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#1
Old 04-13-2013, 09:58 PM
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The most profound books?

While there are plenty of John Grisham novels we can enjoy for their plot or enlightening biographies, I am looking for a fiction book that is as profound as they come. I've read Slaughterhouse-Five, 1984, Gatsby, all those fun high school novels, but I haven't reached out much more than that.
#2
Old 04-13-2013, 10:03 PM
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It probably depends on what you value in life. I find Proust plus profond but I'm a rambler and muller-overer. I also see a lot in Howard's End, The Bluest Eye, Life Of Pi, A Pattern Language, and The Golden Bough. Not that those are all my favorite books to be reading, but I find the most value in their lessons.

Last edited by Sattua; 04-13-2013 at 10:03 PM.
#3
Old 04-13-2013, 10:08 PM
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I'll say this for sure: I didn't really enjoy Life of Pi. I don't know what that means to you guys, but I just know I didn't enjoy it or his mulling over God stuff.

I also don't exactly love straight religious satire stuff. I haven't gotten into Cat's Cradle yet because most of the fake religion/making fun of religion satire thing is a lot of, "I get it already, religion is dumb." to me. If Cat's Cradle is way more profound than that, please let me know and I'll go pick it up.
#4
Old 04-13-2013, 10:10 PM
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I also loved The Stranger, Asimov's work, and Steinbeck's work. Man Who Folded Himself was cool, too. Don't know if any of this makes sense. Just trying to give you a picture of what I like, I guess.

Last edited by Oedipus; 04-13-2013 at 10:13 PM.
#5
Old 04-13-2013, 10:12 PM
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So you're only looking for profound books that you'd enjoy? If you want something really challenging, you may not enjoy it.
#6
Old 04-13-2013, 10:14 PM
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Well just go for it, man. Tell me something!
#7
Old 04-14-2013, 12:34 AM
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Here is a GoodReads link for "deep fiction" novels.

I've enjoyed the novels of Hermann Hesse. Steppenwolf and Siddhartha were my favorites.

Russian novels are excellent for depth. You can't do much better than Tolstoy's War and Peace and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. The first paints a broad portrait of the human condition and the second examines one messed-up human in incredible detail.
#8
Old 04-14-2013, 01:33 AM
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How about some Kafka? Check out The Trial.
#9
Old 04-14-2013, 01:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sefton View Post
Here is a GoodReads link for "deep fiction" novels.
Apparently deep is a relative term on that site. That list includes several "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books.
#10
Old 04-14-2013, 01:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oedipus View Post
I'll say this for sure: I didn't really enjoy Life of Pi. I don't know what that means to you guys, but I just know I didn't enjoy it or his mulling over God stuff.

I also don't exactly love straight religious satire stuff. I haven't gotten into Cat's Cradle yet because most of the fake religion/making fun of religion satire thing is a lot of, "I get it already, religion is dumb." to me. If Cat's Cradle is way more profound than that, please let me know and I'll go pick it up.
Cat's Cradle is scarcely about making fun of religion at all. I suppose it does do that, but the book is very far from being a one-dimensional satire of religion. I would recommend it. I think it is better than Slaughterhouse 5.

In general, though, one man's profound is going to be another's dumb and clichéd, and yet another's pretentious and/or incomprehensible. It depends on you much more than on the book. You just need to try stuff and see. After a bit you will get some sense of what you like, and can look into what is liked by other people who like the sort of stuff that you like.

That said, I am going to suggest Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; but is it right for you? Who knows. I am just guessing about where you might be at.
#11
Old 04-14-2013, 04:00 AM
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I'm not very literary, and don't know about "profound" but will opinionate anyway.

The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway and Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky are among my very favorites, yet I find many longer novels -- especially Dostoyevsky's -- too tedious.

I've read two novels by Martin Amis: Time's Arrow: or The Nature of the Offence many years ago and Money: A Suicide Note recently. Next time I'm in a bookstore I'm heading straight to Amis.

This list might be worth browsing, though I confess I disliked most of the listed books which I read.

Last edited by septimus; 04-14-2013 at 04:01 AM.
#12
Old 04-14-2013, 04:11 AM
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Contact by Carl Sagan
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"For me, it is better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."
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#13
Old 04-14-2013, 07:13 PM
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Jorge Luis Borges - any of his short stories (he doesn't have any novels, just short stories and some non-fiction).
#14
Old 04-14-2013, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by DeweyDecibel View Post
Jorge Luis Borges - any of his short stories (he doesn't have any novels, just short stories and some non-fiction).
What kind of stuff does he write about?
#15
Old 04-15-2013, 12:05 PM
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Borges writes a lot about the intersection of reality and fiction or reality and dreams/other things "unreal". One of his most famous stories is The Library of Babel which concerns a library with everything ever written and everything that ever could be written...but the works are uncataloged and essential unfindable. You can see the issues this would raise.

Anyway, I find his stuff profound in a kind of mind-bending way, but there are lots of different things people mean by profound. If you're at all interested, most of the stories are very short so if you read a couple and dislike them, you're not out the time it would take to read Proust or Joyce or Kant or something.

Last edited by DeweyDecibel; 04-15-2013 at 12:07 PM.
#16
Old 04-18-2013, 09:05 AM
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You might disagree with her ideas or dislike her style, but Ayn Rand does give you plenty to think about- Anthem, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged (I have not yet read We The Living).

C.S. Lewis- Till We Have Faces, a retelling of Psyche & Eros
That Hideous Strength- the 3rd in the Space Trilogy, it serves as a stand alone for me, may not for others
The Screwtape Letters & The Great Divorce- heavily Christian looks at the Demonic & the Afterlife
#17
Old 04-18-2013, 09:11 AM
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Brave New World?
#18
Old 04-18-2013, 09:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeweyDecibel View Post
Borges writes a lot about the intersection of reality and fiction or reality and dreams/other things "unreal". One of his most famous stories is The Library of Babel which concerns a library with everything ever written and everything that ever could be written...but the works are uncataloged and essential unfindable. You can see the issues this would raise.

Anyway, I find his stuff profound in a kind of mind-bending way, but there are lots of different things people mean by profound. If you're at all interested, most of the stories are very short so if you read a couple and dislike them, you're not out the time it would take to read Proust or Joyce or Kant or something.
I enjoy Borges. One of the oddest experiences of my life occured when I read a collection of his short stories, then went back and read the preface, which was some 20 pages long, that described his last days, his death, his funeral procession, etc. A few weeks later I turned on the TV and he was being interviewed on the impact of Argentina's literature in the U.S. I checked the book, and the preface was gone. It occured to me that this is just the kind of thing that Borges writes about, and that he'd enjoy it. He has since died, but I keep checking to make sure. (And, yes, I realize I must have imagined the preface.)
#19
Old 04-18-2013, 09:20 AM
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Ursula LeGuin - The Dispossessed or The Left Hand of Darkness.

My brother is a big fan of Montaigne.
#20
Old 04-18-2013, 09:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oedipus View Post
I also loved The Stranger, Asimov's work, and Steinbeck's work. Man Who Folded Himself was cool, too. Don't know if any of this makes sense. Just trying to give you a picture of what I like, I guess.
How old are you? No big deal; it just helps dial things in.

- Read Kafka's The Metamorphosis and also some of Borges' stories.
- If you are in your late teens or early 20's, try The Magus by John Fowles, the updated version. A guy graduates from college, not feeling great about himself, and ends up taking a teaching position on a small Greek island. There he encounters a weird set of things that lead him to believe he has become part of a big game being led by a rich man who lives on the island. Cool, weird and potentially profound things ensue. ETA: there is a "thriller" aspect of the mystery which makes it a fun read, but it really is about bigger questions in life.
- Also if you are in your late teens or early 20's, I strongly recommend The Red and the Black by Stendhal - a young man is trying to get out of his small French village but is trapped by expectations - it is set a couple of hundred years ago but will feel very familiar.

Finally, I would suggest Catch-22 - profoundly funny, but also a profoundly absurb look at war and the human condition.

Oh, and yeah, Montaigne isn't fiction - he wrote essays on stuff that was on his mind, which tended to ultimately morph into him writing about his mind and the human condition in general. Profound stuff, indeed.

My $.02

Last edited by WordMan; 04-18-2013 at 09:55 AM.
#21
Old 04-18-2013, 10:08 AM
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In terms of being easy to read, entertaining and though-provoking you can't go too far wrong with 1984, Animal Farm or any Pratchett (but especially mid-period city watch)
#22
Old 04-18-2013, 10:18 AM
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Here's a few I really enjoyed reading - books I think have 'profound' themes but, importantly, are also fun reads:

1. The Man Who Was Thursday by Chesterton;

2. The Master and Margarita by Bugalikov;

3. Invisible Cities and If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Calvino.

I also loved Borges' short stories, which have already been mentioned.

The former two deal with religious themes, but not in a cheap and easy way (I can say without spoiling anything that The Master and Margarita on its surface deals with the mayhem that ensues when Satan makes a personal appearance in Stalin's Russia, with hilarious and tragic consequences; there are subtexts at work, of course!).
#23
Old 04-18-2013, 10:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by septimus View Post
I've read two novels by Martin Amis: Time's Arrow: or The Nature of the Offence many years ago and Money: A Suicide Note recently. Next time I'm in a bookstore I'm heading straight to Amis.
I'm a big fan of Martin Amis. I think Money might be his best. Try The Information. That was really good too.
#24
Old 04-18-2013, 10:32 AM
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I thought as simple as Animal Farm is, it is still profound.
It is short and simple but The Razor's Edge stuck me as profound.
#25
Old 04-18-2013, 01:53 PM
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What about, I don't know, Brideshead Revisited or something like that that's about what makes people happy and how some people aren't happy and why?

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, mmm, no.
#26
Old 04-18-2013, 01:56 PM
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The Eden Express, perhaps? It's Mark Vonnegut's story of how he went insane and came back from insanity. Mark is the son of Kurt.
#27
Old 04-18-2013, 02:10 PM
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I agree with the Siddhartha suggestion, by Hesse. I would maybe add something by Camus - The Stranger or The Plague have a decent amount to think about, IMO, yet still work as stories.

Kafka is a solid suggestions as well.
#28
Old 04-18-2013, 02:22 PM
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Umberto Eco tends to be good for deep reads.

The Name of the Rose
Foucault's Pendulum
The Island of the Day Before

Last edited by Grey; 04-18-2013 at 02:23 PM.
#29
Old 04-18-2013, 02:36 PM
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The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
#30
Old 04-18-2013, 02:43 PM
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If you like Steinbeck, there's lots of stuff he wrote they don't assign in high school. Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, Cannery Row, Wayward Bus...

And you might well like Hemingway too - For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms are usually not high school fare either.

Crime and Punishment can be life-changing, and is the most accessible of Dostoevsky's works that I've read.

Is Dickens profound? I don't know what you mean by profound.

Willa Cather's stuff moves me, and reminds me of Steinbeck in being very American, very unaffected prose. My Antonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop are my favorites.
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Old 04-18-2013, 02:50 PM
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Just checked my goodreads favorites shelf.

Tove Jansson's The Summer Book is short, simple and profound.

All Quiet on the Western Front. Profound. Easily digestable.

Middlemarch by George Eliot. Long as shit, but profound.

Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera - hot, sexy, profound.

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

Last edited by bup; 04-18-2013 at 02:52 PM.
#32
Old 04-18-2013, 03:18 PM
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The Art of War by Sun Tzu
The Republic by Plato
Common Sense by Thomas Paine
The Grapes Of Wrath
by John Steinbeck
Cosmos by Carl Sagan
Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter
Synergetics by Buckminster Fuller
Aesop's Fables
#33
Old 04-18-2013, 03:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sefton View Post
Here is a GoodReads link for "deep fiction" novels.

I've enjoyed the novels of Hermann Hesse. Steppenwolf and Siddhartha were my favorites.

Russian novels are excellent for depth. You can't do much better than Tolstoy's War and Peace and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. The first paints a broad portrait of the human condition and the second examines one messed-up human in incredible detail.
+1
#34
Old 04-18-2013, 03:32 PM
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How about Gilead? It's about aging, religion, fathers and sons...
#35
Old 04-18-2013, 03:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bup View Post

Willa Cather's stuff moves me, and reminds me of Steinbeck in being very American, very unaffected prose. My Antonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop are my favorites.
Seconded, and will add O Pioneers!. I've never thought of her work as profound, but in retrospect it has affected my very deeply.

Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind may fit here, too. One may call it profound in its simplicity.
#36
Old 04-18-2013, 03:41 PM
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Second vote for Catch 22 and Dostoevsky, although the one I liked was Brothers Karamazov. I've recently been reading a lot of Pratchett, which was suggested up thread. There's a fair bit of earthy wisdom thrown around as satire, but I'll bet even he would never want "profound" used to describe his books.

Last edited by bldysabba; 04-18-2013 at 03:42 PM.
#37
Old 04-18-2013, 03:52 PM
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Seconded, and will add O Pioneers!. I've never thought of her work as profound, but in retrospect it has affected my very deeply.
And The Professor's House.
Willa rocks.
#38
Old 04-18-2013, 04:09 PM
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Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon - about family, identity, crime, the Internet, love, vengeance, and the lies too many tell even their loved ones. Good stuff.
#39
Old 04-20-2013, 01:23 AM
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Another Kurt Vonnegut suggestion: Galapagos. Took my breath away.

Pretty Birds by Mark Simon captured the War of the Balkans quite movingly. It shifts with the seventeen year old protagonist who is a high school student one month, a sniper the next.

The movie Children of Men was done really well, but the book by P.D. James is also worth reading. It gives a fascinating insight to what a world without children would be like.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sachs. Sachs writes about patients with mental anomalies; the title refers to a man who has no ability to recognize faces. Sachs suggests to his wife that she wear a piece of clothing (like a hat) so he can recognize her.
#40
Old 04-20-2013, 01:38 AM
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Voltaire's Candide. A very short, quite hilarious, incredibly biting satire written as a response to the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, and as a criticism of Leibniz's then quite popular idea that despite all the apparent evils of the world, this is the best of all possible ones. If you're not already familiar with it, read the bit of its wiki on its historical background before you start on the novella proper for an enhanced experience.
#41
Old 04-20-2013, 02:01 AM
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Voltaire's Candide. A very short, quite hilarious, incredibly biting satire written as a response to the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, and as a criticism of Leibniz's then quite popular idea that despite all the apparent evils of the world, this is the best of all possible ones. If you're not already familiar with it, read the bit of its wiki on its historical background before you start on the novella proper for an enhanced experience.
"O che sciagura d'essere senza colgioni!"

("Oh, what a misfortune to be without testicles!")
#42
Old 04-20-2013, 02:10 AM
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Gosh, I LOVE that I have read most of the books people have mentioned. It's been a bad day and reading this made me a little happy, so yay for me.
Profound?! Off the top of my head - Dostoevsky - Crime and Punishment, Tolstoy - Anna Karinina (one of those classics I just never seemed to get around to until my 40's), Kurt Vonnegut - anything and everything, read them all in my late teens/early twenties, have re-read them all every decade or so since then... life-changing, for me. Galapagos, Cat's Cradle and Bluebeard would be my first recommendations.

Never liked much of Hesse or Dickens, enjoyed Willa Cather, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Kafka and Austen. Only recently read the "Chronicles of Narnia" because my 3rd grader started the series, and really enjoyed them, for the most part, until the very end. (a bit too much woo and religion for me)

Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck
Lolita, Nabokov - SO not what I was expecting and does NOT support the common usage of the term "Lolita" to describe a sexual, enticing young girl! We hear that term often, but I wonder how many have actually read the book... the poor girl was groomed, abused, raped, used and basically held captive! So profound, worth reading, and left me in awe to know that English was not his first language!

I tend to like authors rather than books. If I like the way the person writes, I will like most of their books/novels, regardless of subject. More modern authors: John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, esp. "Poisonwood Bible."
#43
Old 04-20-2013, 03:24 AM
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"O che sciagura d'essere senza colgioni!"

("Oh, what a misfortune to be without testicles!")
The great-granddaddy of all rape jokes. Far more nuanced than Daniel Tosh.
#44
Old 04-20-2013, 11:56 AM
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I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Ishmael yet.
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