Tuesday, July 8, 2008

100 book challenge: part six: miscellany

Down to the final fifteen of the 100 Book Challenge!

  • As long as we're coming out of the graphic design shelf, we might as well move into Beautiful Evidence, by design critic Edward Tufte
    [I panned this book a bit when I first read it, believing it to re-hash some of the material from Tufte's earlier books. However, that also makes it the easiest one to select if I'm going to take just one. It is probably the most well-designed one of the batch.]

  • Re-Search #11: Pranks!
    [Back in the good old days of the mid-nineties, Re-Search was the ultimate arbiter of what was cool and underground, and I'm grateful to them to introducing me to a lot of different countercultural thinkers. Of the Re-Search volumes I have, this is the one that meant the most to me, but Angry Women, Modern Primitives, and the Industrial Culture Handbook are all just about equally worth bringing.]

  • Mondo 2000: A User's Guide to the New Edge
    [Along the same lines as the Re-Search books, this was a book that taught the young Jeremy about what was cool. (The book's main answer to that question: geeks and psychedelic shit.) Some of the tech romance has lost its luster in the, er, fifteen or so years since this book came out, but I'm more than willing to hold onto it as perhaps the single volume that best explains how I ended up the way I did.]

  • Along these same "formative" lines, I'm not sure I can part with any of what I consider to be the three key Advanced Dungeons and Dragons texts: the Dungeon Master's Guide, the Player's Handbook, and Monster Manual.
    [I haven't played Dungeons and Dragons in probably five years now, but these three books basically describe how to generate and stock an entire fictional world, and determines coherent rules for how players can interact with that world: the amount of entertainment that can be extracted from their triangulation is truly limitless. A book that strips away the fantasy trappings in an attempt to provide an even broader basis for world-building is the GURPS Basic Set, which I'm also tempted to bring but which I don't think would make a list that caps at 100.]

  • Continuing with games, I'd bring the Redstone Editions Surrealist Games book-in-a-box...

  • ...and the Oulipo Compendium, which defines a mind-boggling number of literary constraints to play around with...

  • ...and Jeff Noon's Cobralingus, which takes the idea of literary constraints and fascinatingly updates it by mashing it up with the kind of gate/filter/patch mechanism familiar from real-time sound synthesis programs like AudioMulch.

  • And ultimately, for when I was through with the wacky wordplay and wanted to get back to writing normal English-language sentences, I'd bring a copy of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.

I'd cram in a few more great works of fiction...

  • Cathedral, by Raymond Carver

  • Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

  • my version of Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
    [My edition has great illustrations by Rockwell Kent, circa 1930.]

  • ...and one excellent work of humor: Our Dumb Century: 100 Years of Headlines from America's Finest News Source

  • ...and maybe one exemplary picture book for children: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg

And that'd be 100 (OK, closer to 115, given the various cheats and bundles I stuck in there.) Could I live with this 100? Maybe, although there's a lot of good writing in the piles left that remain. I find myself already wanting to make a list of a second hundred... the "honorable mentions," perhaps...

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