So, I was staring into space and I noticed that the middle shelf of my bookcase is a strange mix of genres (click twice on the photo for a better view). Over on the left it's mainly fantasy books that I've had since I was a kid. I used to have a lot more but I gave them to charity. I just kept the ones I really loved, although I don't read them any more. Fritz Leiber's Fafrhd and the Gray Mouser series. Michael Moorcock's Elric, the baddest hero ever (won't catch him saving any cats). Two Narnia books — A Horse and His Boy is certainly my favourite, not sure why I kept Prince Caspian. Some very well-thumbed Tolkien.
I also have quite a few odd books. The novelisation of Harold and Maude. Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin from when he was doing silly stuff not suitable for the New Yorker (a sample line: These were not the average "contented" cows. They were cows born for trouble.) The esssential Lenny Bruce which contains transcripts of all his routines. I got that back when finding comedy albums of dead American comedians in English record shops was no easy task. Of course, not so hard now with the internets all over the place...
I also have quite a few classics. Not only James Joyce's Ulysses, but also a book about Joyce, because I was clearly loooking to impress Lit nerds at some point in my life. Ulysses is quite a hard book to understand especially if you don't happen to be an Irishman from the turn of the last century. Joyce often complained that people told him how brilliant a book it was, but nobody told him how funny it was, which had been his main purpose in writing it. Well, Jim, maybe if you had used slightly less obscure references more people would have got the jokes. There's also a copy of Homer's Odyssey, the book Ulysses is based on. I would say The Odyssey is the slightly funnier of the two.
The copy of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (bound in red) was a school prize for French. I have no idea how I won it since I was never that good at French. C’est la vie.
Adventures of Tom Sawyer I think I read once as a child. Don't remember much about it and what I do remember is probably more from cinema. I also read Huckleberry Finn at some point but don't remember much about that either.
The Black Arrow is the only Robert Louis Stevenson book I've read. I remember it very fondly. It has a classic girl has to pretend to be a boy plot. And of course the hero falls in love with him/her. Had homoerotic subtexts been invented back then?
Harper Lee, Vonnegut, Salinger are all solid. I have no recollection of how The Shrimp and the Anemone by L.P. Hartley ended up here. Quite a few short story collections: Irwin Shaw, Ray Bradbury, Amy Hempel, P.G. Wodehouse, Ethan Coen (remember getting this because it was by one of the Coen Brothers — don't remember any of the stories), and Philip Roth. I tend to prefer reading short stories by the great American writers. There's only so much 'middle-aged intellectual disappointed by his penis' that I can take.
Nausea by Sartre I've never completed. The Gay Science by Nietzsche is neither gay nor about science. Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a very beautifully written, very boring book. Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying is really well plotted. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is probably my favourite book. Syrup by Maxx Barry is highly recommended.
Like I was saying, a very odd bunch. I was talking last post about maybe choosing a book and taking it apart to see what makes it tick. What I might do is take one of these books on my middle shelf and just dissect its first chapter, see what techniques are being used, what rules are being broken. First chapters are pretty important so it might be a useful exercise (might not). Now I just have to choose which one...