The list I’ve been waiting for arrived on my Facebook page today.
One of the most important goals of retirement living was supposed to be to give myself time for reading. When Book Riot posted their poll on Facebook, I was quick to vote for my fave five. Happily, they are all here, plus some others I had totally forgotten about. I’m going to group them in order to make them easier to discuss. I’ve denoted in red the ones I have not read. That does not mean I liked all the other ones; some of them I read under duress. 🙂 So let’s get started…
1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (126 votes)
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Of these five fabulous classics, I vote for The Great Gatsby. While I love J.K. Rowling and what she’s done for a whole generation of young readers, I’m not sure that I would put Harry Potter in the same grouping as these other four amazing classics. And, although I love, love, love Mockingbird, I question whether this poll is heavily weighted on the side of younger people for whom Atticus Finch was a life-changing character.
6. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien
7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
I tried to like Tolkien; I really did. He’s just not my cup of fantasy tea. In this section is my personal number one, Gone With the Wind, but I don’t think I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye. How did that happen? Just in case you didn’t catch it, GWTW allusions are so ubiquitous that Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy used Scarlett’s red dress, Rhett’s cravat, and the escape-from-burning-Atlanta wagon on Dancing With the Stars.
11. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
12. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
13. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
14. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
15. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Okay, now we’re getting down to cult classics. Marquez I like, but I’ve never even heard of The Secret History. Apparently I’ve been living under a rock for the last eight years, as it is a highly regarded “modern classic.” I’m putting it on my TBR list.
16. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
17. The Stand by Stephen King
18. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
19. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
20. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
This group has some great authors, but given that I’m currently working through Anna Karenina and eagerly awaiting the November 16 release of the movie starring Keira Knightley, I’ll give Tolstoy the nod here. I’m also putting Infinite Jest on my TBR list.
21. Persuasion by Jane Austen
22. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
23. The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
24. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
25. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
To put these authors together in a group is kind of laughable, especially comparing Diana Gabaldon to Dostoevsky. That being said, I devoured all of the Outlander books with a spectacular guilty pleasure!
26. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
27. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
28. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
29. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
30. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
While I haven’t read all of this section, I have to give props to my literary hero, Ray Bradbury. He knew where our society was heading when he wrote F451 in 1953. If you have not read F451, it should be on your Must Read list. But then, so should Persuasion.
31. 1984 by George Orwell
32. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
33. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
34. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
35. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I did pretty well in this section. Obviously, Little Women was one of my five votes; I’ve loved Louisa May Alcott since I was a child. I still shudder to think of the graduate class on American Renaissance authors in which I was forced to read Moby Dick. Thank goodness, Melville was punctuated by Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne who made me fall in love with this time period of American literature.
36. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
38. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
39. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
40. Ulysses by James Joyce
This is another interesting group to compare. Considering that I have a complete set of du Maurier’s novels with their original bookjackets still on them, you probably know what my choice would be here. But how does one compare Douglas Adams to James Joyce, or to Nabokov, for that matter? It’s all a matter of taste and interest level.
41. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
42. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
43. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
44. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
45. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Considering that I’ve only read two of these, I don’t know how to rate them, but Middlesex was one of the more interesting books I’ve read in a while. I know, I know; I have to read the two that are currently out in the movie theaters.
46. Dune by Frank Herbert
47. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
48. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
49. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
50. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (13 votes)
And that brings me to the last group. Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 and is historical fiction in the same ilk as Les Miserables, although it’s set during a different war. The Poisonwood Bible is also an epic novel with a complex plot. The other two are both mystical even though they were written many years apart and each is an extraordinary book in its own right. My final vote is for Les Mis and I’ve included the movie poster just in case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know that there’s a blockbuster movie coming out on Christmas Day in the United States.
Now it’s your turn. What are your top five novels? Did the Book Riot readers get it right?
P.S. I still love every little thing Jane Austen ever wrote. 🙂
I’ve been reading up a storm during these first days of retirement.
In fact, I’ve gotten so many books from the library that I sometimes have to take them back and get in the queue again, with Bring Up the Bodies being a good example of this. Thank goodness a blogger announced that Bodies won the Booker Prize, because I rushed to get a copy from the library before the storm began. I’ve also “thought about” reading some classics, and I really do want to read Anna Karenina before the movie comes out. I never actually picked that one up when I got to the top of the library list. 🙂
Geoff Whaley, one of my blogging friends, talked about reading the classics, and this quote from his post really hit home with me.
I find it awesome that I’m reading books and authors who have inspired countless other authors, musicians and artists to create even more literature and art. The number of books I’ve read which have allusions to or direct references to older classics is staggering and the more I read the classics the more often I find these allusions and references or question whether an author/artist did do this.
Last night on Facebook after the debates, another friend quoted the line from The American President, where Michael Douglas tells Richard Dreyfus, “I AM the president”, which is one of the best movie lines of all time. I worry about the future of classic books and movies — will people “get” literature and film fully without understanding the allusions? I saw this in my classroom; many times I would quote a line from a movie or a book and the kids would look at me with blank stares. They had no idea what I (or the author we were studying) was referring to. It made me feel old, but it also made me sad for them. Do you remember this scene?
Am I the only one who cares about this?
The Men I Didn’t Marry (2007) by Janice Kaplan and Lynn Schnurnberger
After being summarily dumped by her husband of 21 years, Hallie first falls into a depression. Then she decides to get back in touch with four former boyfriends to see what she missed when she chose the one who turned out to be a womanizer and a cheat. Although filled with typical chick-lit cliches, the novel moves quickly through Hallie’s soul-searching. It’s your basic beach read, but fun for a quick look at a story about a woman who successfully navigates through a separation and emerges whole. 3/5 Stars
The Lion in Winter (1968) starring Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole
When Terri suggested that I add The Lion in Winter to my English costume drama queue, I put it in the back of my mind, but didn’t rush out to get it from the library, as I had seen it before in an earlier life. Then one day I just felt like some Hepburn/O’Toole melodrama — and oh, was I rewarded! Telling a highly fictionalized version of a 12th century Christmas season when Henry II and his imprisoned queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, get together to decide which of their three sons will succeed Henry as the next king of England (That’s the Cliff Notes version). Apparently they were the poster children for the ultimate dysfunctional family, since they plot and scheme against each other for two hours. And did I mention that Henry II had a live-in mistress that he wanted to marry? In a tie with Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl, Katherine Hepburn received her third Best Actor in a Leading Role award. Although she was fabulous, I had forgotten that this movie had all that 61-year-old Hepburn shakin’ goin’ on — loved her, but it was distracting. A reviewer on Amazon recommends reading Alison Weir’s Eleanor of Aquitaine as a companion piece to this movie, and I will do that. 4/5 Stars for eating up the scenery.
Innocent (2011) by Scott Turow
I’ve been waiting patiently for Melinda to give me this book because I absolutely loved Turow’s first book about Rusty Sabich, Presumed Innocent. In Innocent (the sequel), Rusty is again accused of a murder which the reader is pretty sure he didn’t commit. I love how Scott Turow once again creates a complex and nuanced new plot with visits from old friends Tommy Molto and Sandy Stern and new characters in Rusty’s grown son Nathan and eager young lawyer Anna. Told in a flashback/flashforward narrative style with changes in perspective, Turows also fleshes out Rusty’s wife Barbara and what happened to their marriage after his trial for murder in Presumed. I do think you’d like Innocent better if you also read Presumed Innocent, but there’s enough restatement to live without it — or you could watch the movie. Just to remind myself how wonderful Presumed Innocent was and to refresh my memory, I got the movie from the library and watched it. It was as good as I remembered with Harrison Ford managing to convince us that his bumbling treatment of the murder case proved his innocence.
My only problem with Turow’s portrayal of Rusty Sabich in Innocent is that he should have learned something about the law and about human nature in the twenty years since Presumed Innocent, but he still seems silly and self-destructive. Just for that I give it 4.5/5 Stars.
Like Water for Chocolate (1995) by Laura Esquivel
I went to a presentation at the library about great food scenes in movies, and Like Water for Chocolate (1992) was a recommended movie. I had read the book years ago, but didn’t remember much about it, so I got both the book and the movie out of the library. Now I know why I didn’t remember it — I hated the female character and the sexist cultural traps in which the author puts her. Apparently I’m in the minority, because the book is highly rated and the movie won a whole bunch of international awards. Each chapter begins with a recipe, and the movie uses food-based mysticism to drive the plot. As a debut novel, Like Water for Chocolate was intriguing but not my favorite of the week. 2/5 Stars
Starting from the top of my To Be Read Stack:
The Help — somehow I managed to get through this year without seeing the movie. I’ve read the book twice, and I’m pretty excited about sitting down with Music Man sometime this weekend to catch up with pop culture.
A Year of Wonders — I’ve read several of Geraldine Brooks’s novels and loved them. Looking forward to this one.
The Virgin of Small Plains: A Novel — Our library has book club books grouped together on a dedicated shelf, and I try to read these prior to our annual book choice meeting in December. This one looks interesting, but I’m a little concerned about the reviews that say it’s easy to figure out the mystery. I hope other plot elements keep me reading.
The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island — Linda Greenlaw’s memoir went on my list at the hair salon. It was recommended in one of the tawdry magazines we all read in secret while waiting for our hair to become amazing, and I thought it was interesting that Greenlaw was one of the characters in the movie The Perfect Storm. I love memoirs, so this should be good.
Middlesex — Our book club read this, but I didn’t get around to it for some reason. It’s time.
The Weird Sisters — The reviewers say this book has “voice.” Bring it on.
Sushi for Beginners — Another hair salon choice. We’ll see.
Stay Close — I have read everything Harlan Coben has written, so I grabbed this new entry. Unfortunately, it seems to have bad reviews. It’s a good thing I have lots of other things to read just in case.
Enjoy your holiday and the upcoming weekend. I’ve got lots to do! What do you want to read?