Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Book rankings

Somewhere around 2000/2001, I started reviewing all the books I read, using the five-star rating system below. These rankings are based solely on my opinion; your opinion of course may vary.

I would unhesitatingly recommend any books rated as 4-star or 4 ½ star. 5-star books are, in my opinion, must-reads if you are a member of the human race.

*****stars =Perfection, everyone must read these
****1/2 stars =Sheer awesome, great books with a few extremely minor quibbles
****stars =Extremely well done, highly recommended (i.e., great stories that lack literary depth, or fine literature that lacks a bit in storytelling)
***1/2 stars =Recommended, with flaws
***stars =Passable entertainment/beach faire
**1/2 stars =Very flawed, some redeeming features but not recommended
**stars/less =Crap, stay away
Zero stars =Could not finish (not necessarily sucky, just did not engage me)

Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
The Once and Future King, T.H. White
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara
Watership Down, Richard Adams
1984, George Orwell
All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Remarque
Flags of our Fathers, James Bradley
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, E.B. Sledge
Deliverance, James Dickey

****1/2 stars
No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
Eric Brighteyes, H. Rider Haggard
The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
IT, Stephen King
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
Beowulf, Seamus Heaney translator
The Broken Sword, Poul Anderson
Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis
The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis
A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin
A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin
A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin
Conan: “The Hour of the Dragon,” “The People of the Black Circle,” “Red Nails,” Robert E. Howard
Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield
Stonehenge 2000 B.C., Bernard Cornwell
Tides of War, Steven Pressfield
Gates of the Alamo, Stephen Harrigan
On the Road, Jack Kerouac
Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose
Citizen Soldiers, Stephen Ambrose
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
1776, David McCullough
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer
Night Shift, Stephen King
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
The Dark Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 5, H.P. Lovecraft
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
The Road to Middle-Earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created A New Mythology, Tom Shippey
Dracula, Bram Stoker
The Sea Wolf, Jack London
The Call of the Wild, Jack London
"The Sword of Welleran," Lord Dunsany
The Iliad, Homer
The Children of Hurin, J.R.R. Tolkien
Unfinished Tales, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Book of Merlyn, T.H. White
The Undiscovered Self, C.G. Jung
2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke
Styrbiorn the Strong, E.R. Eddison
Grendel, John Gardner
Swords Against Wizardry, Fritz Leiber
The Spell of Seven, L. Sprague de Camp ed.
The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

J.R.R. Tolkien: Myth, Morality, and Religion, Richard Purtill
Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, John Skipp ed.
Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs
Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott
Walden, Henry David Thoreau
One Who Walked Alone, Novalyne Price Ellis
The Company They Keep, Diana Glyer
Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay
Legend, David Gemmell
Roots and Branches, Tom Shippey
The Return of the Sorcerer, Clark Ashton Smith
On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, C.S. Lewis
Brotherhood of the Revolution: How America's Founders Forged a New Nation (The Modern Scholar), Joseph J. Ellis
The Medieval World I: Kingdoms, Empires, and War (The Modern Scholar), Thomas F. Madden
Airwar, Edward Jablonski
The Halloween Tree, Ray Bradbury
Carrie, Stephen King
The Life of Sir Aglovale De Galis, Clemence Housman
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
The Foundation Trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation), Isaac Asimov
Eaters of the Dead, Michael Crichton
Mucho Mojo, Joe Lansdale
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis
The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis
The Willows,” The Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood
Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin
The Worm Ouroboros, E.R. Eddison
On Writing, Stephen King
Lost Souls, Poppy Z. Brite
A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula LeGuin
The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula LeGuin
The Farthest Shore, Ursula LeGuin
The Year’s Best Horror Stories, volume VIII, Karl Edward Wagner, ed.
October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween, Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish, ed.
War of the Gods, Poul Anderson
Hrolf Kraki’s Saga, Poul Anderson
The Warlord Chronicles (The Winter King, Enemy of God, Excalibur), Bernard Cornwell
The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror—1999, Stephen Jones, ed.
Salem’s Lot, Stephen King
Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre, H.P. Lovecraft
The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart
We Were Soldiers Once…And Young, Lt. Col. Hal Moore, Joseph Galloway
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula LeGuin
The Face of Battle, John Keegan
At War, at Sea: Sailors and Naval Combat in the 20th Century, Ronald Spector
Hitler and the Holocaust, Robert Wistrich
The Sea of Trolls, Nancy Farmer
J.R.R. Tolkien, Author of the Century, Tom Shippey
Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
The Pale Horseman, Bernard Cornwell
The Longest Day, Cornelius Ryan
Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, Kenneth C. Davis
Hiroshima, John Hersey
Egil's Saga, The Sagas of Icelanders
Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Jack Finney
Tolkien and the Great War, John Garth
The Lords of the North, Bernard Cornwell
World War Z, Max Brooks
The Children of Men, P.D. James
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter ed.
Blood & Thunder: The Life & Art of Robert E. Howard, Mark Finn
The Dark Barbarian, Don Herron ed.
The Barbaric Triumph, Don Herron ed.
The Face in the Frost, John Bellairs
I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
Death in the Afternoon, Ernest Hemingway
World War II, James Jones
Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
The Allegory of Love, C.S. Lewis
Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures, Robert E. Howard
The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
The Fantastic Swordsmen, L. Sprague de Camp ed.
Warriors, George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois eds.
The Case for God, Karen Armstrong
The Golden Apples of the Sun, Ray Bradbury
Dangerous Visions, Harlan Ellison ed.
Dark Crusade, Karl Edward Wagner
Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon, Brian Rosebury
The Heroes, Joe Abercrombie
Carnage and Culture, Victor Hanson
The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil
The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard, Robert E. Howard
The Children of Odin, Padraic Colum
Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card
The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
The Silmarillion: Thirty Years On, Allan Turner ed.
Swords and Deviltry, Fritz Leiber
The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen

***1/2 stars
Black God’s Kiss, C.L. Moore
The Pacific, Hugh Ambrose
The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks
The Years Best Fantasy Stories 11, Arthur Saha ed.
Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers, L. Sprague de Camp
Heroic Visions, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, ed.
The Demon of Scattery, Poul Anderson and Mildred Downey Broxon
The Rising, Brian Keene
The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis
The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman
Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings, Lin Carter
Imaro, Charles Saunders
Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, John Joseph Adams editor
Tolkien and the Invention of Myth, Jane Chance editor
Phantastes, George MacDonald
The Desert of Souls, Howard Andrew Jones
Resolute Determination: Napoleon and the French Empire, (The Modern Scholar)
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Burning Land, Bernard Cornwell
The Sword of Rhiannon, Leigh Brackett
Perilous Realms: Celtic and Norse in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, Marjorie Burns
Rings, Swords, and Monsters: Exploring Fantasy Literature, Michael Drout
The Eyes of the Dragon, Stephen King
Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
Shutter Island, Dennis Lehane
Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World, Verlyn Flieger
The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
Tolkien: Man and Myth, A Literary Life, Joseph Pearce
The Living Dead, John Joseph Adams ed.
Agincourt, Bernard Cornwell
The Cold Commands, Richard Morgan
How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill
The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper
Over Sea Under Stone, Susan Cooper
Thinner, Stephen King
Kingdom of Fear: The World of Stephen King, Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller, eds.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Three Hearts and Three Lions, Poul Anderson
Carrion Comfort, Dan Simmons
The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis
Secret Worship,” The Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood
Dragonlance Legends (Time of the Twins, War of the Twins, Test of the Twins), Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
The Illearth War, Stephen R. Donaldson
The Power that Preserves, Stephen R. Donaldson
The Swords of Lankhmar, Fritz Leiber
Swords Against Death, Fritz Leiber
Whispers, Stuart Schiff, ed.
On the Beach, Nevil Shute
The October Country, Ray Bradbury
The Nightmare Chronicles, Douglas Clegg
A Voyage to Arcturus, David Lindsay
Fantasy, Poul Anderson
Savage Season, Joe Lansdale
Bad Chili, Joe Lansdale
The Two-Bear Mambo, Joe Lansdale
The Wendigo,” The Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood
The Fantastic Imagination, Robert Buyer and Ken Zahorski, ed.
The Dying Earth, Jack Vance
The King of Elfland’s Daughter, Lord Dunsany
The Fionavar Tapestry (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, The Darkest Road), Guy Gavriel Kay
The Lost, Jack Ketchum
Modern Masters of Horror, Frank Coffey, ed.
Sound of the Beast, Ian Christie
The Archer’s Tale, Bernard Cornwell
Vagabond, Bernard Cornwell
Heretic, Bernard Cornwell
Freezer Burn, Joe Lansdale
Lost Boy Lost Girl, Peter Straub
Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter
Between Time and Terror, Robert Weinburg, ed.
The Bottoms, Joe Lansdale
The Devil’s Horsemen, James Chambers
The Last Kingdom, Bernard Cornwell
Eagle in the Snow, Wallace Breem
Waking Nightmares, Ramsey Campbell
The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, Robert E. Howard
Fly For Your Life, Larry Forrester
The Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Fallen Angels, Walter Dean Myers
A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin
Boys’ Life, Robert R. McCammon
The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown
The Black Cauldron, Lloyd Alexander
Hannibal Rising, Thomas Harris
Dreamcatcher, Stephen King
Last Citadel, David Robbins
Flashing Swords #1, Lin Carter ed.
Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne
Hide and Seek, Jack Ketchum
Fargo Rock City, Chuck Klosterman
Meditations on Middle-Earth, Karen Haber, ed.
Abandon Ship: The Saga of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, Richard Newcomb
The Year’s Best Horror Stories, volume XI, Karl Edward Wagner, ed.
The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
Paingod and Other Delusions, Harlan Ellison
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Christopher Hitchens
The Modern Scholar: Faith and Reason: The Philosophy of Religion, Peter Kreeft
Strange Wine, Harlan Ellison
No Regrets, Ace Frehley
The Dragon Lord, David Drake
Warlocks and Warriors, L. Sprague de Camp ed.

Last Call, Tim Powers
The Hook, Donald Westlake
Tolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, Jane Chance ed.
The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
The Steel Remains, Richard Morgan
Bringing Down the House, Ben Mezrich
The Dark Tide, Dennis McKiernan
The Dirt, Motley Crue
Damnation Alley, Roger Zelazny
The Brothers Bulger, Howie Carr
Grails: Quests of the Dawn, Richard Gilliam, Mercedes Lackey, Andre Norton editors
City of the Dead, Brian Keene
Dark Harvest, Norman Partridge
A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Tritonian Ring, L. Sprague de Camp
Desperation, Stephen King
Bag of Bones, Stephen King
Cell, Stephen King
The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis
The Dark Fantastic, Ed Gorman
“Ancient Sorceries,” The Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood
Dragonlance Chronicles (Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Winter Night, Dragons of Spring Dawning), Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Lord Foul’s Bane, Stephen R. Donaldson
The Elric Saga, Part I (Elric of Melnibone, The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, The Weird of the White Wolf), Michael Moorcock
The Year’s Best Horror Stories, volume VII, Gerald W. Page, ed.
Borderlands, Thomas Monteleone, ed.
Shadows, Charles L. Grant, ed.
Down the Long Hills, Louis L’Amour
The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle
A Tolkien Compass, Jared Lobdell, ed.
Dead Image, Charles L. Grant, ed.
The Hammer and the Cross, Harry Harrison
The Shapes of Midnight, Joseph Payne Brennan
Shadows 2, Charles L. Grant, ed.
Gallery of Horror, Charles L. Grant, ed.
Fears, Charles L. Grant, ed.
The Well at the World’s End, vols. 1 and 2, William Morris
The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw
Dark Dreamers, Stanley Wiater
On to Berlin, James Gavin
Everything’s Eventual—14 Dark Tales, Stephen King
Understanding Tolkien, William Ready
The Book of Three, Lloyd Alexander
The Modern Scholar: Discovering the Philosopher in You, Colin McGinn
The Darkest Day, Dennis McKiernan
Red Moon and Black Mountain, Joy Chant
We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, season one, various
Lost World of Time, Lin Carter
Death of Kings, Bernard Cornwell

**1/2 stars
Kothar and the Wizard Slayer, Gardner Fox
The Well of the Unicorn, Fletcher Pratt
Seven Princes, John Fultz
Shadows of Doom, Dennis McKiernan
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
The Land that Time Forgot, Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, HP Lovecraft
The Keep, F. Paul Wilson
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Stephen King
The Elric Saga, Part II (The Vanishing Tower, The Bane of the Black Sword, Stormbringer), Michael Moorcock
Swords in the Mist, Fritz Leiber
The Year’s Best Horror Stories IX, Karl Edward Wagner, ed.
Confederacy of the Dead, Richard Gilliam, Martin Greenberg, Edward E. Wagner, ed.
The Drive-in: A Double Feature Omnibus, Joe Lansdale
Master of Middle Earth, Paul H. Kocher
New Terrors, Ramsey Campbell, ed.
White Wolf, David Gemmell
The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXI, Karl Edward Wagner, ed.
From a Buick Eight, Stephen King

Black Trillium, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, Julian May
The Year’s Best Horror Stories X, Karl Edward Wagner, ed.
The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror—2000, Stephen Jones, ed.
Parsival or a Knight’s Tale, Richard Monaco
Pay the Devil, Jack Higgins
Magic Kingdom for Sale: Sold, Terry Brooks

*1/2 stars
Brak: When the Idols Walked, John Jakes

Swords and Ice Magic
, Fritz Leiber
Brak vs. the Sorceress, John Jakes

Zero stars
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Hero in the Shadows, David Gemmell
The First Man in Rome, Colleen McCullough


Falze said...

4 stars for Left Hand of Darkness? I must've missed something, you liked it, it won awards...I found it tiresome. I managed to finish it but immediately donated it to the library when I was done, knowing I'd never reread it. It was interesting, just seemed a little too stilted or something. Excellent world creation, poor execution is how I felt.

Brian Murphy said...

I can see why you'd think that. It's not a particularly compelling story, but I liked it for the bits of wisdom LeGuin manages to slip in, and also for the great scene with Genry and Estravenn on the ice, and the friendship they forge. It struck a chord with me.

noisms said...

I'm really, really surprised you gave Neuromancer 0 stars.

In many ways it's Gibson's least good work. But still, I think his prose style and the ideas alone are worth something.

Brian Murphy said...

Hi Noisms, zero stars does not imply it's a bad book (though I can see how it looks that way). It was simply a book that I couldn't finish for whatever reason(and I don't recall why that was the case with Neuromancer).

My "zero" star thing is pretty confusing and I should probably dump that category and give Neuromancer a re-read.