Maybe it was reading The Telegraph’s list of greatest novels of the 21st Century (we’re only 15 years in, people!) that I found to be absolute bollocks…
Or maybe it was looking back on a post I wrote in this blog’s infancy (pre-spin, when it was just davethenovelist) where I listed what I proclaimed to be the Greatest Novels of All Time (which of course meant the best novels I had read up to that point in my life) and realizing how much I had read in the seven years since then and thinking about what that list would look like today. How many new entries? What would still make the cut, and would the passage of time have colored my opinion on significance, fondness and ordering?
Or maybe it was watching “The English Patient” episode of Seinfeld for the umpteenth time on TV tonight that got me thinking…damn, The English Patient…Ondaatje…that has to be one of the greatest novels ever, right? (Spoiler alert: IT IS!)
At any rate…I’m keeping this one simple and asking you to share your own lists.
What are your favorite novels?
Here are mine:
11. Dracula – Bram Stoker – 1897 – discovered in my pre-teen years
10. Serena – Ron Rash – 2008 – discovered in my 20’s
9. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee – 1960 – discovered in high school
8. A Mercy – Toni Morrison – 2008 – discovered in my 2o’s
7. Suite Francaise – Irene Nemirovosky – 2004 – discovered in my 20’s
6. The End of the Affair – Graham Greene – 1951 – discovered in my 20’s
5. Jazz – Toni Morrison – 1992 – discovered in college
4. The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene – 1940 – discovered in my 20’s
3. The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje – 1992 – discovered in my 30’s
2. Light in August – William Faulkner – 1932 – discovered in my 20’s
1. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck – 1939 – discovered in my 20’s
Surprised these didn’t make my list?
- Ulysses – James Joyce – 1922 – discovered in my 20’s – Don’t get me wrong, this probably is the most audacious novel ever and contains the greatest (longest) sentence ever written and inspired me to visit Dublin (well, maybe more so Dubliners did – damn that’s a great short story collection!) but much of it is unreadable.
- Beloved – Toni Morrison – 1987 – discovered in my 30’s – This is a classic no doubt, just not my favorite Morrison.
- Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens – 1837 – “discovered” as a tot – Those who know me know this is one of my favorite “stories” ever, having always been attracted to this classic orphan tale since I was a wee lad…but I’ve only ever known it in film form (having devoured almost all incarnations…even a recent modern spin that transplanted the story to South Africa). I’m afraid to attempt reading it as I found my only other Dickens’ attempt (A Tale of Two Cities) too stamped by the literary mores of its time for my modern mind to get through successfully. One day maybe.
- Something by Kurt Vonnegut! – Geeze, I love me some Vonnegut. Maybe Cat’s Cradle (discovered in my 30’s) would be number 12? Why did I do only 11? Who knows?
- Something by Raymond Carver! – Hey, he’s one of my favorite writers ever…but sadly he never wrote a novel. His short stories are huh-mazing, however.
Written by David H. Schleicher
What would make your list of favorite novels?
Thanks for including Toni Morrison so many times on the list. Some might argue the greatest contemporary US novelist.
I would be one of the some that would argue she is. My girlfriend and I have tickets to see Morrison speak at the Philadelphia Public Library in April – very excited!
Just finished “Ten Books That Changed My Life.” Soon on Amazon. None of these were on my list, though I did put in Raymond Carver, who I greatly admire also (both for short stories and poems). John Lehman
Good to hear from you, John – haven’t seen you around The Spin in awhile. Carver was a master for sure. Wish there was more of his stuff to read.
Here’s the Amazon link. Book costs $5.50. http://www.amazon.com/Ten-Books-That-Changed-Life/dp/1507817762/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425580148&sr=1-1&keywords=Ten+books+that+changed+my+life.
Aha – gotta buy the book to see the list, eh? Very sneaky – haha.
Nice list! I’ve been considering what would be on mine – I think it’s a work in progress and not in order.
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee – I think in high school. I don’t recall reading it for class, so I think I read it for fun.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen- I was just a melancholy girl in high school, looking for love 🙂
Jazz, Toni Morrison – read in college and it awoke something in me
Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger – again, I was just a melancholy girl in high school….
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith – read only a few years ago, but a classic
Of Mice and Mean, John Steinbeck – read in high school and fell in love with poor, sweet Lennie
The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver – read in my 20s and felt a deep connection to Turtle and Taylor
Flannery O’Connor and Ellen Gilchrist would be on my short story writers list.
Oh holy crap – Flannery O’Connor – YES YES YES! She was brilliant – again, like Carver, known for her short stories. But I love her. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” might be one of the most chilling stories every conceived – an innocuous almost jokey title, but the story is a harrowing tale of quasi-serial murder.
This also makes me think of Joyce Carol Oates – a local author and brilliant beyond belief. I’ve only read her short stories, but I know she has written novels as well. I wrote a story “The Pumpkin Thief” that was heavily inspired by her style (and setting).
Yes, JCO is wonderful. I think I have only read We Were the Mulvaneys. Adding her to my list to read this year.
My favorite novel is Joseph Heller’s CATCH-22 which helped formed my view on the absurdity of life. Four other favorites are…
The Grapes of Wrath – Steinbeck.
Slaugtherhouse Five – Vonnegut
An American Tragedy – Driser
The Painted Bird – Kosinski
Ahh, Catch-22 sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the suggestion, John!
My favorite novel is Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage. Next in line (in no particular ranking):
1) The Stranger – Albert Camus
2) Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
3) The Lost Horizon – James Hilton (I bet you haven’t heard this one)
4) East of Eden – John Steinbeck
5) The Moon and Sixpence – Somerset Maugham
6) The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje
7) The White Castle – Orhan Pamuk
8) A Flight of Pigeons – Ruskin Bond
9) Malgudi Days – R K Narayanan
10) Kaadu – Tamil novel by Jeyamohan (I read the English translation “The Forest”)
and my all time favorite epic (Calling it a novel would be an understatement):
Awesome list, Prakash – thanks for sharing!