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Read more books in pairs

A guide by wiredweird "wiredweird" (Earth, or somewhere nearby)
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Reading exposes us to thoughts. Reading more exposes us to complementary or contrasting thoughts - and to our own thoughts. Here are a few more of the titles that I consider especially thought-provoking, when set off against each other.

Orwell's 1984 (Signet Classics) and Delany's Babel-17 (in Babel-17 / Empire Star) share more than the use of numbers in their titles. Among other things, they explore the effect of language on the people who use it, and against whom it is used.

If you like science fiction, try reading The Island Of Dr. Moreau then Sundiver (The Uplift Saga, Book 1), and the other books in Brin's "Uplift" series. Both address moral issues in granting human-like intelligence to other species - obviously, without their consent. Wells's story is an anti-vivisectionist horror, Brin's carries the hope that humankind might find (or make) different kinds of minds to talk to.

Serious SF fans enjoy the camp of antiquated futurism, so I offer Kipling's With the night mail: a story of 2,000 A. D. (together with extracts from the contemporary magazine in which it appeared) and Doc Smith's Chronicles of the Lensmen, Volume 1 (Triplanetary, First Lensman, Galactic Patrol ) as far-future stories hobbled by the writer's inability to rise above his own era. Fun, if you like that kind of thing.

On a more serious note, compare The Illustrated Art of War to Macchiavelli's The Art Of War. Despite the similarity of name, they're very different books. One is practical, modern, and versatile - Sun Tzu's that is, roughly 1500 years older than Niccolo's.

Then look at the un-warlike feminist utopias of Herland and Mizora: A World of Women (Bison Frontiers of Imagination). These manless worlds follow many similar principles, but the first is a pastoral idyll and the second a technological heaven on earth, a dichotomy seen in other utopias as well.

Continuing the political theme, try Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Doc Smith's Subspace Explorers (Ace SF, H-102). Despite their different moods, both present bloodsucking leeches of the body politic who live off the creativity and intellectual wealth of others. The heroes, in both cases, are hardworking engineers and others, wielding democracy and hard currency as their sword and shield.

Utopian stories show people's aspirations at their highest, but sometimes also show rational thinking at its worst. See the difference between News from Nowhere and Other Writings (Penguin Classics S) and Travels in Icaria (Utopianism and Communitarianism). They both take place in socialist ideal worlds, with similarities down to silly tangential romances. The latter, however, shows how totalitarian ends can come from the most benign of intents. While you're at it, take a look at A Modern Utopia. Wells distinguishes his utopia from just about all others, and especially Icaria, by dealing realistically with the faults of people as they are, rather than counting on some transformation of people into what they communistically ought to be.

Also compare Smallpox: The Death of a Disease - The Inside Story of Eradicating a Worldwide Killer to Rising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them. The former describes the defeat of smallpox - a truly heroic effort. The latter describes how bacterial infections are defeating current medicine. I wonder how much the triumph over smallpox contributed to current complaisance about drug resistant pathogens.

This is getting too serious, though. Get your feet wet with Zero Girl and Warm Water Under a Red Bridge, two strange ones that include mysteriously damp shoes. OK, that second one isn't really a book, but it's my list and I get to pick.

Also in the silly vein, compare The Pro to Empowered, Vol. 1. Both take playful swipes at the superhero genre - the kind where a squeaky-clean savior carries out all kinds of heroic saves. Although both are female, the former isn't very squeaky, and the latter tends to stumble on the heroics. (She also has problems with her spandex suit and panty lines.)

If all the words are getting to you and you just want some pictures, compare Days of Intimacy to Layley. They seem so similar: black and white photo collections, by a single photographer and of a single model, and with a decidedly erotic (but not hard-core) sensibility. They couldn't be more different, due to Karsten's obvious affection for his model and her clear happiness in being seen.

Or maybe place the soft seductresses of Let Them Eat Cheesecake (The Art of Olivia, Vol. 1) against the sinewy swordslingers in Soft as Steel: The Art of Julie Bell. Both books show how a female artist sees female figures - but what a difference.

Along the same lines, compare two collections by male photographers. Self-Images: 100 Women presents a hundred models as they want to be seen; 100 Naked Girls presents them as the photographer wants them seen. Despite the similarity in concept, Hegre's emphasis on youthful beauty and gentle eroticism contrasts sharply with the variety and individuality of Rival's models.

And, as long as we're doing the photo albums, try Sappho: The Art of Loving Women as a contrast to Nothing But the Girl: The Blatant Lesbian Image: A Portfolio and Exploration of Lesbian Erotic Photography. The contrast is almost funny. The first is filled with soft focus, soft clothing (when present), and soft women with "done" hair. The second has lots of leather, hairy legs, and hard edges. Guess which one is the fantasy by and for males?

Illustrated fantasies can serve other purposes, too. Compare Mark Twain's The War Prayer to The Man Who Planted Trees. Both are short, profoundly moving, and illustrated in styles that carry the respective stories perfectly. The two moods, the Twain's darkness and Jiono's sense of peace, couldn't be more different, though.

The fantasy of A Voyage to Arcturus (Fantasy Masterworks) pairs well with several different books. It presents a world with an immanent creator and devil, as in Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy). It matches the ever shifting fantasy-scapes of Lilith. It echoes the moral levels of Inferno (Modern Library Classics), but with settings as fantastic as those in later volumes of the Promethea, Book 1 series. It outdoes the personal transformations of The Marriages between Zones Three, Four, and Five (Canopus in Argos--archives) by far. It's even been compared to The Pilgrim's Progress (Dover Thrift Editions). More than any other book I've read lately, it's a literary Rorschach test that seemingly becomes anything you want it to be.

You'll find philosophical explorations in science fiction also in Star Maker and The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 - in fact, Lessing is said to have been influenced by Stapledon. The similarities are loose at best, but both deal with devastation and transcendence. Lessing addresses it on a more personal scale, but Stapledon inquires into the biggest of all possible questions.

As long as we're in the fantasy/SF neighborhood, take a look at Gulliver of Mars (Ace SF Classic, F-296). I find it noteworthy as inspiration for Burroughs's Mars series, including The Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs: a Princess of Mars; The Gods of Mars; The Warlord of Mars; Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1-4, Boxed set). I'm also amused by Arnold's reuse of the Eloi (by a different name, of course), borrowed from H.G. Wells's H. G. WELLS - THE TIME MACHINE.

But enough frivolity - non-fiction demands attention, too. You might find analogies between the art history nerds of The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece and the computer architecture nerds of The Soul Of A New Machine. Each group has its own arcane mysteries and thrills, barely comprehensible to most of us (well, SoaNM has meaning to me). Each author explores the lives of these rarefied minds, and makes the rivalries and rewards of those lives visible to the rest of us.

And, while topic of work is on the table, consider The Nature and Art of Workmanship, where Pye explores the concept of craftsmanship as a personal and moral statement. Revolutionary these days, perhaps, but nothing compared to Holy Tradition of Working: Passages from the Writings of Eric Gill. In that Gill sets out the concept of work and craftsmanship as the founding principle of proper living and quite possible as a holy duty.

Fritz Zwicky, in Discovery, Invention, Research through the morphological approach, displays one of the most creative and optimistic minds of the twentieth century, in many ways an intellectual cousin to Buckminster Fuller (e.g. in Grunch of Giants). At the same time Zwicky's bold new world has the same unrealistic expectations of human nature that Mondrian expressed in Natural Reality and Abstract Reality: An Essay in Trailogue Form (1919-1920).

This is still a work in progress. I expect to add more over time, and I'm happy to hear suggestions for more interesting pairs. And, if you liked this, be sure to read my other suggestions in "Read books in pairs."

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1.  1984 (Signet Classics)  by George Orwell
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2.  Babel-17 / Empire Star  by Samuel R. Delany
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3.  The Island Of Dr. Moreau  by H. G. Wells
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4.  Sundiver (The Uplift Saga, Book 1)  by David Brin
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5.  With the night mail: a story of 2,000 A. D. (together with extracts from the contemporary magazine in which it appeared)  by Rudyard Kipling
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6.  Chronicles of the Lensmen, Volume 1 (Triplanetary, First Lensman, Galactic Patrol )  by E. E. 'Doc' Smith & Stephen Goldin
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7.  The Illustrated Art of War  by Thomas Cleary
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8.  The Art Of War  by Ellis Farneworth
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9.  Herland  by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
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10.  Mizora: A World of Women (Bison Frontiers of Imagination)  by Mary E. Bradley Lane
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11.  Atlas Shrugged  by Ayn Rand
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12.  Subspace Explorers (Ace SF, H-102)  by E. E. Smith
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13.  News from Nowhere and Other Writings (Penguin Classics S)  by William Morris
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14.  Travels in Icaria (Utopianism and Communitarianism)  by Etienne Cabet
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15.  A Modern Utopia  by H. G. Wells
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16.  Smallpox: The Death of a Disease - The Inside Story of Eradicating a Worldwide Killer  by Donald Ainslie Henderson
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17.  Rising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them  by Brad Spellberg
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18.  Zero Girl  by Sam Kieth
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19.  Warm Water Under a Red Bridge [Anamorphic] [Color] [NTSC] [Subtitled] [Widescreen]  DVD ~ Kôji Yakusho
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20.  The Pro  by Garth Ennis
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21.  Empowered, Vol. 1  by Adam Warren
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22.  Days of Intimacy  by Thomas Karsten
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23.  Layley  by John Donegan
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24.  Let Them Eat Cheesecake (The Art of Olivia, Vol. 1)  by Olivia DeBerardinis
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25.  Soft as Steel: The Art of Julie Bell  by Brian W. Aldiss
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26.  Self-Images: 100 Women  by Andre Rival
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27.  100 Naked Girls  by Petter Hegre
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28.  Sappho: The Art of Loving Women  by Sappho
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29.  Nothing But the Girl: The Blatant Lesbian Image: A Portfolio and Exploration of Lesbian Erotic Photography  by Susie Bright
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30.  The War Prayer  by Mark Twain
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31.  The Man Who Planted Trees  by Jean Giono
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32.  A Voyage to Arcturus (Fantasy Masterworks)  by David Lindsay
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33.  Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy)  by C. S. Lewis
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34.  Lilith  by George MacDonald
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35.  Inferno (Modern Library Classics)  by Anthony M. Esolen
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36.  Promethea, Book 1  by Alan Moore
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37.  The Marriages between Zones Three, Four, and Five (Canopus in Argos--archives)  by Doris Lessing
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38.  The Pilgrim's Progress (Dover Thrift Editions)  by John Bunyan
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39.  Star Maker  by Olaf Stapledon
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40.  The Making of the Representative for Planet 8  by Doris Lessing
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41.  Gulliver of Mars (Ace SF Classic, F-296)  by Edwin L. Arnold
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42.  The Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs: a Princess of Mars; The Gods of Mars; The Warlord of Mars; Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1-4, Boxed set)  by Edgar Rice Burroughs
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43.  H. G. WELLS - THE TIME MACHINE  by H. G. WELLS
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44.  The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece  by Jonathan Harr
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46.  The Nature and Art of Workmanship  by David Pye
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47.  Holy Tradition of Working: Passages from the Writings of Eric Gill  by Eric Gill
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48.  Discovery, Invention, Research through the morphological approach  by Fritz Zwicky
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49.  Grunch of Giants [Deluxe Edition]  by Richard Buckminster Fuller
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50.  Natural Reality and Abstract Reality: An Essay in Trailogue Form (1919-1920)  by Piet Mondrian
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Must be a huge quantity of fake reviews--? 44 Jul 26, 2014
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Ayn Rand had Aspergers Syndrome. Discuss. 50 Apr 23, 2014
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expensive movie 4 Feb 8, 2014
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This book is very popular with financier types. 10 Dec 18, 2013
 
   

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wiredweird "wiredweird" (Earth, or somewhere nearby)
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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Last updated: 12/7/12
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