A Reading List

Here is a collection of writings I admire. The criterion for a title to appear is significant long-lasting emotional and intellectual impact. The presented order is insignificant.

Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov

An autobiographical account uniquely positioned as a pseudo-fictional recount of Nabokov's life, while simultaneously presenting a tour de force of storytelling style and technique.

The Computer And The Brain, John von Neumann

Originally intended for the Yale Silliman Memorial Lectures. Interesting for its conjectural computational perspectives on the human brain, and Von Neumann's perspective; different from the contemporary view.

The Mind's Eye, Henri Cartier-Bresson

Short essays reaching beyond the realm of photography-proper: reads closer to a philosophy of observation.

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner

"It is as though the dark were resolving him out of his integrity, into an unrelated scattering of components—snuffings and stampings; smells of cooling flesh and ammoniac hair; an illusion of a co-ordinated whole of splotched hide and strong bones within which, detached and secret and familiar, an is different from my is. I see him dissolve—legs, a rolling eye, a gaudy splotching like cold flames—and float upon the dark in fading solution; all one yet neither; all either yet none."

Life, A User's Manual, Georges Perec

An intricate puzzle masequrading as a novel.

Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov

Sublime.

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta."

Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace

A comedic-literary fractal exploring entertainment, film theory, mental health, behavioural dysfunction, tennis and more. A good introduction to Wallace is the tale of two fish.

Sculpting in Time, Andrei Tarkovsky

A constructive meditation on the artist. Exceedingly broad, it covers a philosophy that explicates Tarkovsky's idea of "life as a reflection".

Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud

A playful meandering through the syntax and semantics of visual language. Travels far beyond the confines of the comic book medium.

Algebra I: Basic Notions of Algebra, Igor Shafarevich

A masterful tour through Abstract Algebra. Subtly skewed towards the Algebro-Geometric perspective.

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

The world in a novel.

Sleepy, Anton Chekhov

An elegant short work of horror.

Six Memos For The Next Millenium, Italo Calvino

Unfinished lectures intended for the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard. Outlines the values Calvino thought literature ought to uphold.

Tao Te Ching, Lao Tsu

Ancient chinese poetry (philosophy?) fundamental to Taoism. The form alone is interesting: contradictory, yet paradoxically still sensible.

Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein

Meditations at the boundary between language and action.

Wittgenstein's Mistress, David Markson

"There is nobody at the window in the painting of the house, by the way.

I have now concluded that what I believed to be a person is a shadow.
If it is not a shadow, it is perhaps a curtain.

As a matter of fact it could actually be nothing more than an attempt to imply depths, within the room.

Although in a manner of speaking all that is really in the window is burnt sienna pigment. And some yellow ochre.

In fact there is no window either, in that same manner of speaking, but only shape.

So that any few speculations I may have made about the person at the window would therefore now appear to be rendered meaningless, obviously.

Unless of course I subsequently become convinced that there is somebody at the window all over again.

I have put that badly."

Wallace covers it better than I.

Metamorphoses, Ovid

A compendium in poetry of fables and mythology. The penguin translation is highly recommended.

Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges

Combinatorial search through the space of literary forms. An exerpt.

Elementary Mathematics From An Advanced Standpoint: Algebra, Arithmetic and Analysis and Geometry, Felix Klein

Should be required reading for all interested in the sciences.

Rationalizations

A few patterns present themselves:

  • A vague sense of "Universality": the author's subject appears broader than stated.
  • Beauty
  • Russia

However, none of these are a priori reason for inclusion of any work.