by Jorge Luis BorgesIn Borges's short story, the world consists of a gigantic library which contains every possible book that can ever be written. So, somewhere, there must logically be the book, the one that reveals the Library's secret! Unfortunately, there is no filing system, and no one has any idea of how to find the elusive book. In fact, it's challenging even to locate one which contains a meaningful sentence: most of them are gibberish from beginning to end.
Well, our own world isn't quite as bad - but it's still harder than it should be to locate the books you really want to read, when they're mixed up with the ones you just think you might want to read. I am often appalled at the amount of time I waste on this site, but comfort myself with the thought that it has helped me find some amazing books I normally wouldn't even have considered.
But exactly how helpful has it been? The other day, it occurred to me to try and answer this question quantitatively. I calculate that, since I started hanging out here in late 2008, I have read 42 books just because someone here has recommended them. (I didn't count books recommended by people on Goodreads whom I also know in real life, otherwise the figure would be considerably higher). After some more thought, I've picked out a Top Ten, which I present here for your amusement:
10. I've never seen anyone outside Goodreads mentionEverything Explained Through Flowcharts , recommended to me by David G, but it's the funniest thing I've seen in ages. I challenge you to read it without giggling helplessly at least a couple of times. Why it isn't more famous is more than I understand.
9.À rebours , a weird 19th century French novel recommended to me by Sabrina, is another book that deserves to be better known. Nothing happens, but it's somehow utterly compelling. I think it's also been very influential.
8. I love books written under strong formalist constraints, but I'd never heard ofEunoia , recommended by Gary. Five chapters, each using only one vowel, and, even though it sounds impossible, it works remarkably well as poetry. Really!
7. Eric W recommendedThe Terrible Hours: The Greatest Submarine Rescue in History . If you're after inspiration and good old-fashioned heroism, look no further.
6. Choupette was so indignant aboutPlateforme that I had to check it out for myself. I liked it enough that I also readLes particules élémentaires . I won't promise that you'll enjoy them, but they're certainly going to make you think.
5. Everyone recommendedThe Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains . Alas, all too true. The mere fact that I'm sitting here writing this proves his point.
4. Would you believe it, I hadn't even heard ofInfinite Jest before I joined GR. Within a couple of months, I'd given in and bought a copy. Admittedly, I also bought a copy ofTwilight at the same time...
3. Pavel told me I had to readVoices from Chernobyl , and he was right. Whatever your opinions on nuclear power, it's irresponsible not to. You can't take more than a chapter or so at a time; after that, you just sit there stunned, doing your best not to cry. Another book that people have unaccountably overlooked.
2. Was I really going to read a thousand page physics text full of scary math? I did a math degree in the late 70s, but this looked way over my level. However, Nick called me chicken enough times that I decided to tackleThe Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe . I've finally got to the end, and wow, was it a fascinating read! If you like math and physics, take Nick's advice: forget the pop science books and go for the big one. It's worth the effort.
1. I don't really know Norwegian, and how likely was it that I'd buy a three volume magical-realist Norwegian novel by an author I'd never heard of? But, moved by Oriana's glowing review, I started thinking that I speak Swedish, Norwegian isn't that different (it's a kind of Spanish/Portugese deal), so why not give it a shot? By the time I was 20 pages intoForføreren , I was hooked, and then I immediately continued withErobreren andOppdageren . The trilogy is the most brilliant thing I have read this century, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Thank you Oriana!
So, there you are, and I hope I've made at least one sale :) In the interests of completeness, here's the rest of the list, in alphabetical order:
99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style
The Bent Sword
Crowds and Power
The Dreamfighter: And Other Creation Tales
L'élégance du hérisson
Exercices de Style
Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will
Go the Fuck to Sleep
Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!
The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
How To Learn Any Language: Quickly, Easily, Inexpensively, Enjoyably and on Your Own
No Hope for Gomez!
Not a Chance: Fictions
The Riddler's Gift (Lifesong, #1)
The Triple A's Check It Out
Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights
Whom God Would Destroy
Zazie dans le métro
|Title||The Library of Babel|
|eBook format||Hardcover, (torrent)|
|Author||Jorge Luis Borges|
|Publisher||David R. Godine Publisher|
|File size||4.6 Mb|
|Book rating||4.47 (2817 votes)