Monday, 1 August 2016

Some top 10 lists about books

- 10 favourite novels (updated):
Anna Karenina by Lev Tolstoy
War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

- 10 most important novels- 10 novels that have most influenced me or been most significant to me in some ways:
Anna Karenina by Lev Tolstoy
War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Emma by Jane Austen
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

- 10 novels I hate the most:
The Book of Daniel by E. L. Doctorow
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Corregidora by Gayl Jones
The Tattooed Girls by Joyce Carol Oates
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
(A possible candidate for 1 of the 2 empty spots might be The Sympathiser, but I have to finish the book). 

- 10 novels I feel worst for not having read:  
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe 
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes* 
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain 
Bleak House by Charles Dickens**
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass** 
Hunger by Knut Hamsun** 
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf** 
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo** 
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

- 10 novels I very much want to read but won't read any time soon: 
Ulysses by James Joyce
In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust 
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov**  
Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin
The Red and the Black by Stendhal 
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco 
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray 
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov 
The Golden Bowl by Henry James

- 10 novels I don't think I'll ever read: 
Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien 
Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre 
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce 
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys** 
Min Kamp by Karl Ove Knausgård
Nỗi buồn chiến tranh by Bảo Ninh
Anything by V. S. Naipaul
or Graham Greene
or E. L. Doctorow 
or Ayn Rand

*: I believe the book I read as a kid was an abridged version. Not sure. 
**: I tried and gave up on these books. 


  1. Your favorite novels list is a superb syllabus for anyone wanting a "crash course" in literature. You really must give _Bleak House_ a try. (BTW, my posting today at Solitary Praxis focuses on Melville. You might be interested.) v/r Tim

  2. Di,

    Fascinating lists:

    Favorite Novels: read all of them except for the Nabokov, I would not include the Faulkner and the Flaubert among my top favorites.

    Important novels: read all and would specify the Dostoyevsky as being the most significant work that influenced my reading habits.

    Hated books: only read the Golding and the Graham Greene works and don't hate either of them.

    Books you haven't read: would recommend the Dostoyevsky, the Dickens, and the Cervantes.

    Won't read anytime soon: read all and would recommend pushing Eco's Name of the Rose up, followed by the rest.

    Probably won't read list: I've read only the Tolkien and some works by Graham Greene and enjoyed them. I will read them again. None of the others is on my TBR list.

  3. lists are great. kind of like arrows pointing down an unknown street... or several at once... i liked Hunger, for one. it's pretty short and held my interest... i've been through a lot of the others, but probably didn't know what i was doing, as i've never had any training in literary analysis... i remember reading the Narnia quintet numerous times when i was young, with great enjoyment; it was only decades later(with a bit of surprise) that i understood the religious connotations of the book... sometimes i think there's a lot of truth in the saying: "ignorance is bliss"...

  4. I want your lists too, you old gits! :p
    I did read some chapters of Bleak House, and put it down. Wasn't in the right mood for it, I suppose.

    Hahaha, thanks. What do you think about my hate list?

    Pnin is very good. People usually think of Lolita, Pale Fire or Ada or Ardor, but this one is a personal favourite of mine. You should check it out.
    You think more highly of Madame Bovary, or just don't like Flaubert very much?
    The hated books, I wouldn't recommend any of them :p The Quiet American I hate because of the politics- the same for The Book of Daniel. Lord of the Flies I can't stand because I dislike his bleak view of humanity.
    About The Name of the Rose, I've watched the film. That should help. What do you think of the Cao Xueqin and the Sholokhov?
    The title of Nỗi buồn chiến tranh in English is The Sorrows of War- have you read it?

    Oh I love lists. Also intended to make a list of novels I'm now embarrassed to admit I used to like, but didn't, because I still can't deal with the fact that I could have liked them.

    1. Di,

      OK, I will check out Pnin.

      I've read a lot of Flaubert, and he doesn't grab me the way he obviously grabs you. No particular reason, though. Personal unconscious bias of some sort, no doubt. Perhaps I overdosed on Madame B.

      Sholokhov: I enjoyed it so much I immediately read the sequel, which was good, but a bit weaker than the first one.

      Cao Xueqin: it was an abridged version and therefore somewhat choppy. OOTD I will search out the complete version, if there is one, and read it.

      The Sorrows of War: no, I haven't read it.

    2. Di,

      By the way, I'm reading Nabokov's The Gift for the Russian Lit group here. I struggled through the first chapter. Basically confused about the narrator--is it Fyodor, who sometimes talks about himself in the third person or is it someone else narrating the tale?

    3. Someone else, if Future Fyodor or Fyodor-the-novelist is taken as someone else. The issue is addressed in Chapter 5.

    4. AR (Tom)

      OK. It's a flashback. Thanks for clarifying this.

    5. Not a flashback, exactly. A written text, a novel. Unless Zuckerman novels count as Philip Roth flashbacks.

    6. Thanks, Tom. I haven't read The Gift. I've picked it up, though.
      Oh I understand. Like I admire but don't like George Eliot as much as some people do.
      My mom loves the Sholokhov book- in spite of the political view, I assume. I'll have to read it some day.

    7. Tom,

      OK, a novel that's a novel--very modern, or is that post-modern, I can never keep them separated.

  5. I don't have any lists. I wish I did. Lists are great. But I'm not a list maker.

    I haven't read anything on the hate list. You did not put any of my favorite authors on it.

    I should read The Little Prince sometime.

    1. Lists are fun!
      Here is Joseph Epstein on E. L. Doctorow:
      "Such novelists as Robert Coover, E. L. Doctorow, and Robert Stone create literature with the authority of politics behind them; for them the novel is politics by other means. Great writers have always had their politics. Think of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. Or think of Joseph Conrad. Conrad obviously detested the revolutionary personality; and yet one doesn't have to agree with Conrad's political views in order to recognize that there is more at stake in, say, The Secret Agent than politics alone. Reading E. L. Doctorow, on the other hand, is a different experience entirely if one disagrees with Doctorow's politics, the pleasure is drained from his novels; if, in other words, you do not believe that the Rosenbergs were innocent or that Henry Ford was ridiculous, you are excluded."
      I'm surprised you haven't read Lord of the Flies.
      I have a friend for whom The Little Prince is a kind of Bible. He constantly quotes it, lives by it, even categorises people according to it.

    2. Come to think of it, I did read Lord of the Flies, but when I was 12 or something like that.

      The politics of those writers' novels will fade over time. It is probably already blurry to younger readers. They will figure out what is left, the art, if there is any.

      Having said that, it is not that hard to find my way into texts from which I am excluded, and Epstein knows it. Examples I have seen with my own eyes include every Greek text I have ever read, every Roman book, every medieval book, almost every early modern book, the Hebrew Bible, etc., etc., all sources of great pleasure.

  6. Not to brag, but Di's vow never to read Karl Ove Knausgård's Min Kamp was my doing.

    1. Bleh. I never vow that, only think I'll probably never read it.


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