Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1962)
Miniature literary mindwarps from the world’s most famous blind librarian, a writer – like Kafka – whose work, once encountered, adds a new adjective to the mental lexicon. Unforgettable stuff, after which mazes and mirrors will never be the same again. Often beloved of the kind of person who agrees with its author that “there is a kind of lazy pleasure in useless and out-of-the-way erudition”, and none the worse for that.
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino (1979)
A book composed of the first chapters from other invented books. Either a classic work of literary snakes and ladders or a tiresomely recursive bit of postmodern sterility depending on your interlocutor. Italo Calvino was arguably better elsewhere.
Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R Hofstadter (1979)
About what it means to think, and how that happens, this is written in the spirit of Lewis Carroll. Pattern recognition in the work of geniuses. Loved by maths geeks and anybody with Asperger’s syndrome and anyone with sense. But at root a chess textbook.
Taken from The Times, from a list of the top 50 cult books of all time.