Friday, January 16, 2009


My writers' group has decided to trade favorite/recommended book lists. We're going with top ten. I'm still working on making mine. I want it to be both representative and accurate. Which is tough, since I'd probably put 3 Dostoevsky books (Crime & Punishment, Brother's Karamazov, and Demons) in the top ten, but that would make the list far less representative of what I read and the books I consider great.

This prompts me to ask the, extremely straightforward question:

What are your top ten books? You can make the list however you want. And I promise not to judge too harshly, but listing Harry Potter will earn you a demerit (as will listing any series as if it were a single book, so two demerits if you list "Harry Potter").

It's based on a novel by a man named Lear


Mike said...

Let's see... off the top of my head, in no particular order:

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Slaughterhouse-Five; or, the Children's Crusade by Kurt Vonnegut
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins
The World According to Garp by John Irving
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Skipped Parts by Tim Sandlin
Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons by Bill Watterson

I'm not sure if all of those are definite members of my Top Ten, but it's a decent representative sample if not necessarily accurate. I'd have to think on 't a lot more to give a fully realized list.

The only Dostoevsky I've read is Crime and Punishment, which I agree is excellent.

Also, while I've never read any Harry Potter, and don't doubt that it's not exactly great literature, I must admit I enjoy the movies and see absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Quinn said...

Rough list, without consulting my library at home:

1.The Nick Adams Stories, Ernest Hemingway
2.Lamb, Christopher Moore
3.Catch-22, Joseph Heller
4.The Winner, David Baldacci
5.Season of Life: A football Star, a Ballboy, a Journey to Manhood, Jeffrey Marx
6.Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
7.The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster
8.Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
9.Monsignor Quixote, Graham Greene
10.The Holcroft Covenant, Robert Ludlum

Very representative of the kind of stuff I read and love to read, more importantly. Numbers 1 and 7 are collections of short stories, but published together; put to the task, I can easily call out one story in each that is my favorite.

And yes, I like the Harry Potter movies, too. Have yet to crack one of the books, though.

Ben said...

There aren't want I'd call the best books I've read, just a representative sample of books that have impacted my life.

1. Crime and Punishment
2. John Adams by David McCullough
3. The entire Chronicles of Narnia series (I see them as a unit and I defy - DEFY, I tell you - your system of demerits)
4. Scientific Progress Goes "Boink" by Bill Watterson
5. Catch-22
6. Wuthering Heights
7. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
8. Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys
9. The Reason for God by Tim Keller (reading it right now and LOVING it)
10. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.

We're talking books, right? B/c if we included Shakespeare, he'd probably be, like, 8 of my top 10.

"It's 1,000 pages, give or take a few"

Matthew B. Novak said...

Defy away Ben, that's still a demerit.

All - HP movies = fun popcorn flicks. No condemnation here.

Mike said...

Quinn - good call on Lamb. That book was great.

Ben - be honest, you totally got the Bill Watterson idea from me. I almost put Scientific Progress instead, but to me the duplicator-plus-ethicator storyline was just fantastic. Also, is it amazing that I, an English minor, never read Wuthering Heights?

Matt - one series in which your demerit system might be somewhat invalid is The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as Tolkien originally conceived of it as one book.

Ben said...

Mike - yes, I got the Bill Watterson idea from you. It's still true, though.

Matt - as you can see, your puny demerits have accomplished nothing. Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

Jacob said...

I don't read a lot of fiction and my books are all in boxes right now, but some of the best I read in the past 7-8 years:

The Great Gatsby
This Earth of Mankind
A River Runs Through It
A Summons to Memphis
The Magic Mountain
Ender's Game
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
The Pleasure of My Company

R.W.McGee said...

Disclaimer: I am an English major, and I have read Dostoevsky, Vonnegut, Chaucer, Melville, Salinger, Hemingway, Ayn Rand, et al. None of them will make my list.

I recognize the classics as being just that, classics. And while I can appreciate most of them in the same way I appreciate a Black and White Kurosawa film...I think contemporary books often have a lot more to offer in terms of what they say about the current state of the world, in their ability to connect with the reader, and frankly, in terms of style. Writing, like most creative pursuits has evolved. There are some exceptions to this rule on my list...and several series. Demerit away.

1. Otherland by Tad Williams (series)
2. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
3. Othello by Shakespeare
4. The Stand by Stephen King
5. The Iliad by Homer
6. The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov
7. Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (collection)
8. A History of the English Speaking People by Winston Churchill
9. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin (series)
10. The Hobbit by Tolkien

Honorable mention to Dune (only the first three) and The Life of Pi.

And yes, Bill Watterson is a genius.

Barzelay said...

Here are 11, off the top of my head. I've included multiple series, because that's what Jesus would do.

Catch 22, Joseph Conrad
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L'Engle
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Sandman, Neil Gaiman
Flickering Shadows, Kwadwo Agymah Kamau
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri

Nate said...

1. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
2. Hyperion
3. The Sirens of Titan
4. Ishmael
5. Enders Game
6. The Cider House Rules
7. The Source
8. Startide Rising
9. A deepness in the Sky
10. The Sparrow
11. Dune

This list is pretty representative of my reading, though I had to grit my teeth to put it up, because it leaves out so much.