The Best Book I Ever Read About

One of the things that always irked me about recommending books is that people always oversimplify things, and they often leave out vital details about what makes it great. Vis: the guy who first recommended Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to me nearly a decade ago called it “a british sci-fi comedy” which it is, but thats not why I loved it. For me at least it was the way the series was both funny and yet simultaneously humanistic that made it great.

On the other hand people often start recommendation lists with long detailed descriptions of all the recent releases they have read in the past few weeks, and almost always (in groups of gamers and geeks much like this one) works of science fiction fiction. Few people remember the books from yesteryear that changed their lives.

So here are the rules: One book per person, and one sentence per book at least at first. Any subject, any author, and date, any genre - whatever touched you the most.

The best book I ever read about history and nature of life on Earth was “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins - its the reason I chose to study genetics.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

The title is pretty damn accurate.

The best book I ever read about Bob Dylan was “Chronicles” By Bob Dylan.

Use of Weapons, by Iain M. Banks. The most savage, witty, profane, divine, ugly, elegant, transcendant book I’ve ever read.

The Closing of the American Mind by Alan Bloom.

The best critique of the American education system I have ever read.

The best book I ever read about music was Psychotic Reactions and Carburator Dung by Lester Bangs, because it was the first time I ever realized that criticism could be art.

The best book I ever read about ancient history is The Last Generation of the Roman Republic by Erich Gruen. It’s a truly great work of history and show what a good, close reading of texts long mined by others can profit a serious scholar.

(Ditto on Closing of the American Mind, btw. It’s a radical book at its core, in spite of the fact that so many conservatives revere it. Bloom condemns all orthodoxy and thoughtless parroting of accepted truths.)


The current Best Book I’d recommend is Haruki Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

Because it’s written like Japanese surrealist whimsy mixed with twenty-something angst. With jazz and war.

I don’t think people are really getting the idea of this thread.