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?
6 thoughts on “What are your favourite books?”
I have read three of those books – Lolita, Kevin and The Poisonwood Bible – and I have Olive Kitteridge on my TBR. I would be interested to read The virgin suicides. I did like his Middlesex. I’ve liked all those books on your list that I’ve read, but I’m not sure they’d be in my Top Ten. But, what would I have? I’m a wuss, and won’t say, but I will stick one toe in the water and say that I would probably have Rohinton Mistry’s A fine balance. And, I’d have to say Jane Austen too but which one? Perhaps The complete works! Haha.
I look forward to seeing you second 5.
I also loved Middlesex. I must read more of his books. A FIne Balance is also wonderful. It is one of those books I often think about even though it is probably 10 years or more since I read it.
Such a hard choice but I too loved ‘Olive Kitteridge’, ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ and ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’. I haven’t read ‘The Virgin Suicides’ but really liked ‘Middlesex’. I too would have ‘A Fine Balance’ in my top ten along with Kate Grenville’s ‘Lilian’s Story’ and Anne Tyler’s ‘Earthly Possessions.’
This post might have been a bad idea as I am adding too many books to my want to read list. Earthly Possessions sounds good. It was published in 197 so it must be good if people are still reading it! I am not sure why I have not got to Lillian’s Story.
There is a lot of US content on your list! I look forward to part 2. What about some Aussie talent – Tim Winton, Helen Garner, David Malouf? Or the Brits – Ian McEwan, Iris Murdoch? It is just too hard to do, for me anyway. What about a top 100? Flo
I know! Especially considering the number of Australian books I read. I haven’t settled on the next 5 yet but there are Australians, Canadians and an Irishman under consideration. A top 20 maybe?