Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

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Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by let it ride » Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:39 am

From talk in other threads, and my own liking for them, I thought it'd be nice to share some favourite books! Most people seem to agree on that lists such as The Guardian's Top 100 books are a bit stupid and impersonal anyway.
Things to consider:
1. These lists, Top 10 or Top 5 depending on what you feel like, can be altered at any point, so don't feel panicky.
2. These are here to give tips to others on books that you have liked and enjoyed, and the more random, the better! It doesn't have to be cool or anything.
3. It's not about books you are meant to love or loathe. It's just personal opinion, which is fun!

I'll have to mull my list over a bit today, and have a think. I'll be back!
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Anorak's Top 100 Books

Post by Carys » Tue Jun 17, 2008 12:43 pm

Can we compile Anorak's Top 100 books? I'll wager we've got better taste than The Guardian, yo.

Here's some of my favourites - I wonder if any Anoraks share the same?

Stephen Fry - The Liar
Paul Auster - The Book of Illusions
Michael Chabon - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Jonathan Safran Foer - Everything is Illuminated
Dave Eggers - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Siri Hustvedt - What I loved
DBC Pierre - Vernon God Little
George Orwell - 1984
William Maxwell - The Folded Leaf
J.P. Donleavy - The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B
Raymond Carver - What we talk about when we talk about love
Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar
Tim O'Brien - The Things They Carried
Edith Wharton - The House of Mirth
Orson Scott Card - The Ender Saga
Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse 5
B S Johnson - Christie Malary's Own Double Entry
Iain Banks - The Wasp Factory
Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Hunter S Thompson - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Ken Kesey - One flew over the cuckoo's nest
Woody Allen - Complete Prose
Andrey Kurkov - Death and the Penguin
Nathanael West - Miss Lonelyhearts
Michael Cunningham - Flesh and Blood
P.G. Wodehouse - Carry on, Jeeves
Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Charles Bukowski - Women
Douglas Adams - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Jeffrey Eugenides - Middlesex
Percival Everett - Erasure
Jonathan Lethem - The Fortress of Solitude

Guilty secrets - very few of my favourite books are written by women, and they're almost all American or English.

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by Carys » Tue Jun 17, 2008 12:45 pm

Oh no! I just made more or less the same thread! Can we delete mine?

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by grumpytimes » Tue Jun 17, 2008 12:52 pm

so these are the first 5 that came to mind. i'm sure i'll reject them in 20min time

Janet Frame - To The Is-Land, An Angle At My Table, Envoy To Mirror City

So this is the autobiography of New Zealand's most famous novelist. I only finished it recently I was amazed; the first volume captures childhood better than I thought was possible.

Frank Sargeson - Collected Stories

This collection is probably what got me into books. Another NZ writer and the first to try to capture the NZ language and 'speak for ourselves'.

C.K. Stead - All Visitors Ashore

I promise I do read books by non-NZ authors but I love this one too. It captures the feeling of being trapped on the other side of the world better than anything else. Plus it contains characters based on the authors above!

J.D. Salinger - Catcher In The Rye

I doubt I'll be the only one to mention this. I just wish I knew about it when I was 13 and needed it.

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

Another fairly obvious one, but that's just because it's brilliant.
Last edited by grumpytimes on Tue Jun 17, 2008 1:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Anorak's Top 100 Books

Post by Jeezy Creezy » Tue Jun 17, 2008 12:53 pm

Virginia Plain wrote:Can we compile Anorak's Top 100 books? I'll wager we've got better taste than The Guardian, yo.

Here's some of my favourites - I wonder if any Anoraks share the same?

Oooh I've read six of yours and my boyf has been trying to get me to read another three of them. I feel all enlightenee.
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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by gloom button » Tue Jun 17, 2008 1:23 pm

Virginia Plain wrote:Oh no! I just made more or less the same thread! Can we delete mine?
I've merged them in here. Isn't it confusing.
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it's too personal; they're in love with their own guile

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by Colin » Tue Jun 17, 2008 2:00 pm

This is where I feel like a super-obvious lowbrow cliché by listing a load of seminal books and claiming them to be my favourites. Kind of like saying your favourite B&S song is The Boy With The Arab Strap or something. But I genuinely do love these books.

Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami)
The first Murakmai book I read, and still my favourite by some way. He plays it straight down the line and tells what is a relatively straightforward love story with incredible skill. It’s quite twee in places, desperately sad in others. Fantastic.

Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert M. Pirsig)
This is probably my favourite book. Starts off as a simple story about a man and his son taking a motorcycle trip across America, but dives into all kinds of philosophical/metaphysical discussion that I find fascinating. Some of the symbolism is a little clunking and obvious, but both parts of the novel (the road trip and the philosophy) work superbly.

On The Road (Jack Kerouac)
I’m note sure I could say why I like this so much. All I know is, it makes me want to spend the rest of my life hopping freights, making out with broads and, er, drinking.

No Logo/Fast Food Nation (Naomi Klein/Eric Schlosser)
I’ve lumped these two together because they prompted my late-teens conversion to anti-capitalism and vegetarianism respectively (what was that about feeling like a cliché?). I haven’t really revisited them since, but they both played an important part in forming my beliefs.

Reasons To Be Cheerful (Mark Steel)
I wasn’t sure what to put for my fifth choice but I keep going back to this, which must mean something. His humour is basically the same couple of jokes phrased differently over and over, but it works, and he does a good job of sending up the dafter parts of left-wing politics while still coming across as totally committed and passionate. I understand he's got his detractors on Anorak, but I've got some time for him.
Last edited by Colin on Tue Jun 17, 2008 2:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by SophieC » Tue Jun 17, 2008 2:04 pm

  • Five got bummed by a man who promises to show them puppies
    Harry Potter and the woofly hydrant of vangar
    I don't know what i mean harry - frank bruno talks frankly brunoly about mental collapse
    Bravo Two Zero
    I spy hedges
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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by nohnohyeh » Tue Jun 17, 2008 3:15 pm

ernst jünger - on the marble cliffs
hong ying - summer of betrayal
alessandro barrico - silk
simone de beauvoir - the blood of others
albert camus - the stranger
hjalmar söderberg - doctor glas
ernest hemingway - to have and have not
erlend loe - naive.super
jd salinger - catcher in the rye
li ang - the butcher's wife
the fun begins when the lights go out

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by alongwalkhome » Tue Jun 17, 2008 5:35 pm

grumpytimes wrote:Janet Frame - To The Is-Land, An Angle At My Table, Envoy To Mirror City

So this is the autobiography of New Zealand's most famous novelist. I only finished it recently I was amazed; the first volume captures childhood better than I thought was possible.
I've seen the movie (Angel at My Table) about a hundred times. It's brilliant--I should really read the book, shouldn't I?

I always say either Paul Auster's Moon Palace or Salinger's Catcher in the Rye are my favorite books, because it's just easy to not think too hard about what else I may have loved more. I think, in my old age, having re-read Franny and Zooey, that may have surpassed Catcher as my favorite Salinger.

I've written in defense of CITR before, so I got lazy and borrowed these thoughts from another post of mine:
WEll, OK, maybe it's a nostalgia thing, but this was "the" book that I felt like I had stepped into adulthood when I read. I was thirteen and I chose to read it for a book report because everyone else was reading, like, Where the Red Fern Grows and I thought I was cool, but then I truly was changed by it. I was like, "Woah. Childhood is something to be lost. Mine is over. Do all these other people know? Who AM I??!" And growing up in a WASPy New England suburb, I dunno, Holden just "spoka my language." I was living in the same completely insulated, navel-gazing, priveleged type of community but I didn't realize it until I read the book. So, you may ask, "He made you realize how valueless and miserable your life was--how is that good?!!" Well, I guess it was a wake up call. It was a gateway, for some reason, to appreciating hardships in other characters. I started questioning things and trying to figure out how every book I was reading could speak to me. The next book I read after this was Manchild in the Promised Land and, of course, you couldn't imagine a more different setting! But I really READ it, in an adult way. Maybe that would have happened anyway, but I feel that CITR opened some sort of "adult" awareness in me.

Essentially becoming an adult = becoming a "phony" (in Holden's words) and/or realizing everyone else is a bunch of phonies. Children are the only truly honest (to themselves and others) humans. Holden's breakdown represents those who can't handle this realization (that you either play the game or you hide away or kill yourself). It's all pretty common knowledge stuff to us now, but I think, at the time, to write honestly about it in young adult fiction was landmark.

I had to read it again in high school and I could still see how it was ahead of it's time (1951, for fuck's sake!). Granted a lot of the language and scenarios are "dated" now, but the core of Holden's conflicts about innocence and sexuality and control and anger and depression are timeless. I dunno. I'm over protective of this book, I know.

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by Martijn » Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:14 pm

grumpytimes wrote:Janet Frame - To The Is-Land, An Angle At My Table, Envoy To Mirror City

So this is the autobiography of New Zealand's most famous novelist. I only finished it recently I was amazed; the first volume captures childhood better than I thought was possible.
You've made me want to read that book/those books (seems that the local library has them as one book). I love childhood-capturing books. Which made me realise I should give CITR another try.

Some books I really liked:

Rachel Seiffert - The Dark Room
Three (long) stories about Germany and the war and being innocent but feeling guilty, or the other way around. The last story almost made me cry.

Jon McGregor - If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things
I have mentioned this one here before. So sweet. So pop. So poetry.

Kazuo Ishiguro - When We Were Orphans
The Unconsoled is a category of its own and The Remains of the Day is massively great too, but this one is my favourite. Detective, psychology and history in one.

J.M. Coetzee - Boyhood / Youth
Two books about Coetzee's formative years. Hardly ever was the childhood of a rather unsympathetic outsider documented so well.

Hugo Hamilton - The Speckled People
Another childhood book. The young Hamilton did not have a very nice childhood, but wrote about it so sweetly.

Mikael Niemi - Popular Music
Not as much about music as the title suggests, but about growing up in the far north of Sweden and quite good at describing that.

Look, most of my favourite books are about childhood/growing up. Should add Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird and Jonathan Coe - The Rotter's Club as well. Oh, and not just about childhood, but Marilynne Robinson - Gilead is an amazingly well-written book too, that should be mentioned too. Then add Orhan Pamuk - Snow, about love and politics and love, to make it into ten. (Though by no means a 'top 10'.)

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by annie » Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:19 pm

alongwalkhome wrote:I've written in defense of CITR before, so I got lazy and borrowed these thoughts from another post of mine:
i hated that book, but your post has made me want to read it again now. i think i was too old (18) when i first read it to think of holden as anything but an annoying brat, but also too young (or not mature enough intellectually or whatever) to be able to appreciate a book without necessarily liking the main character. it really took me ages to be able to see a book as more than just a story (can i blame it on having a scientific mind please? it'll make me feel less dim). so maybe i should give it another go.

sorry for going off topic. i can't even come up with a list of my favourite books either, it's almost as hard as a favourite albums list (which is impossible).

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by let it ride » Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:32 pm

Martijn wrote:
grumpytimes wrote:
Mikael Niemi - Popular Music
Not as much about music as the title suggests, but about growing up in the far north of Sweden and quite good at describing that.
Oh I bought that one when I was about 14, because I, er, liked the cover and it looked so good. And it was quite good, although it's far from a top 5 or top 10 favourite for me. There is a film made from it, but I haven't seen it.

Re: Catcher in the rye. I hated it the first time I read it, because it was in Swedish. The translation was so atrocious (and the language in it I think really suffers from translation) that I couldn't stand it. Reading it in English, I loved it! It's a funny thing how bad translation work can ruin a book.
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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by schlump » Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:34 pm

I think, in my old age, having re-read Franny and Zooey, that may have surpassed Catcher as my favorite Salinger.
i think because i assume everyone's read & loved those books, i was kind of waiting for someone to champion one of the others. it's lovely to hear people enthusing about catcher, and it deserves its praise for being the book that liberated so many young people, but i love them all and could happily pick any for one-of-my-favourite-books (even seymour/raise high the roof beams, the writing as bubbly and touching and amusing as anything, like, ever).
Granted a lot of the language and scenarios are "dated" now, but the core of Holden's conflicts about innocence and sexuality and control and anger and depression are timeless.
i don't see any of it dated, perhaps because i'm really fond of representation of that particular period - i think if i was going to do a top ten there'd be enough yates and delillo and general shiny-fendered, neatly-dressed-housewife and well-trimmed-lawn action to fill it - but the thoughts those scenarios elicit in holden are beautiful. i still find myself thinking in his blunt words (salinger more than anyone hi-jacking your phrasing after reading), about sex not really being something i understand too hot, &c.

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by Martijn » Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:36 pm

annie wrote:i hated that book, but your post has made me want to read it again now. i think i was too old (18) when i first read it to think of holden as anything but an annoying brat, but also too young (or not mature enough intellectually or whatever) to be able to appreciate a book without necessarily liking the main character. it really took me ages to be able to see a book as more than just a story (can i blame it on having a scientific mind please? it'll make me feel less dim). so maybe i should give it another go.
Oh, I chould (and should) have written that! Except that I was 23 when I read it and I didn't exactly hate it, for I didn't do strong opinions.

That actually might be the biggest problem with teaching literature in school: that many great books aren't age appropriate, but you're still supposed to read them. (We were more or less free to choose what to read, but still, we were told about all these books where old people did old people's things. Mind you, 20 is old when you're 17.) And for me also the fact that so many English books used language of a level higher than 17-year-old-me could digest.
what light wrote:Oh I bought that one when I was about 14, because I, er, liked the cover and it looked so good. And it was quite good, although it's far from a top 5 or top 10 favourite for me. There is a film made from it, but I haven't seen it.
Neither have I. Not sure if it's a top 10 favourite, I just remembered it and I liked it when I read it.

I could not think of any Dutch (language) book for the list though. No fiction books at least. Though admittedly, there's a great number of Dutch books I haven't read, including some that I think I might like.

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by let it ride » Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:52 pm

Martijn wrote: Neither have I. Not sure if it's a top 10 favourite, I just remembered it and I liked it when I read it.
Oh I didn't mean it as a criticism or anything! I really liked it at the time when I read it... I found it weirdly hard to connect to it, I think. Although there's nothing to say you always have to really connect to a story personally.
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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by Martijn » Wed Jun 18, 2008 9:11 am

what light wrote:Oh I didn't mean it as a criticism or anything! I really liked it at the time when I read it... I found it weirdly hard to connect to it, I think. Although there's nothing to say you always have to really connect to a story personally.
True. Also, part of what made the book interesting for me, was the way it described the far north of Sweden which for me is a lot more remote then it is for you (literally, of course, but also culturally). It made the book very interesting for me, in a way that Dutch books can hardly be interesting.

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by grumpytimes » Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:07 am

My cousin really started reading a lot a few years ago and I tried to get my parents to buy him CITR for his 13 birthday but they wouldn't as they thought it was "a bit adult". I was pretty angry, but not angry enough to buy it myself to give it to him. I was about 17 when I first read it and I just remember how much it would have 'helped' me if I'd known it when I was 'growing up'. The idea of Holden being a brat/annoying had never occured to me before, I always just thouhgt of him as an angry, mixed up kid.

Re the Janet Frame autobiography I obviously would recommend it. I don't know if it was very clear but To The Is-Land is the first volume and the one I liked the most. Although I think my newer editions have all 3 volumes together. I claim you don't have to have read (and loved) her novels to enjoy the autob., but then I never believe it when other people make those claims.

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by alexie » Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:30 am

Five o' my favourite books ever:

1. Papillon - Henri Charriere
I really, really love this book, even though adventure's not normally my thing. I gave it to an old boyfriend to read, and he told me he hated Papillon because he was arrogant and talked himself up all the time, which I didn't get at all from the story.

2. Women In Love - DH Lawrence
There's something about the ladies of DH Lawrence novels that I just love. Well, except Lady Chatterley - she really frustrated me. But the girls in this book, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen, were just great - so likeable and unlikeable at the same time. I like that in characters.

3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
As a character, Jane Eyre really frustrated me too - why did she have to be so stubborn all the time? But then I love her all the more for it. I really need to read more Charlotte Bronte - I made it halfway through "Villette" and gave up for some reason.

4. Crime and Punishment - Dostoyevsky
It was such an achievement to make it though this - took me three tries - and I ultimately felt very rewarded for making it through the book. Just amazing, and so sad too.

5. High Rise - JG Ballard
This is one of the few books that has really, really rattled me. I think the scariest part of Ballard novels is the fact this sort of stuff already goes on in many respects in the modern world. Couldn't make it through "Crash", though - that was just a bit too clinical and horrible for me.
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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by grumpytimes » Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:50 am

alexie wrote:3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
As a character, Jane Eyre really frustrated me too - why did she have to be so stubborn all the time? But then I love her all the more for it. I really need to read more Charlotte Bronte - I made it halfway through "Villette" and gave up for some reason.
You made it half way through Villette? Congratulations! I think I to page 100 or something.

Have you ever read 'Wide Sargasso Sea' - lot's of people don't seem to like it but I loved reading it. It's about Bertha's upbringing and does a very good job of 'infecting' the Jane Eyre story.
Last edited by grumpytimes on Wed Jun 18, 2008 2:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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