Not in the Library
Books that cannot be offered at the Dunyazad Library because their copyright has not expired, but that otherwise would definitely belong. Since I am not in the business of selling books, all I can do is recommend them.
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Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth (3rd millennium BCE, transl. by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer, 1983)
This series of Sumerian tales takes us back to the beginning of literature and the early age of civilization. This is stunningly beautiful poetry – Samuel Noah Kramer, the eminent scholar, is the guarantee that the translation faithfully follows the ancient text, Diane Wolkstein’s skill with words lets it reflect the original’s fascinating power and beauty.
Donatien Alphonse François de Sade: Juliette (1797, transl. by Austryn Wainhouse, 1968)
The Marquis de Sade, novelist, pornographer, cynic, anarchist, utopist, moralist, radical philosopher, and political satirist – always challenging the reader to decide how each scene, each sentence, is to be understood. This is de Sade’s most important work, and we have to be grateful to Austryn Wainhouse for his translation. Be warned of the violence, though.
Isaac Asimov: The Foundation trilogy – Foundation · Foundation and Empire · Second Foundation (1951–1953)
The foundation, indeed, of modern science fiction. The story of the secret plan to reduce the dark ages, which are foreseen to follow the fall of the Galactic Empire, from thirty thousand years to a single millennium. The books have been criticized for a lack of character development, but Asimov’s focus is on the grand story, on the development of the Galaxy, of Humanity. Read it as a history book, set twelve thousand years in the future …
Fritz Leiber: The Nehwon series (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) – Swords and Deviltry · Swords Against Death · Swords in the Mist · Swords Against Wizardry · Swords of Lankhmar · Swords and Ice Magic · The Knight and Knave of Swords (1958–1988)
Before Fritz Leiber did it, it wouldn’t have seemed possible to blend comedy with serious sword-and-sorcery fantasy so intelligently and compellingly (and, as times in the real world were changing and allowed for it, with a bit of kinky sex mixed in). Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser may well be the most likable and enjoyable pair of heroes the genre has produced, and their adventures do not cease to fascinate and entertain.
Jane Gaskell: The Atlan series – The Serpent · The Dragon · Atlan · The City · Some Summer Lands (1963–1977)
This fantasy saga, told by its heroine (and continued, in the final volume, by her daughter), is among the most underappreciated works of literature ever written. Like in some surrealistic paintings, at first look things may seem the way you expect them to be, but on second look they do not fit, are subtly askew, keep defying your expectations. And in this defiance, of course, lies the artistic value. But even for readers who do not look beyond the surface, this is still an exciting and well-told adventure story about a somewhat snooty princess who has grown up in a castle, being told that there are no men in this world, until she discovers otherwise – and also discovers that not all the men out there belong to the human species …
Barbara Tuchmann: A Distant Mirror (1978)
If you are interested in history, then all of Barbara Tuchman’s books are worth reading, but this may be her most compelling work: a comprehensive history of the European 14th century – a book that has the profoundness of a textbook and reads like a gripping adventure tale. Apart from actual time travelling, this is probably the nearest approximation you can find to observing and understanding from close up the people who lived through and died in this fascinating historical period.
Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ‘trilogy’ – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy · The Restaurant at the End of the Universe · Life, the Universe and Everything · So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish · Mostly Harmless (1979–1992)
The bizarre over-the-top intelligent black humor of these books cannot be described. Think of an intergalactic roller coaster version of Alice in Wonderland on steroids. Or better, just start reading, but be warned that you’ll embark on a ride which you may not be able to quit – not even after you’ve reached the end …