August 23, 2019

best books I have read

I sorted through my Goodreads data export to find about fifty of what I’d consider my “best books”. I learned much about myself in the process. This is a post-in-progress; I will be updating it often over time to add notes on each book listed.

The Books

  • Childhood, Adolescence
    • Chrome Yellow
    • Collected Fictions
    • Cosmicomics
    • Difference and Repetition
    • Fahrenheit 451
    • Fear and Trembling
    • Heir to the Empire (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy, #1)
    • I, Claudius (Claudius, #1)
    • If on a winter’s night a traveler
    • Leaves of Grass and Other Writings
    • Moby-Dick, or, the Whale
    • No Country for Old Men
    • Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph
    • Solaris
    • The Arabian Nights
    • The Baron in the Trees
    • The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
    • The Iliad
    • The Odyssey
    • Ulysses
  • Parenthood
    • Amos & Boris
    • The Cat in Numberland
  • Career
    • An Imaginary Tale: The Story of √-1
    • Code
    • Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment
    • How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method
    • Induction and Analogy in Mathematics
    • Reverse Mathematics: Proofs from the Inside Out
    • Ruby Under a Microscope
  • Adulthood
    • 1Q84
    • 2666, Part 1: The Part About The Critics
    • 2666, Part 2: The Part About Amalfitano
    • 2666, Part 3: The Part about Fate
    • A Wild Sheep Chase (The Rat, #3)
    • An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter
    • Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)
    • Chocky
    • Convenience Store Woman
    • Dhalgren
    • Fungus Man: Charles Edenshaw and the Raven’s Helmsman Galaga Snaanga
    • Hopscotch
    • Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1)
    • On Haiku
    • Stories of Your Life and Others
    • The Big Money (U.S.A., #3)
    • The Hard Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World
    • The Literary Conference
    • The Man with the Compound Eyes: A Novel
    • The Rings of Saturn
    • The Savage Detectives
    • The Strange Library
    • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
    • Y: Oppenheimer, Horseman of Los Alamos

Sorting, Filtering

After exporting my data to CSV, I applied the following sorts to the spreadsheet:

  • Read Count, descending
  • My Rating, descending
  • Average Rating, descending
  • Original Publication Year, ascending
  • Date Added, ascending

The basic idea was to look roughly backwards through my reading history - as recorded in Goodreads - paying attention to the best books first.

With that filter applied, I came up with a list but felt there was a different order lurking. After giving it some thought, I realized I felt an attachment to each book selected in a way that reflected where I was at in life when I first read it. I then sorted the books by the life stage I was at when I read it, roughly: Childhood and Adolescence; Parenthood; Early Professional; and Adulthood.

Childhood, Adolescence (7 - 22)

These books stirred my love for reading. They’ve shaped me in innumerable ways and given me fond memories as I’ve grown.

Moby-Dick, or, the Whale

Melville’s masterpiece was a pivotal moment in my intellectual life. I read the book as a sophomore in high school and set off a lifetime of reading. See ny essay reflection.

Parenthood (26 - )

These books represent cherished moments and themes imparted to my child.

The Cat in Numberland

Ivar Ekeland wrote and John O’Brien illustrated a narrative describing Cantor’s proof of the countability of the rationals in childrens book form. It’s a delightful, playful narrative set in “numberland” where Mr and Mrs Hilbert - and a cat - run an infinitely large hotel. All the numbers (the Integers 1, 2, 3 etc) live in the hotel and they learn to change rooms to accomodate more and more guests. Ekeland does a great job keeping the story jargon-free and fun while at the same time teaching a powerful portion of mathematics.

I love this book, and my son loves it too. I think any child would gain a love for numbers and mathematics by enjoying books like these with their parents at story time.

Career (26 - )

These books have been important for influencing the direction of my career and worklife.

Adulthood (22 - )

These books helped shaped my identity as an adult. They’ve become emblems of my preferred literary style and in a few cases given me fantasies to hold me together as a person.

Content by © Jared Davis 2019-2020

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