What are your best all time most favourite books? It’s hard to choose, right? There are a lot to choose from but it is also a moving feast. If I commit to a top 10 and then find another sweet love which one to do I throw off of the list?
So, as of June 2017, this is my top ten (in two parts with part two to come). Unless there is something I forgot. Or there is something new on my bedside that I start next week.
The first five in no particular order (because I am not so insane that I would try and rank them!)
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
I finished this book and immediately turned to the front page and started reading it again. I have never done that before or since. I was part way through the book before I realised each chapter was a perfect short story and yet someone this is also a novel. It is possible to read it and not know you are reading a collection of short stories. Getting to know Olive is like getting to know a real person who lives in your neighbourhood.
Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most likely not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
There is no doubt this is a contentious book. It is not for everyone. The sheer audacity of writing a book from the point of view of a man who likes little girls stuns me. It is uncomfortable to be in his head. He is deluded and damaging but somehow I become immersed. It is so very very beautifully written.
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides
The first person plural narration of the book is unique. “We” are the neighbourhood boys but “we” are also the readers, the voyeurs who lap up tragedy and drama. This is as much about the degeneration of society as is about the sisters and the boys who watch them.
We had loved them, and that they hadn’t heard us calling, still do not hear us… calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.
We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
What is great about this book is its unreliable narrator. Kevin’s mother sees the chilling violent Kevin through a mother’s eyes. The book deftly leaves the nature vs nurture debate unanswered. The Pocket Book Club is still talking about Kevin.
I thought at the time that I couldn’t be horrified anymore, or wounded. I suppose that’s a common conceit, that you’ve already been so damaged that damage itself, in its totality, makes you safe.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
I have this book on audio and listening to it read is beautiful. Each of the characters is written with a distinctive voice and each is read differently. The meeting of cultures and beliefs and the resulting misunderstandings with sprinkles of magic – just lovely. Everyone I meet who has read this book gasps with love when it is mentioned.
Oh, mercy. If it catches you in the wrong frame of mind, the King James Bible can make you want to drink poison in no uncertain terms.
I will have a think about the next five and post them in a week or two. I know Yann Martel is on there but I can’t decide which one.
Any of these on your list? Do you hate one of these books that I love?