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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 11:30 am:   

I was just messing around with this whole message board idea when it occurred to me to try and make use of it for research purposes. You see, I find myself combing the local used bookstores for weird but interesting books all the time, and it frankly occurs to me that it would be helpful to get a list of books I might not have heard of that would be useful in the compilation of the weird stuff I write.

So hence the topic. What books do you, gentle respondents, find the most valuable or interesting in your own reading/writing/general living? Mention any book that comes to mind for any reason you like. Even if you think I've heard of it. Even if you're sure I have. I'm curious on people's takes even on books I've read.

In order to prime the pump, so to speak, I'll list four or five that I find most valuable (there are more, and this isn't a ranking by influence, just a few that come to mind) and another five I recently procured.

Five that come to mind

Travels in Hyperreality - Umberto Eco
Man, what can you say about Umberto Eco? Everything he's ever written I love. But this book is one of the main inflences on my style alongside Avram Davidson and Colin Wilson. (I may do an influences post sometime, because there are a lot more.)

The Complete Stories - Franz Kafka
The Hunger Artist and In The Penal Colony in particular.

Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel - Ignatius Donnelly
When you're talking crazy ass theories that sound plausible, you're talking Ignatius Donnelly. Also good are his writings on the Shakespeare/Bacon controversy and, of course, Atlantis the Antediluvian World

Artificial Paradises - Edited by Mike Jay
Worthwhile for all the different perspectives on how the brain and chemical intoxicants intersect. A good entry into the field.

Millennium - Felipe Fernandez Armesto
I just love this book, and I got it cheap, too.

Five Recent Purchases
The Phantom World - Augustin Calmet
Hey, if you're looking for a Skeptical Rationalist who also happens to be a Priest and who talks about ghosts, vampires and demons, this is the book for you.

Religion and the Decline of Magic - Keith Thomas
Coming at the same subject from almost entirely reversed perspective, and a nice bookend.

Pavane - Keith Roberts
Actually given to me, so far I'm digging it immensely. Alternate history that gets really into the heart of why I enjoy the genre.

The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries - David Ulansey
It's neck and neck between this and The Other God by Yuri Stoyanov. Both excellent works. Stoyanov's is more of a general round up, while Ulansey's book is a theory that he unfolds with painstaking detail. Very inspirational.

Black Sun - Nicholas Goodrick Clarke
Man, if you want to take a close look at where some people will take a fantastic idea, and just how bad that can be, you need go no further than this round up of Esoteric Neo-Nazism.
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 01:33 pm:   

Some of my most useful ones...

The Origins of Music
Edited by Nils L. Wallin, Björn Merker, Steven Brown
It's a collection of scientific papers on the possible evolutionary origins of music. It's a lot deeper than most people want to go, but there are some really interesting chapters that have affected my ideas on writing music.

An Underground Education
by Richard Zacks
A collection of historical stories and tidbits that are left out of history books. It hasn't been "useful" in work, just in knowing lots of weird stuff (like the original Cinderella story was about an Egyptian prostitute).

Adventures in Unhistory
by Avram Davidson
I still haven't gotten my own copy, but almost gonzo journalism about the origins of myths. He covers some angles I never considered before.


I may think of more later, but I'm about to leave work so I don't have much time right now. I will say a lot of those books you mention sound very intriguing.
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Jamie
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 03:26 pm:   

Telling Lies For Fun And Profit by Lawrence Block. I've read only one of his novels, but I've read two of his books on writing cover to cover many times. I'd give this one the nod over Spider, Spin Me A Web, but that may just be because I read it first.

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. I've read a few of his books, but this one is the one that draws me back. I've only read it through once, but I've read bits and pieces of it on many occasions. It was one of the formative influences on my young adult mind, along with...

Harlan Ellison. Not a book, per se, but I would be hard pressed to say whether Deathbird Stories had more or less influence on me than Angry Candy. Certainly, the dismemberment in "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" has stuck with me for some time, while a scene in my piece "Murder Therapy" (in the anthology Be Mine) was informed by the feel of "Along the Scenic Route".

Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould was the first nonfiction book I read cover to cover, possibly excluding the aforementioned writing books. As such, I feel it must have had something going for it. That being said, I've never read it again, and my manager at the bookstore says she'd never met anyone before me that liked it.

Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes -- I just finished this book earlier this week, and it's a treasure trove of interesting, well, anecdotes. But it's thick, and not really designed to be read, more to be browsed through.
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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 04:00 pm:   

Both of you have listed books that are among my favorites (Adventures in Unhistory and Dhalgren) which makes me very happy to have posed this thread in the first place.

Keep 'em coming, everybody. Always room on the pile for more books.
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Sunday, March 28, 2004 - 07:00 pm:   

One other that comes to mind is City of Saints & Madmen. It influenced my music greatly (making a CD based on it). It also had a big impact on my reading habits - I started reading a lot of stuff based on JV's recommendations, and it lead me to this board.

Besides that, I haven't come up with any more "interesting" useful books - while O'Reilly's PERL book is useful at my job, it's not a good read.

I did just order The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, since that sounded interesting, as well as Things That Never Were
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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Monday, April 05, 2004 - 02:21 am:   

Well, since I'm still interested, I'll prime the pump -

Arcana Mundi by Georg Luck
It's a pretty good round-up of magical rites and beliefs in the Hellenistic world. Touches upon Egypt, Sumeria, etc but mostly in how they related to ancient Greece and Rome. Still, I like it, and I've gotten some good stuff out of it.

William Blake - The Complete Illustrated Manuscripts
Got this as a Christmas present. My highest possible recommendation.

Bat Chain Puller by Kurt Loder
Remember when Kurt had taste and control over his own soul? Well, I do, thanks to this book. If you're a fan of modern weirdness, the essays on Bowie and Prince are essential.

Father Ernetti's Chronovisor by Peter Krassa
Vatican time machines.

Why not you and I? by Karl Edward Wagner
Seriously one of my favorite collections of short stories ever. Into Whose Hands contains the best line I've ever read, but I can't share it without spoiling the story.
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Monday, April 05, 2004 - 05:36 pm:   

Have you read Fire in the Head by Tom Cowan? It examines links between what we know of Celtic religion and Shamanism. I'm guessing it would be something you might enjoy.
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Michael Foight
Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2004 - 12:57 pm:   

Here are a few:

Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear by Jan Bondeson

Galactic Rapture
by Tom Flynn

A Treasury of Traditional Wisdom: Doctrine and Realization of the Spirit by Huston Smith (Introduction), Whitall Perry (Compiler)

Vas : An Opera in Flatland
by Steve Tomasula
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Friday, April 23, 2004 - 05:59 am:   

I haven't read Buried Alive, but Cabinet of Medical Curiosities was great. I am always checking bookstores for more of Bondeson's work. Right now I'm looking for The Feejee Mermaid and Great Pretenders.

How about Roberto Calasso's work? The Marriage of Cadmus & Harmony. Literature and the Gods (my current reading material). Ka. The 49 Steps. What I've read is retelling of mythology with an aim of explaining belief in gods and how it changes over time.

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