Posted by: Jeanie F | May 5, 2010

Ten Best Books

Let me start by saying that this list is a lie. It’s impossible to identify the ten best books. I might be able to come up with a “ten best” in categories –

  • The 10 best Victorian novels
  • The 10 best political satires
  • The 10 best Jane Austen novels (a good trick as Susi, from The Book Affair Blog, correctly points out –  there are only seven)
  • The 10 best to read when you’re sick, etc.

Still, I decided to try to identify a generic list of those books that have fit this criteria:

  1. I never wanted the book to end;
  2. I’ve thought about it often ever since;
  3. The elements fit together in a new or profound way;
  4. I wanted to go back and begin rereading the minute I finished;
  5. It struck a deep emotional chord – maybe happy, maybe tragic, maybe outraged – but definitely deep.

Here’s my first cut at it:

#10 

City of Thieves by David Benioff

#9  

Blindness by José Saramago

#8  AND

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner and Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (really, almost any title by these two authors)

#7 

The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle

#6

The Known World by Edward P Jones

#5

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

#4

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

#3  AND

The Angle of Repose  and Crossing to Safety, both by Wallace Stegner

#2  AND

Beloved and A Mercy, both by Toni Morrison

AND . . . the #1 best book I’ve ever read

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

I look at this list and immediately think of all the books that could fit here as easily as many that are listed. With the exception of City of Thieves and A Mercy, all are books I read for the first time AT LEAST five years ago and have stayed with me over time. If I wrote this list tomorrow – or next year – I think I would still want each of them on it.


Responses

  1. While I fully agree that it is impossible to list the 10 best of any books, I had to chuckles at your “10 Best Jane Austen Novels” as she only completed 6 and started on a 7th. I guess her list would be easy.

    While I agree with many on your list, I had real problems with Blindness. I guess the translation was a little off for me. I am currently reading through the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and I know that Saramago is listed. Maybe I’ll give Blindness another chance.

    Roseann

    • See, that’s just what I need – lists that are complete at 6 or 7! It would be so much easier for me. LOL!

      Blindness is on this list because it was such a strong and devastating novel that I’ve thought about it over and over again. It was a tough read – so cruel and bleak. Also, such a strange and unique concept. However, you have to careful about who you recommend it to!!

  2. I completely agree with Beloved. To my shame I have to say that it’s the only book on your list that I’ve actually read. But seeing as those are classified as your best reads, I will certainly check them out now. 🙂
    And I know what you mean about the list being a lie. Making lists like that is so difficult. There will always be books afterwards that you want to add to it.

  3. Susi, wasn’t Beloved great? A Mercy is just as good. I could really put all of Toni Morrison on this list – Sula? The Bluest Eye? Song of Solomon? The only one that I had mixed feelings about was Paradise. I liked it, but not as much as the others.

    I can’t recommend A Fine Balance strongly enough. It’s a big book – I think over 600 pages – but SO worth the time.

  4. Weirdly, I didn’t enjoy A Mercy. :S

    I do agree with A Fine Balance though. Loved the book to bits.

  5. Isn’t it fun to look at what people love/don’t love in book lists? I LOVED “A Fine Balance”, which could be #1 on my list too, but I could not do “Beloved” at all! I am a huge TC Boyle and Faulkner fan as well. But I did not like “Cry Beloved Country”, (although I did get emotional in the end I had a hard time keeping focused during the story) –
    I also peaked at your worst books of all time, and I actually did like some of those when I read them too. Oh well, discerning tastes are the spice of life!


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