Book Lists

I'm in to book lists. This is a very rough draft about book lists. Anthony Burgess' 99 Novels: The Best in English since 1939 (the book was published in 1984, so it covers the years 1939 to 1983) is probably my favorite book list (and it also happens to be a book; all the better). I like it best of the lists; mostly, because, Burgess picked 99 novels, instead of 100 novels. Technically, though, if one needs exactitude in their book lists, Burgess itemized 149 novels in 99 Novels..., since he counted series of novels as a single novel, like the little known, Henry Williamson's, A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, that comprises fifteen novels. Otherwise, 99 Novels... would've had to been called 149 Novels..., and that, to me, just doesn't make the same whimsical, idosyncratic sense, like the number 99 does.

Back to Henry Williamson: I know "trilogy" means a series of three novels, like the grossly neglected Balkan Trilogy of Olivia Manning's, that Burgess (bless him) saw fit to include in 99 Novels.... I know a "quadrilogy," like Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, or Paul Scott's Raj Quartet, means four connected novels. The "quartet" kind of gives it a way, huh? But, what's the prefix to the "ilogy" denoting fifteen novels? That, I'm afraid, I do not know. Is there a mathematician, or linguist, in the house?

Anyway, very soon, I'm going to begin listing my own book lists by genres and eras and perhaps some more stylized, esoteric parameters/etc. It'll be my top eleven picks (in, so far, thirty-three different subject headings I've thought up) including, but not limited to: poetry, first novels, philosophy, Hispanic writers, women writers, postmodern, post-apocalyptic, modernist, dystopic, novellas, short story collections, epistolary novels, counter-culture, fantasy, drama, Native American, and more.

Some of these books I'll list, I've even read. But some of them don't even exist ... yet, like The Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore; a book I'll invent, because, how could I possibly choose between her first collection, Self Help, and her contemporary classic, Birds of America? I couldn't. Not in good conscience. So, instead, I'll collect all her stories into one imaginary, sometime-in-the-future-it's-sure-to-be-published, retrospective collection that'll probably also be nominated for a National Book Award, featuring samplings from every Lorrie Moore short story collection comprising her entire, long-storied career.

And most of my choices, also, the ones that exist, that you can actually buy, but I've yet somehow not read in my lifetime, are what I'd take with me into exile, were I ever exiled to my own fantasy Elba Island by the Powers-That-Be; books that I know I should've already read a long time ago, but now, imprisoned of my own free will, I will finally have time to read.

First up (soon), since we're talking short stories: My Top 11 Short Story Collections that would accompany me into exile. Maybe exile in the Bahamas (or Bermuda) instead of Elba, now that I consider it more. No offense to the improbably many (if any) Elbanians out there, I'd just prefer to stay closer to home.


  1. Okay, first of all, love the lists (but you know I do).

    Now, as to language: I've always known a series of four works as a tetralogy; I've never seen the term quadrilogy before. Interesting. I tried looking up the term for fifteen related works, but to no avail. Of course, the fact that I don't have a reverse dictionary--but I really want one, does it exist do you think?--hindered me.


  2. Shoot. You're right about the tetralogy. What was I thinking? Had I been working my quads recently, and so had "quad" on the mind? But then, how come there's four quas in a dollar, as in quarters? Or four quas in football and basketball games (Celtics suck, yes they do); but put four books together, and suddenly it's all about the tets, and not the "quas," as in "tetra." Seems to me that reverse dictionary you speak of is, in fact, working hard here behind the scenes somehow. Weird.


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