Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by alexie » Wed Jun 18, 2008 11:01 am

grumpytimes wrote:Half 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.
I began reading it last year at a friend's place but had to abandon it. I should pick it up again - if I recall, though, the beginning of it upset me. I do like the idea of a prequel of sorts.
you're just too obscure for me

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by grumpytimes » Wed Jun 18, 2008 11:12 am

alexie wrote:
grumpytimes wrote:Half 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.
I began reading it last year at a friend's place but had to abandon it. I should pick it up again - if I recall, though, the beginning of it upset me. I do like the idea of a prequel of sorts.
I like the idea of a prequel that challanges the original text, rather than bank on its name. I read it as part of some 'Decolonising The Mind' paper and was pretty interesting in that context.

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by cuppie » Wed Jun 18, 2008 5:54 pm

I never really cared much for how Wide Sargasso Sea challenged the text of Jane Eyre, but isn't it pretty awesome how it challenged the treatment of mentally ill darkies, or all women who aren't perfect English porcelain dolls? I love Charlotte Bronte, so no beef with her, but was it just their lot in life to be locked in an attic and beat up Grace Pool every once in a while and that's it? Wide Sargasso Sea wins the "that's total bullshit" award.

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by wrapyrtroubles » Thu Jun 19, 2008 3:51 pm

I liked Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. I like Catcher in the Rye too and it definitely came at the right time for me - I think I was 13 or so. It opened my eyes to what sorts of experiences I might be able to have with books and encouraged my love of reading.

I don't have top books. But here's some I think are worth reading.

Nights in the Gardens of Brooklyn by Harvey Swados. He does that kind of tinder-dry postwar American prose that leaves you with a dense black lump of matter for a heart like what happens when a star dies.

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart
. It's short, it's about love, it's heartfelt, it's vivid with poetic acuity.

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley. A New York short story writer who was too busy writing poetry and reading books to finish school. The stories in this collection date from 1960 through 1974 but each one is so immediate and alive, you begin to read and it's like opening the window of an oppressively stuffy room and cool air and bright light and sounds of life outside pushing out the heavy particles.

Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida published by Penguin. This is a really good collection spanning 1834 to 1998. What is it with those Russians? The refined and understated modes of expression, and the unflinching existential awareness. The final story references the author of the first when it includes a mention of this poem by Pushkin:

I loved you. Even now, perhaps, love's embers
Within my heart are not extnguished quite.
But let me not disturb you with remembrance
Or cause you any sadness, any fright.
I loved you hopelessly, could not speak clearly,
Shyness and jealousy were ceaseless pain,
Loved you as tenderly and sincerely
As God grant you may yet be loved again.

Apparently that's the most famous poem in Russia so I thought it would be worth including here. Even though it probably belongs in the poem thread. But just to make you want to read Russians, y'know.

Katherine Mansfield is another clear-eyed short story writer of great subtlety. Writing in the early part of the 20th century you will just have to forgive her characters for having names like Josephine and calling each other Darling. Don't be put off thinking she's old fashioned. Her observations are relevant in any era. Read anything - she died at 34 so her oeuvre is not dauntingly expansive.

And finally, the Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer. It's a big book, there are a lot of stories. Altogether the lives contained in these pages create another world, much like our own, only more alive to thoughts and feelings and sensations than ours. It is very beautiful.

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by grumpytimes » Thu Jun 19, 2008 5:03 pm

wrapyrtroubles wrote:Katherine Mansfield is another clear-eyed short story writer of great subtlety. Writing in the early part of the 20th century you will just have to forgive her characters for having names like Josephine and calling each other Darling. Don't be put off thinking she's old fashioned. Her observations are relevant in any era. Read anything - she died at 34 so her oeuvre is not dauntingly expansive.
I've only started reading Katherine Mansfield recently when I got 'The Garden Party' collection from the library on the weekend. It's really great, although I've only read the short ones so far. They remind me of the Salinger short stories a bit, but maybe that's just because of 'darling' thing.

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by Kapernikus » Thu Jun 19, 2008 7:39 pm

Making a top book list is hard. It's like making a top musician list for me.

1: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (I still have not been able to say his last name. I also love his sister Poe's music, so this is doubleawesome)

2: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

3: Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut

4: The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

5 Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. The Supreme Court by Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price (the only law book that is actually interesting).
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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by wrapyrtroubles » Thu Jun 19, 2008 7:51 pm

Kapernikus wrote:Danielewski (I still have not been able to say his last name.
daniel-ev-skee i believe!
Kapernikus wrote:4: The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
heh, loads of people on here have read this one, it's like the da vinci code for pop kids.
Kapernikus wrote:5 Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. The Supreme Court by Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price (the only law book that is actually interesting).
wow, it must be pretty damn interesting to make a top five though! what's it about? - obviously the subtitle gives a clue but still...

if we're going non fiction i'd urge everyone to read "ways of seeing" by john berger and "against interpretation" by susan sontag, if you haven't already :)

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by crystalball » Thu Jun 19, 2008 8:32 pm

Against Interpretation reminds me of the most stressful month in my student life when I had to speak at a conference and Susan bloody Sontag was chairing the committee. I was crying every day. Yeah, I had no perspective back then.

My five favourite books right now would probably be:

The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe
A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by wrapyrtroubles » Thu Jun 19, 2008 8:39 pm

crystalball wrote:Against Interpretation reminds me of the most stressful month in my student life when I had to speak at a conference and Susan bloody Sontag was chairing the committee. I was crying every day. Yeah, I had no perspective back then.

My five favourite books right now would probably be:

The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe
A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Hehe, I too was crying every day when I discovered that book as a student. Sorry to bring up bad memories! I was so excited by "Against Interpretation" at the time because she was tackling so many different subjects, and I really didn't like having to study and think about only one thing at university. So it was very inspiring and invigorating for me.

- I've not heard of Rebecca Solnit but I like the other books you mentioned so I'll have to investigate :)

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by Kapernikus » Thu Jun 19, 2008 8:46 pm

wrapyrtroubles wrote:
Kapernikus wrote:Danielewski (I still have not been able to say his last name.
daniel-ev-skee i believe!
That makes it easier. For some reason I have troubles saying many names, but Ahmadinejad is easy for me. I am better than the news in that sense.
wrapyrtroubles wrote:
Kapernikus wrote:4: The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
heh, loads of people on here have read this one, it's like the da vinci code for pop kids.

Yah, it is his most read book. Hard Boiled Wonderland and The End of The World is my second favourite by him
wrapyrtroubles wrote:
Kapernikus wrote:5 Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. The Supreme Court by Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price (the only law book that is actually interesting).
wow, it must be pretty damn interesting to make a top five though! what's it about? - obviously the subtitle gives a clue but still...
Haha, the subtitle is a big clue. It is about the early Sodomy Laws (I think some Southern states still have Sodomy Laws) and how they were used against gays even though anyone could be arrested under them. That takes about half of the book, and the rest is about couple's rights, cases where invasion of privacy or entrapment were excused because of the sexual orientation of the defendant, publication rights of magazines such as Beefcake, and various landmark cases. Most law books are boring as all hell, but any book that involves an elderly republican talking about gerbils and rectums in the same sentence becomes REALLY funny.
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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by JohaN » Sun Jun 22, 2008 12:32 pm

1/2. The Sound & The Fury - William Faulkner / Catch22 - Joseph Heller

I can never decide between these two - whichever one I've read most recently tends to be my favourite. and that sentence gives the clue: these are the only 2 books i've ever been able to re-read and like them more afterwards - i think i've read them about 5 0r 6 times each, and they just keep getting better.
TS&TF is one of the few "worthy" books I've ever struggled with and persisted... and one of teh very very few that i ended up finding worht the effort and more - it's INSANELY difficult to read the first time, but so so worht it.
C22 just has everything: pathos, humour, incredible characters, social consciousness, ambition.... everything. it's a perfect book, but i don't find it as emotional as TS&TF.

3. For Esme - with love and squalor - JD Salinger

The absolute gold standard in short stories for me. i spent an unconscionably long time of my adolescence believing catcher was literally the only thing slainger had written - and so there was already huge excitement at discovering this, and then to find it so perfect...

4. Trout Fishing in America - Richard Brautigan
i'm quite prepared to believe that there is still a brautigan book out there that i'll love more than this one (after all, i haven't read them all, or nearly) but for now this one is just dandy. my favourite writer, absolutely.

5. Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut jr

and another boring, predictable choice, but it was the first book i read in one sitting.... and immediately started again. my favouritest writer for a long time (before i discovered brautigan

6. Complete Poems 1904-1963* - e.e. cummings

my single most prized possession, and it would make the top 5 if i didn't feel somehow that it was cheating. i used to read it religiously... literally, since it took over the pre-turn-in reading spot reserved for the bible when i was growing up. it's got everything, and after 12 years that i've had it, still surprises me.
* that said - i might have the dates slightly wrong...

7. Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud/Everything is Illuminated Jonathan Safran Foer

impossible to choose between them, but the best young writer out there - 2 books that took my breath away. might score higher in 5 years time, but i'ma little wary since i've loved the higher ones so much longer.

8. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

and the other rival for best young writer. it took me a while to "get" this book, but when i did: BANG!

9. Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

i'm sure some (a lot of?) people will sneer at this, but it's the most purely enjoyable book i've ever read, and it handles a potentially very difficult plot so beautifully... and such characters! <sigh>

10. Amazin Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon

DAMN! should have been much higher up, but only thought of it now, and too lazy to change the order... oh well. a marvellous, marvellous book.

and i'll probably think of at least 3 other ones on my way home, but oh well...

my list is pretty safe, isn't it? oh well, it's very sincere!
1 wasn't for the money
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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by janglyjan » Sun Jun 22, 2008 1:36 pm

I love e.e. cummings. I had an e.e. cummings book that was my most prized possession until it was stolen when my car was broken into. i have other e.e. cummings books but they aren't quite as special as that one.

i enjoyed 'the time traveller's wife' as well. it was very popular but it was very entertaining. it was amazing how well a difficult plot line was handled.

it's rough for me to come up with a list of top five novels. apparently, i don't read much fiction these days. and all my old books are in boxes back home so i can't even remember what i used to love when i did.

anyway, here's a list of books of my top five fiction books, I think:

1. Counterfeiters by Andre Gide
2. La Bete Humaine by Emile Zola
3. Frisk by Dennis Cooper
4. The Trial by Franz Kafka
5. The Wall and Other Stories by Jean-Paul Sartre

(except for the Dennis Cooper it's kind of cliche, sorry)

and my top five non-fiction:
1. The Writings of a Savage by Paul Gauguin (his letters, i love his rants)
2. The Future Lasts Forever by Louis Althusser (his auto-biography, also love his rants)
3. The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord (apparently, i love a good rant)
4. Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from an Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz (he travels around the US South)
5. CTRL [SPACE]: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother edited by Thomas Levin, Ursula Frohne and Peter Weibel (I spend more time with this book than with any other and love all 655 pages, I really can't leave it out)

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by Trev » Tue Jun 24, 2008 4:21 pm

I got the reading bug back (it seemed to leave a year or so back).

So favourites:

Paul Auster - The New York Trilogy
Haruki Murakami - The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Steven Sherrill - The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break
Walter Mosely - The Man in my Basement
Sarah Gran - Come Closer
Niall Griffiths - Sheepshagger
Margaret Elphinstone - Hy Brasil
Ron Loewinsohn - Magnetic Field(s)
Jeffrey Eugenides - Middlesex
Jeanette Winterson - The Passion
Jack Kerouac - On The Road

Am sure I have forgotten loads. I don't tend to read many of the so-called classics. I dunno why.
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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by beta male » Thu Aug 14, 2008 2:14 am

the power and the glory-graham greene.
the quiet american-graham greene (not overly fond of the film version though)
watership down-richard adams.
the unbearable lightness of being-milan kundera.
1984-george orwell.
heart of darkness-joseph conrad.
lolita-vladimir nabokov.
catcher in the rye-j.d. salinger.
tintin books-hergé.
fear and loathing in las vegas-hunter s thompson.
The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way-bill bryson.
d'aularies book of greek and roman myths.
american gods-neil gaiman.
wuthering heights-emily brontë
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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by lynsosaurus » Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:33 am

i remember having this discussion with a couple of people when i was travelling a few years back, and one of the people there said "woah. that is a proper woman's list there" and i've never been able to work out quite what he meant by it. i guess it's kind of an offensive thing to say, because it implies that certain books are "women's books" which i don't think is the case, but my list is dominated by female writers, so maybe that's what he meant. anyway.

1. hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage by alice munro: i find it really difficult to choose any one of her books because they're all awesome, but this particular collection of short stories was one of the first ones i read and the one that sealed it for me that she is a truly awesome writer. her writing is always utterly perfect, and she manages to convey the most heartbreaking emotions and scenarios without ever resorting to florid prose, using the bare minimum of words and yet still managing to evoke such amazing feeling. i like her collections which are based around young girls coming of age, but i think her writing becomes particularly well-observed when she writes about older women and middle age, as she does in this collection. i've never come across a short story writer who can make me care so much about a character in such a short space of time.

2. the heart is a lonely hunter / the ballad of the sad cafe by carson mccullers: i wasn't as taken by the other short stories in the 'ballad of the sad cafe' collection, but i loved the title story so much that it merits inclusion, along with 'the heart is a lonely hunter'. it's been a while since i read either, actually, so maybe it's time to start over again.

3. the house of the spirits / eva luna by isabel allende: again, i love pretty much everything allende has written, but these two are my absolute favourites and the most evocative for me. i've just started reading eva luna in spanish, and it's even better.

4. the trick is to keep breathing by janice galloway: the best book ever written about mental illness. FACT. although it's not just about mental illness, and it's perfectly written.

5. night geometries and the garscadden trains by a.l. kennedy: tough to choose my favourite of her books, but this short story collection was her first book and my introduction to her writing.

6. dance, dance, dance by haruki murakami: i was totally obsessed with murakami for a long time, and this is the best book of his that i've read. i love the dark surrealism and the pervasive atmosphere of loss and yearning. a lot of people seem to think that murakami is a very 'cold' writer, but i think he just has a very sparse writing style, and i think it's more of a gift to be able to convey these feelings with such sparse prose.

7. vurt / pollen / automated alice / nymphomation by jeff noon: i cheated and put all of these in because they're all so different and yet are all linked in to the same basic storyline. i read all of these in my late teens and they made a big impression on me because of the lewis carroll references, the clever wordplay and the slightly cheeky borrowing from pop culture sources, and the way he managed to make everything seem so poetic and still so dark and apocalyptic in places.

8. the strange case of dr jekyll and mr hyde by robert louis stevenson: this is probably the only proper 'classic' that is in my favourites list. everyone probably already knows all about this one anyway.

i should try to read more classics, i guess, but they just don't appeal to me as much.

i've run out of time, so maybe i'll finish off the list later.

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by indiansummer » Thu Aug 14, 2008 2:10 pm

Here's a few in no particular order:

Hey Nostradamus! - Douglas Coupland
The Gentle Creature - Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Sun Between Their Feet - Doris Lessing
Kafka On The Shore - Haruki Murakami
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
The Long Goodbye - Raymond Chandler
Tapping The Source - Kem Nunn
On The Road - Jack Kerouac
The Catcher In The Rye - JD Salinger
The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay - Michael Chabon

.....and probably loads more that i can't think of right now.

Actually, Lunar Park, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? and The Sirens Of Titan are all probably worth a mention too.
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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by Carys » Thu Aug 14, 2008 5:20 pm

I <3<3<3 Kavalier and Clay

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by JohaN » Sat Aug 16, 2008 9:05 am

my brother and i had this short conversation the other day, and gliding through this thread again has just reminded me of it again: in terms of the quality of winners, the pulitzer really whips the book's bum, doesn't it? (maybe i should do a thorough count, but my impression is that there are far more pulitzer winners than booker winners in these lists... and certainly, in my list of really really favourite books, that's the case...
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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by Carys » Sun Aug 17, 2008 6:31 pm

I think you're probably right Johan. Personally, in terms of percentages, I've only read 3 out of the 38 Booker winners (8%), and 11 of 60 (18%) of the Pulitzer winners. The Pulitzer winners are by far my favourites. Except "The Old Man and the Sea". I hated that one. But my specialism in my degree was Modern American Fiction, so it would make sense that I'd err towards the Pulitzer really.

2008: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
2007: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2006: March by Geraldine Brooks
2005: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
2004: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
2003: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2002: Empire Falls by Richard Russo
2001: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
2000: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
1999: The Hours by Michael Cunningham
1998: American Pastoral by Philip Roth
1997: Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser
1996: Independence Day by Richard Ford
1995: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
1994: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
1993: A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
1992: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
1991: Rabbit At Rest by John Updike
1990: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
1989: Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
1988: Beloved by Toni Morrison
1987: A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor
1986: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
1985: Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
1984: Ironweed by William Kennedy
1983: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
1982: Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike
1981: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
1980: The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
1979: The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever
1978: Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson
1977: No award given
1976: Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow
1975: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
1974: No award given [1]
1973: The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty
1972: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
1971: No award given
1970: The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford by Jean Stafford
1969: House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
1968: The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
1967: The Fixer by Bernard Malamud
1966: The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter by Katherine Anne Porter
1965: The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
1964: No award given
1963: The Reivers by William Faulkner
1962: The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor
1961: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 1960: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
1959: The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor
1958: A Death in the Family by James Agee
1957: No award given
1956: Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor
1955: A Fable by William Faulkner
1954: No award given
1953: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
1952: The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
1951: The Town by Conrad Richter
1950: The Way West by A. B. Guthrie, Jr.
1949: Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens
1948: Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener

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Re: Your Top 5 or Top 10 favourite books!

Post by bartblueboy » Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:46 pm

so so difficult ... I need to have a long think about this ...

certainly "the serious game" by Hjalmar Söderberg must be somewhere in that top 5 of my favourites ...

and "the Buddenbrooks" by Thomas Mann

and "maiden voyage" by Denton Welch

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