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How to pick a book this holiday

See the rest of the list at The Believer.

Around this time of year people find themselves with extra time and, looking for a way to fill the empty hours, they remember that good old friend, the book. Like a true friend, the book doesn’t mind that you’ve forgotten about him since July, and doesn’t even consider your momentary weakness for a Tom Clancy at the beach cheating. Now that it’s winter, though, it wouldn’t hurt to get a little more serious. But what to read? You could ask your annoyingly well-read friend, but he’s still trying to get you to read Gravity’s Rainbow, and let’s face it, that’s not happening. There’s that new Judd Apatow book, and yeah, it’s pretty good, but your friend the book wants to give you more than just a passing thrill. He wants to set you on the straight and narrow and get you reading for the long run.

Luckily your book was just browsing around on the web and found, courtesy of The Believer‘s archives, Donald Barthelme’s syllabus, a list of eighty-one recommendations listed randomly and meant to be consumed “in no particular order, just read them.” Most books on the list don’t date back before the 50s but it’s seriously comprehensive, including Bellows, Borges, Barthes and Burgess, Singer and Sondheim, Carver, Kundera and Calvino, one O’Connor and two O’Briens. Read one every other week and in less than a year you can call up your well-read friend and give him a suggestion or two.