Friday, January 03, 2014

More books

I currently have books on the brain, so that's what you get here. Perhaps someone needs a new reading list for the new year and I'm actually doing a public service.

There was a meme on facebook going around asking people to list the top 10 books that you think about the most. I thought it was pretty interesting and enjoyed seeing other people's lists. I even though of participating myself, but quickly realized that there was no way I could just write a list without annotating it and 1200 word facebook statuses are generally frowned upon... and ignored.

So here's my list of the 10 fiction books which I find I myself thinking about; the books which leave traces of themselves in my mind long after I've closed the covers. They are not necessarily my favorite books, but the ones that have made me think the most. They were all good reads and I would recommend them all. I've also tried to be as honest as possible and not just pick the impressive heavyweights that I've read.

1. Middlemarch by George Eliot. I remember listening to an interview of a panel of authors who were asked to name the most influential book they had ever read. Nearly all of them named Middlemarch. Since I had never heard of the book at that point, it piqued my interest and so I picked it up. On the face of it, it is a story about the people who inhabit the Victorian town of Middlemarch. But there is something more than that, because it is one of those books that pop back to mind over and over again. It deserves its number one place, the rest are in no particular order.

2. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. Not only is this a book that has stuck with me, it is also one of my favorites. It is a huge, sweeping saga of a family in India. It is the kind of book where you get lost in it and feel a little bereft when it ends because it's like losing a friend. (Oh, and the author's last name is pronounced 'sate', to save you from potential embarrassment when you say it out loud. Learn from my mistakes.)

3. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. There are some books that are categorized as for children or for young adults that are just as important novels aimed at adults. In fact, there are quite a few which are much better written and have more to say than most current grown-up novels. This (and the three that follow) are some of those. I read this as a young girl and have routinely reread it as an adult. We should all face life as Anne does; the world would be a much happier place if we did.

4. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This is another beautiful children's book which all adults should read. No other book describes quite as well how the sin of selfishness disfigures us.

5. Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter. I've written plenty about Pollyanna before, so I don't need to do it again, do I? We'll just leave it at it's a shame that the book's reputation has nothing to do with the actual book. Read it if you haven't.

6. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. Yes, Salman Rushdie has written a book aimed at children/young adults... and it's wonderful. It is a fable about the source and ideas behind the stories we tell. I loved it so much I ended up slogging through Midnight's Children as a result.

7. Perelandra by C. S. Lewis. This is the second book of C. S. Lewis' space trilogy and the one that sticks with me the most. In it, Lewis deals with the idea of temptation, weakness, and evil.

8. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. It is not surprising to me that C. S. Lewis is the only author to have two books on my list. He has shaped my thinking considerably. If you are one of the few people who have never read this book, I humbly suggest you do so. The idea of looking at evil from evil's point of view is fascinating and illuminating.

9. Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. I know I just wrote about this book yesterday, but it doesn't make it to my list because I just read it. It makes it because it is so much more than a mystery book. In fact, the mystery is rather tangential to the whole story. The book is much more about the purpose and place of women, honor to ones ideals, and self-honesty. And it's just a good read.

10. The Man on a Donkey by H. F. M. Prescott. It was difficult to come up with the #10 book. Which book on the next tier of influence really made the cut. I decided it was this one. It is historical fiction set during the cleansings of the monasteries in England during Henry VIII's rule. This is a book I initially read out of guilt. I took many history classes in college, but not being an overly industrious student, there were many book which were assigned, but that I never finished. This was one of them. I had begun it, but just never gotten around to finishing it in the assigned period. Several years later, I decided to pick it up and let go of the guilt it caused every time I saw it on my shelf. And I'm glad I did. Probably I enjoyed it more then, than if I had just read it as assigned in college. (College really is wasted on young people, isn't it/) The book is well-written and tells an interesting story, all the while dealing with issues of faith and government.

There you have it... if you want it. I'm curious (and always on the look out for new books), what are one or two of the most influential books of fiction that you've read?
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Full disclosure: The links are through my Amazon Associates account. If you click through them and purchase something, the blog gets a small percentage of the total.

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