Monday, August 27, 2007

The Best Novels in My Opinion

I have decided to start compiling a list of novels that I consider the cream of the crop, including both classic and contemporary authors.

This list is followed by a much shorter list of authors I am supposed to like, and many others love, but I do not. Of course, I am only listing books I have already read, which is why you might spot some gaps, but I hope to come back to this list to update it over time. An author is only represented once: if I love many of their books, I have chosen the one I love the most.

  • Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. A gem from the African continent, and one of the best portrayals of the introduction and impact of colonists I have ever read.
  • Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Purple Hibiscus. I also highly recommend Half of A Yellow Sun.
  • Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women.
  • Allende, Isabel. The House of the Spirits.
  • Anonymous. One Thousand and One Nights. I never grow tired of these enchanting tales, and adventures with Scherazade, Ali Baba, Aladdin, and Sinbad the Sailor, to name a few.
  • Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. I love many of her books, but this remains my favorite.
  • Austen, Jane. Emma. I have yet to read Pride and Prejudice, so we shall see if Emma remains my favorite of her works.
  • Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. I revel in Jane's outlook on life, her tenacity, and unfailing goodness.
  • Cather, Willa. O Pioneers.
  • Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. An emotional (and at the time it was written, taboo) journey that is not easily forgotten.
  • Christie, Agatha. A Caribbean Mystery. The grand Dame of mysteries. It was hard to pick just one.
  • Diamant, Anita. The Red Tent.
  • Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
  • Dreiser, Theodore. Sister Carrie.
  • Dumas, Alexandre. The Three Musketeers. There is no adventure to big for this delightful trio.
  • Greene, Graham. The Heart of the Matter. I started reading Graham not sure I would like him. What a wonderful surprise to see how much I enjoy his books!
  • Garcia, Cristina. Dreaming in Cuban. This book was my first introduction to magical realism (which led me to Allende, Marquez, and many others). It remains one of my favorites in that genre.
  • Golding, William. Lord of the Flies.
  • Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the D'urbervilles.
  • Hesse, Herman. Siddartha. In the shade of a banyan tree, a classic story is born.
  • Hemingway, Ernest. Old Man and the Sea. I'm generally not a fan of Hemingway, but this short novel holds a special place in my heart.
  • Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. Of all the books published in the 2000's that I have read, this is one of the best.
  • Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables.
  • Kidd, Sue Monk. The Secret Life of Bees.
  • Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible. I read this quite a few years ago, but the story still haunts me.
  • Lamb, Wally. She's Come Undone.
  • Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. One Hundred Years of Solitude.
  • Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. A magical reading experience that makes you want to start all over when you turn the last page.
  • McCullers, Carson. The Member of the Wedding. There's just something about Frankie that grabs your heart and holds on tight. Although, Bone in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter ranks up there, as well.
  • Mitchell, Margaret. Gone With the Wind. What can I say but, divine!
  • Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Green Gables. I always believed Anne and I were kindred spirits.
  • Nobokov, Vladimir. Lolita.
  • Orwell, George. 1984. Eerily prescient today, I often reflect back on this book.
  • Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia.
  • Pym, Barbara. Excellent Women. Her representation of a certain kind of woman of a certain generation in England is spot on. All of her books are delightful.
  • Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Discovering the magical world along with Harry Potter is a true delight.
  • Rushdie, Salman. Satanic Verses.
  • Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye.
  • Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice. I really need to read more Shakespeare, I've only read 3 of his plays, but this one comes out in front of Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet.
  • Shaw, George Bernard. Pygmalion.
  • Shikibu, Murasaki. The Tale of Genji. This book is amazing.
  • Smith, Zadie. White Teeth. Read this one. Skip On Beauty.
  • Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. It is so difficult to choose just one. East of Eden, The Moon is Down, and Of Mice and Men are all great.
  • Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom's Cabin. A must read for everyone.
  • Thackeray, William Makepeace. Vanity Fair. Ah, Becky Sharp. Always the achiever.
  • Tolkien, JRR. The Lord of the Rings.
  • Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. The final scenes of this novel are permanently imprinted on my mind.
  • Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five.
  • Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. Read the book. Then go watch the movie. Both are superb.
  • White, E.B. Charlotte's Web. A heart-warming tale about friendship.
  • Winton. Tim. Blueback: A Fable for All Ages. One of the rare times a fish has managed to capture my heart.
  • Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. I know, I know, this is not fiction. But I had to throw it in. Go read it!
  • Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway. This is the only Woolf I have read so far. If you take your time reading it, her genius shines through.
  • Wright, Richard. Native Son. All of his books are an enlightening read.
Books that others love, but I do not:
  • Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Go read Chinua Achebe instead.
  • Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I am not a fan of Haddon's writing style, although his portrayal of an autistic child was very good.
  • Naipul, V.S. The Bend in the River. I think I liked this book, but I don't remember anything about it.
  • Paton, Alan. Cry the Beloved Country. Again, I just liked this book, didn't love it.
  • Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead. Blaaaaahhhh. You should have stuck to philosophy, Ayn.
  • Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. Good. Not great.
  • Waugh, Evelyn. Brideshead Revisited. Liked it, did not love it.
  • Welty, Eudora. The Optimist's Daughter. This one is on the border. I enjoyed reading it, but when comparing it to all of the books above, I felt it didn't quite fit in.


Kailana said...

Awesome list. I am going to keep it saved for reference purposes. :)

Nyssaneala said...

kailana - Thanks! I've also added it to my sidebar. If anything, I think it also shows the many classics I have yet to read. :)

Anonymous said...

I like your list better than the Modern Library's 100 list :)
Some of your titles also make up my favorites - Mrs. Dalloway and The Handmaid's Tale in particular.

tanabata said...

Wow, what a fabulous list! I have to admit though that Things Fall Apart and Jane Eyre would be on my 'other people love them but I just liked them' list. :P
Someday I want to read The Tale of Genji. It's just so big!

Nyssaneala said...

iliana - The Handmaid's Tale is my favorite book! I was thinking about rereading it this year, but I haven't had a chance yet.

tanabata - I'm curious why you don't like Things Fall Apart? The Tale of Genji is a big book! It took me a very long time to read (it was sort of a summer project a few years back), but I thought it was worth it.

Paul M. Cray said...

"Brideshead Revisted" is a good book, but it is probably Waugh's weakest novel (it is certainly atypically lush for the dry-as-gin Waugh) and it's a pity it is often the one that people read first.

Nyssaneala said...

paul - I haven't given up on Waugh! I liked it enough that I do plan on reading some of his other works someday.

Lotus Reads said...

What a fabulous idea to compile a list of the best novels, I can see many of my favorites on there! The next time I am looking for a book of substance, I will make sure to refer to your list, thanks Nyssaneala!

jen said...

what a fantastic blog alisia! i agree with many of your favorites -and your almost but not quite list too - i just can't get into naipaul and conrad. have you read the secret life of oscar wao? i'm wondering about your take on it. also, i like dreaming in cuban, but have you read any julia alvarez? in the time of the butterflies is one of my all time favorites!

jen said...

oops, i must be tired. i meant the brief and wondrous life of oscar wao.