King), Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky), and Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy). Not sure what that says about me. Favorites in college were Dracula and stories by Anton Chekov. After college, it was Russian literature like Anna Karenina and Dr. Zhivago. I guess I like sweeping epics.
posted by cass at 10:01 AM on September 12


The Bald Soprano, roast me

In *English*?!
posted by Earthtopus at 12:01 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]


(not counting my absolute-100%-all-time-super-mega-favotite-fantasy-series-that-no-one-has-ever-heard-of-or-read-besides-me)

Tell me 'cause now I'm curious.


The Atlan series by Jane Gaskell.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:56 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]


Good god almighty, the Atlan series??? Yes, I've read most of them, maybe 40 years ago, and was both intrigued and appalled. Now, I'm just appalled. But you do you.
posted by MovableBookLady at 2:50 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


I read the first Atlan book and skimmed the other two, owing to squick. But! They're actually pretty interesting from a pre-feminist but post sexual revolution fantasy novel standpoint. They have a lot of wry humor about some pretty miserable and scary experiences that seems to be women's survival humor.

I would say that if you're at all interested in sword and sorcery as a subgenre, you could do a lot worse than read them - but you need to know that they're the kind of old fashioned rapey sword and sorcery (with sexualization of young girls), just told from the perspective of women who see no other option and are determined to survive.

(Someone fancy quotes from the first one to make some kind of Marxist point in something I've read but cannot remember- it's not Mieville and it's not Delany, but whatever it was inspired me to start reading them.)

I mean, they are very squick indeed in ways that Wikipedia or Goodreads will reveal to you...but so is Samuel Delany's novel Hogg, and that doesn't keep it from being interesting. You would never say, "Hogg depicts healthy, normal relationships between people who are capable of asking for and giving consent; it is a great mimetic representation of gay male interiority and a classic novel of gay life", just as you would never say, "The Atlan books are a great example of feminist fantasy - erotic, witty and a fantastic depiction of realistic yet strong women characters!" But that's not the limit of what books do.
posted by Frowner at 4:38 PM on September 12 [4 favorites]


Yep, dont care about anyone elses opinions on this one. Sometimes books come along that save your life and get you through the toughest times, alive and in one piece. How they do that, why it is they speak to you, is your own business. Im not saying anyone else has to like or approve of them, Im just saying they kept me going through my darkest times. I didnt feel alone because of those books. They are my very very favoritest books ever. That is all.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 7:28 PM on September 13 [3 favorites]


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