My posts have been wandering away from literature lately, so I figured it was time for something of the literary sort. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m always being asked what my favorite book is and I never have an answer. It’s such a complex question, almost existential in how my answer immediately pigeon holes and categorizes me. Am I a patchouli smelling hippie? Or am I an SUV driving, finger giving, cigar smoking country clubber? Perhaps I’m more of a non-fiction junkie, or a history buff?
Hmmm, this whole favorite book thing might have something to it! And seeing as how an afternoon of introspection and selection is never a bad thing, I’ve decided to attempt a list of my top 10 favorite books of all time! Disclaimer: this list is subject to change and revision. This list is also subject to whimsy, emotion, and life experience. Actual order of books on the list does not indicate the quality of the work, or author, only the opinion of Steve Gajadhar.
10. The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
This book makes you want to go out and club the unemployed, even if you are one. Not to mention all of those mewling and groveling co-workers! I don’t think there has ever been a more successful example of fictionalized philosophy.
9. The Book of the New Sun, and The Book of the Long Sun – Gene Wolfe
Wolfe is often called one of the greatest living writers in any genre. No argument here. His plotting and character development can be somewhat lacking, but he more than makes up for it with sheer imaginative power.
8. The Age of Reason – Thomas Paine
Paine wrote this from prison, and he quoted the scripture in the book from memory. This book is a journey and also one man’s religious epiphany. Paine then went on to become one of the founding fathers of America. Separation of Church and State anyone?
7. Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
Theme? Who needs a theme! Murakami simply tackles everything in this book. He also has a penchant for cats. If only I could read Murakami in his native tongue.
6. Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
From the first sentence, Marquez changed everything I thought I knew about the novel. A dazzling meditation on love, life and death that can be interpreted in a myriad of ways and yet never fully understood.
5. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
I love every one of Mitchell’s books, but this one is a masterpiece. How Cloud Atlas didn’t win the Booker is beyond me. I can only blame the somewhat bland opening. This one is also close to my heart because it features the Big Island of Hawaii. Mitchell writes individuals instead of characters. I dare anyone not to read this book twice. Then go buy the rest of Mitchell’s works.
4. Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
“Slaughterhouse Five” seems to get more attention, but this one deserves to be canonized. Bokononism and satire, woven together with beautiful and simple language that makes me hateful and hopeful at the same time.
3. Watership Down
Those darn fuzzy little bunnies. I’ve read this book four times now, and it only gets better. Great literature knows no age groups. This book should be a primer on types of government and it should be read in all college curriculums. After Marx. A story about getting where you are going.
2. White Noise – Don Delillo
Prescient. A must read contemporary novel. I compare the reaction of Delillo’s protagonist to the airborne toxic spill - and its aftermath - with the reaction of an ant to the shadow of a magnifying glass wielding eight year old. Then there’s the writing. Word after word of genius.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Who writes this as a first book? It’s completely unfair. Boo Radley exposed the judgmental nature of humanity better than any other literary character. Why do so many kids just gloss over their high school reading? It’s books like this that can change the world.
And since 10 is really never enough when it comes to fiction, here’s some more that could interchange with almost any book in the official list:
Catcher in the rye – J.D. Salinger
The collected fantasy/sci-fi works of Clive Barker and Stephen King
A Farewell to Arms – Hemingway - The ending is the best literary rain ever to fall.
Going After Cocciato – Tim O’Brien - How come I’d never head of this guy?
Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie - A Nobel lock. Book it.
The Inheritors – William Golding
The Demon Haunted World – Carl Sagan - Sagan shines a light on the unexplained. If this book doesn’t make you stop checking your horoscope, nothing will.
I hope some of you will share your own lists. It’s a great way to populate my Amazon.com wish list!