Just Because I’m in the Mood

My top 10 books – not necessarily my favorite to read, but that I recognize are best in quality. Keep in mind that I haven’t read all of the classics, and I do try and give young adult books their fair share.

In order from best to (relatively) worst:

1) A Christmas Carol – Dickens’ best book

2) Brave New World – Eat your heart out, 1984

3) The Silmarillion – Yes, higher than The Lord of the Rings. Much more difficult to read, and I still haven’t finished it, but it’s practically poetry, and the level of thought and detail is astonishing

4) The Lord of the Rings – Naturally.

5) The Book Thief – I’ve already talked about why I love this one. Beautifully written prose, wonderfully drawn characters, and some powerfully emotional scenes

6) To Kill a Mockingbird – I think a lot of the conservatives who read this one will roll their eyes, but I’m sorry, it’s a terrific book

7) The Magician’s Nephew – Probably the best book in “The Chronicles of Narnia”

8) A Wrinkle in Time – Meg is whiny and the ending is cloying, but the the three Mrs. W’s are superb characters and Camazotz and IT are fantastic

9) Romeo and Juliet – I know, I know, I’m cheating, it’s not technically a book, but it’s too great not to include – any list of great English literature is incomplete without Shakespeare

10) A Tale of Two Cities – This is the lowest because the first half of it is as boring as mud, but the second half is about as great as literature can get. Sidney Carton is as well-drawn a character as you’ll ever find

Books I need to read: Les Miserables, 1984, and probably some Russian stuff, though I can’t imagine I’d like them.

Any thoughts? What do you guys think?

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15 Responses to Just Because I’m in the Mood

  1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Lots more Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut. Seize the Day by Saul Bellow. Just off the top of my head. I might poke around up there and come back with some more.

  2. Syllabus says:

    You might give Brideshead Revisited a try. No one, before or since, could write quite like Evelyn Waugh.

  3. Juan Herena says:

    Brothers Karamazov. A must read for any theist.

  4. belloc says:

    I agree with you on ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’–I am a conservative and that book changed my life. It is about so much more than race–it is about the essential connection between human beings and how our actions affect one another. (And growing up too, of course!) As Syllabus said, too, ‘Brideshead Revisited’ is another great, and it could as a novel replace ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for your list, at least in my mind. Evelyn Waugh is one of the greatest prose stylists in the history of the English language.

    • Interesting that I have not one, but TWO requests for “A Brideshead Revisited”. I’ll have to check that out.

      AH, NOW I know what to replace “Romeo and Juliet” with. C.S. Lewis’s “The Great Divorce”. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant book. I was utterly engrossed from page one.

      Vox Day said that it’s harder to write a long novel than a short one. This is naturally demonstrably true, but take “A Christmas Carol” – I think it can be even harder to write a brilliant short novel than a long one. You need to pack a lot of meaning into a short space. Thus my list really only has one epic, “The Lord of the Rings”.

  5. Cale B.T. says:

    For short stories, I recommend the collection of Oscar Wilde’s short stories put out by Penguin as “The Happy Prince and Other Stories”, Thomas Mann’s “A Man and his Dog” and “Mumu” by Ivan Turgenev.

    Brideshead Revisited is heavy going, but brilliant.

  6. sunshinemary says:

    +1 on The Magician’s Nephew

    I’ve read everything on your list except for The Silmarillion.

    Other things to read if you haven’t:

    Animal Farm
    Madame Bovary
    All Quiet on the Western Front

    • “Animal Farm” is great. The other two I haven’t read, though I have heard some disappointing things about “All Quiet on the Western Front”.

      I’m pleased to hear you’ve read “The Book Thief”, as a more modern novel that for some unfathomable reason is classified as young adult I figured not a lot of people who read this blog would have read it.

      “The Magician’s Nephew” has some of my favorite characters in the series – Uncle Andrew, a more fully developed Jadis, Digory, and Polly – Uncle Andrew especially. The only real flaw, in my opinion, is the apple scene – I know Lewis draws VERY heavily on Christian tradition, but being offered forbidden fruit and promised eternal life by a devil figure? REALLY?? I mean, I know Lewis is known for beating you over the head a bit with his Christianity, but besides that scene “The Magician’s Nephew” has to be the most creative book of the series, with the arguable exception of “The Horse and his Boy”.

  7. JWDS says:

    Wow, nothing before the 19th century? Homer, Vergil, Beowulf, Song of Roland, Dante, Milton? Or are the classics not on the table?

    • Well, a couple of things on that. First off, I haven’t read a ton of classics yet – really only Aeschylus (who I love), Sophocles (tremendously overrated), some of Plato’s “Republic” (awesome), and large sections of the Aeneid.

      The problem with Homer is that, really, the Iliad and the Odyssey aren’t that good. They were influential and they were huge western literary landmarks, but given a thorough literary analyses they’re littered with Deus Ex Machinas, one-note characters, and totally discombobulated storytelling. Sure they were huge steps forward (and the Aeneid certainly had its moments), but overall they’re rather mediocre.

  8. Maz says:

    Ayn Rand – The Fountainhead
    P. J. O’Rouke – Give war a chance / his book on Adam Smith is boring, but easier than the Wealth of Nations
    Chuck Palahnuik – Fight Club
    Foucault – On human sexuality
    Orwell – 1984 (I know you mentioned it, but it’s very good)

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