Monday, January 05, 2009


Pure Pleasure


I acquired this book through a recommendation that I have subsequently forgotten, but for which I am thankful nonetheless.
John Carey, whose fine book The Intellectuals and the Masses (St. Martin's 1993) I read some years ago, has prepared a guide to the "most enjoyable books" of the twentieth century.
While tastes may differ I find I have already read almost half of the fifty books he lists and of those there is only one that I remember not enjoying. Based on that evidence and the books I have enjoyed by writers for whom he includes different titles than those I have read, I must conclude that he truly has included at least some of the most enjoyable books of the century just past. He notes with apologies his methodology precluded more than one title per author in order to avoid a few authors taking up the whole list. He also consciously avoided "masterpieces" for less well-known works. The advantage for the reader being the inclusion of Mann's great picaresque novel Confessions of Felix Krull Confidence Man instead of The Magic Mountain or Buddenbrooks, or the listing of Decline and Fall, Waugh's great comic first novel instead of Brideshead Revisited. He thoughtfully includes both poetry and works in translation on this list to ensure the enjoyment of readers is not limited to novels written in English. This guide will provide me one more reason to never be without a good, and enjoyable, book.


Pure Pleasure: A Guide to the 20th Century's Most Enjoyable Books by John Carey. Faber and Faber, London. 2000.

3 comments:

candyschultz said...

This book sounds like a very bad investment for me. I am supposed to be cutting back on book purchases. Nevertheless I will probably buy it.

Happy New Year.

James said...

Check it out - he draws you in to books you have not read with delightful essays about each author & book. Everything from Arthur Conan Doyle to Gunter Grass with some I've not heard of in between. He even has an afterward that briefly assesses some books that did not make the cut.

Happy Reading

candyschultz said...

Oh I have already ordered it. As to Bellow, in all fairness I need to give him another chance. I only read a couple of his books about ten years ago and considering what was going on in my life at the time it would not have been a fair assessment. I will have to try him again.