Tuesday, March 23, 2010

top ten books


Ten of my top favorite books:

1. Peace Like a River, Leif Enger: I was not expecting this to be so exquisite. I loved it; it caught me off guard, which made it that much more memorable.

2. A Separate Peace, John Knowles: I have always loved this book.

3. Beloved: my first Toni Morrison and it changed my fiction landscape.

4. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving: Another one that I didn't know what I was getting into and could hardly stop reading or breath I loved it so much. There was a perfectly awful movie adaptation that didn't even come close to doing this book justice.

5. Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton: The hills were beautiful beyond all singing of them. Someday you will speak Zulu in the dark. OK, I did the quotes from memory so they may not be exact but again, exquisite. It fueled my thirst for great writing.

6. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston. [My mother] said I would grow up a wife and a slave, but she taught me the song of the warrior woman.

7. Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott. I probably will lose my fundy cred for reading this, but c'mon. She puts her prayer requests (I don't think she calls them that; things she wants to ask God or wants God to do) in a box and then waits for operating instructions. How many times could I benefit from giving it to God and then carrying on until He shows me what to do next? And the "chosen and loved" part. Loved it.

8. The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Melissa Bank. I remember picking up this book in a bookstore and this poem was on the first page. Which of course is one of the best poems ever and it's a villanelle. So, the book had to be fantastic for the author to have chosen that as the introduction/prologue (if it was on a shelf I'd just go get it and see if it's labeled in any way but all my books are [sadly] in boxes in the basement or Kate's room and my bookshelves repurposed for toys or crafts. Yes. This is a sadness in my life, that these books are not right here for me to look and and pick up at will. But they will. Someday. Be out of those boxes.) and it was. I would say, also, that this was my introduction to chick lit (not cheesy, throwaway, ridiculous stories with titles like "Beverly Hills Babes" or "Getting Married" but the idea of chick lit as smart, clever, interesting women navigating life with intellect and humor; that is what The Girls' Guide gave me. Plus I was single and had many failed relationships and had tried The Rules, so I felt close to the protagonist.

9. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson: This was a Pulitzer Prize winner and recommended by Craig's cousin, either of which alone would recommend a book; this one is unbelievably amazing. As was Home, and also Housekeeping. But Gilead started me on the path to those.

10. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro. Quietly moving & exquisite. Amazing. I couldn't find the movie on demand or . . . did I look anywhere else? I would like to see the movie with Anthony Hopkins. I picked it up at a used bookstore (so fun, those places) because someone had put it on their "top 15 books" list on facebook. I probably wouldn't have selected it otherwise, but am so glad I did.

So, I put a lot of effort into this post (on Sunday) and then realized I forgot one of my favorite books of all time: Special Topics in Calamity Physics. It was unbeliveable. The one person I found who had also read it claimed she didn't remember it. I almost keeled over, I was so anxious to discuss it with someone. Great story, great writing, great voice of the protagonist, great twist.

Now. Head over to ohamanda and check out other top tens of the week.


  1. I've read a LOT of books, but never read any on your list. I'll have to keep my eyes open for them - thanks for sharing!

  2. I haven't read all of these yet. You introduced me to many of them, Separate Peace, Women Warrior, and the Girl's Guide. Which by the way, is on my book shelf. I think you gave it to me. I will have to mail it to you. :)

  3. Oh wow. I feel like a complete moron since I've only heard of half of these and NOT read the other half!! But really, they ALL sound exquisite!


  4. A Prayer for Owen Meany...one of my absolute favorites! SO GREAT!

  5. We read "Peace Like a River" in my book club and it surprised us all! I remember reading "A Separate Peace" in high school. Only remember that I loved it. Not the plot. Will have to bring that one up at book club.
    I haven't read most of the others. Heading over to Paperbackswap now!
    Thanks for the great list.

  6. I'm embarrassed to say the only one I've read is The Girl's Guide...I have some reading to do!

  7. Wow, you like, sound, like, "smaht" with this book list. I would have never guessed you were a school teacher!;o)
    I'll admit I haven't read ONE of these. I've been told I should read Toni Morrison and John Irving and haven't read either. I should make it a point to read at least one piece of smart literature a year.LOL.
    This is a good list to start with. I'm such a thriller lover it's hard for me to read anything else. Unless it's Nicholas Sparks, or funny chick lit like " The Nanny Diaries" or "Momzillas".
    But, you know, I have to fit that in between blogging, the Twilight series, James Patterson, The Stephanie Plum series and Fancy Nancy.
    Just sayin'.