I’ve only been blogging for two years and a bit so I read about a billion books before. But it’s difficult to make a top ten list of the 10 best. But I’m definitely going to give it a go. I love recommending great books to other readers and these are books I maybe haven’t recommended before so this is exciting! As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
John Irving: The World According to Garp. If I have to name one book as my favorite book, this is the one. I absolutely adore John Irving’s books (or many of them, at least) and this one is my favorite. I just love the story of this one tough lady who did something unimaginable and got a child which she raised in a rather untraditional way. I love reading about Garp growing up, his writing, his marriage and children and all the twists and quirkiness which Irving puts into the writing. I simply love this book.
Joyce Carol Oates: Blonde. This is one of my all time favorite books. Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite authors and this was the book which introduced me to her. I loved the way she wrote in this one, fictionalizing the life of Norma Jean Baker aka Marilyn Monroe. Loved it!
Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore. This was the first Murakami novel, I read. It is magical realism with fish raining from the sky and guest appearances from Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders. And lots of cats. Joyce Carol Oates blows me away with her ability to go in and out of her characters’s minds, John Irving with his ability to be a quirky story teller and Murakami blows me away with his imagination and the oddness in this one. I adore all three writers.
Stephen King: The Stand. Stephen King is the author I’ve loved for the longest time. I discovered him as a young teenager, read him for several years, took a break but have now gotten back to Uncle Stevey. And this is his best book. At least his best novel – On Writing is absolutely amazing too. The Stand is one of the best dystopian novels out there, if not the best. I read it years ago in a Danish translation and some years back in the improved – or at least longer – version in English. It’s one of the books that I have thought about several times in the many years between the two reads. Randall Flagg and Mother Abigail are the perfect characters to set up against each other. There is just so much in this book, so many characters to love – or hate. King also impresses me with his story teller abilities – as well as with how prolific he is and how high quality most of his output have (same goes for Joyce Carol Oates of course).
John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath. I could almost as easily have put East of Eden on this list because both these two are just amazing novels. I haven’t put Steinbeck on my list of favorite authors yet but I think I will some day in the future. The Grapes of Wrath is Steinbeck’s with his social consciousness in highest gear. Writing about the victims of the 30s Great American Depression, Steinbeck manages to both write about one family’s plight as well as the transformation of an entire nation.
Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None. I love this novel. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read anything else by Christie but I’ve read this one several times and I love it. It is such a clever book about a group of people being lured to an island where they are killed off one by one. But by whom? And I don’t even like crime fiction!
Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace. I could just as easily have put Anna Karenia on this list. Both are amazing books and highly recommended. Anna Karenia is more accessible, but War and Peace is at least as amazing – and gives you bragging rights (if you know anyone who cares about this).
Yann Martel: Life of Pi. I adored this novel back when I read it in 2007. This story of a very ressourceful boy being trapped on a lifeboat with a huge tiger just captured my heart. And the ending – it blev me away! I read it back in 2007 so I think it’s about time for a reread as well as time to watch the movie.
Georges Perec: Life – a User’s Manual. This book has been featured on so many of my top 10 lists that it’s starting to be embarrasing. But it doesn’t show up on many other people’s list so I’ll keep mentioning it, hoping others will pick it up and love it as much as I did when I read it back in 2007. It’s definitely not for everyone but I was quite taken in by it and want to read it again. It centers around one apartment building in Paris and the people living there and moves from apartment to apartment to staircase and from character to character. Love it!
Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre. I think it’s time for a reread of this one. I remember loving it, I remember the plot, yet I can’t pinpoint exactly what I love about it. Hard pressed, I would probably admit to loving Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice more but I’m afraid that owes more to the BBC and especially to Colin Firth. And every book can’t have Colin Firth starring in it. Still, I loved this for it’s flawed characters, for it’s wonderful story and beautiful writing. I think I might have to reread this one soon as well!
The worst with writing a list like this is, that you feel like you have missed some obvious books. Books that you adore and love but which for some reason didn’t pop into your head at the moment of writing the list. That said, even if I have forgot some obvious ones, I love these books so they all come with my highest recommendations. And I want to give honorable mentions to a few books that didn’t make the list but which are nevertheless on my list of favorites:
Fourth week in a row participating in the Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! I’m having so much fun with these Top Ten lists still so even though I found this week’s theme a hard one, I’m still game. Apparently, books don’t make me think. At least not when I’m put on the spot and told to come up with a list of 10 who did. So this has actually taken a bit of effort to come up with 10.
Well, I could have taken the easy way out and just written a list of books I read when I studied for my Master’s Degree in Philosophy, but to me that felt like cheating. I mean, of course reading Locke, Heidegger, Sartre, Plato will make you think! But to me, the challenge lies in coming up with 10 novels that made you think. Non-fiction, all non-fiction, tend to make you ponder it’s subject but not all fiction do – so here’s ten novels, that has made me think.
Here’s my list:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun. This novel taught me about a country and a war I had never heard of: Biafra and the Nigeria-Biafra war 1967-70. This is a book about what life is like when you live in war times – how life in some ways are just the same and in other ways, very very different. I think books about war often make you think because it often shows what it means to be human, both good and bad, and you question what you would do if you were put in the same situations and had to struggle for your survival.
Agatha Christie: And Then There Was None. This is crime fiction and I guess the nature of crime fiction is to make it’s reader think when we try to figure out who the killer is. I know who the killer is in this one – it’s my favorite Agatha Christie novel and I’ve read it several times so now, when I read it, I try to figure out what clues she drops along the way and if it’s possible to figure out who kills them all. Especially, since every person on the island end up dead…
Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections. This was one of these books that just hit close to home. It’s a book about an elderly couple, Alfred and Enid. Alfred is suffering from beginning Alzheimer’s and Enid is struggling to get their children to come home for one last christmas. For me, this really made me think about my own family, my father having been ill for most of my life and my mother struggling to keep everyone happy and keeping up appearances. My review here.
Georges Perec: Life, a User’s Manual. This is a strange book. It’s about all the people who live in an apartment building and how their lives overlap, how the thing uniting them all is this building. It’s about what makes life life. It’s not a book for everyone – but I love it. It made me think just to be able to get it – and it made me think about how our lives are made up of tiny details as well as huge events. I read it 5 years ago – I really need to read it again!
Jodi Picoult: My Sister’s Keeper. Well, this is what Picoult does, isn’t it? She writes novels that makes you think. This one really grasps at the heart strings of any parent. How far would you go to save your child if she’s sick? Would you have another child and use her to get the things your first child need to survive?
Kurt Vonnegut: Slaugherhouse-Five. It’s been 4 years since I read this and I really liked it. I saw it as a discussion of free will v. determinism – among other things – and that always fascinates me.
Will Self: How the Dead Live. This book made me think because I just didn’t get it. I felt it was really difficult to follow and really understand what it was that Will Self wanted with it – but even though it’s been 4 years since I read it, I keep thinking about it from time to time. I’ve since read that Self doesn’t write books for readers and I can believe that! Still, Self is on a quest to find and write the truth and he doesn’t believe that it can be found in conventional linear structure. I don’t necessarily get what he intends – but it makes me think. I need to read more of his novels!
Steven Hall: The Raw Shark Texts. Say the title out loud and you get the first clue that this is a special book. This is a book which toys with the idea of what a book can do. This is a book where the protagonist keeps finding letters written by his former self, trying to explain why he’s been chased by a word shark and almost drowning in his living room… This is a highly original book! And it really makes you think about what makes a book and stop fearing about the future of books!
The same can be said about Jonathan Safran Foer: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. An amazing book about how a young boy deals with loosing his father in the 9-11 attacks. Foer does things in this novel that I at least haven’t seen before. My review here.
John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath. I loved this book! It’s just such an amazing book, although very depressing. The Grapes of Wrath is sadly becoming very current at the moment with the economical crisis. Both then and now, people borrowed money from the bank and lost their homes. This is a story of one of those families and how much they have to endure to try and find a way to survive. But it’s also a book about how people sometimes help each other when they are struggling and sometimes do even more than can be expected. Again, it’s a book about what it means to be a human being.
I thought this would be a hard list to make but actually, doesn’t most books make you think in one way or other? Isn’t that why we read? To learn about the world, to know more about how other people think and feel and live. When I look at the books I’ve read, a lot of them could be put on this list. I’ve chosen mostly books from before I started blogging to give them their due, both well-known and lesser known books. And I could have made the list much longer. These ten made me think, yes, but they are not necessarily the ten who made me think the most. Because how do you determine that? Almost every book makes you think – that’s the wonder and beauty of books.