Work has been overwhelming lately, and between work and travel I haven’t posted in over a week. Blogging must have really gotten under my skin because I missed it the whole time – but I’ve just felt too brain dead to post anything. But this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (from The Broke and The Bookish) is a good way to get back to it.
Last week’s topic was Top Ten book covers. Since I’ve gone “coverless” (a la my Kindle) I didn’t feel I had much to contribute. But today’s Top Ten is our top ten all time favorites. A tough choice, an impossible choice in fact. But I’ve picked ten that have had some substantial impact on my life OR that I find I recommend/loan often. Interestingly, except for Harry Potter, all of these are books I read more than ten years ago — maybe what you read when you’re younger just has more of an impact.
Starting with the children’s books:
1) The Lorax by Dr. Suess: my all time favorite children’s book. Dr. Suess is amazing. I can recite most of this book in my head and in times of stress I often do. My favorite line: “where the wind smells slow and sour when it blows/and no birds ever sing excepting old crows/is the street of the Lifted Lorax.” The happy illustrations make you happy, and the sad illustrations make you think. A gorgeous book with an important message. What more can you ask for?
2) The Oz Series by L. Frank Baum: There are 14 of these books, of somewhat uneven quality, and most people don’t think these are the greatest children’s books ever, but if I could pick a fictional world to live in, it would be Oz hands down. The characters and their adventures just get better and better, and as a girl who loved fantasy, I loved having a place to go where girls run the world. My favorite book is Glinda of Oz, which is the last one written before Baum died.
3) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle: speaking of heroines, is there a better one than Meg Murray? She’s awkward, smart, and brave. I love this book because when I reread it after many years, it was even better than I remembered. One of the best children’s fantasy books of all time.
4) Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: I love this series because Rowling managed to create a truly original fantasy series (even thou Harry Pogh the wizard concept is pretty old stuff) and made it better with each book, even after she became super-famous. Book 5 is still my favorite. I love how screwed up Harry is, how you really feel him going from kid to teenager. And the outcome of the book is devastating.
And now my favorite college-era books:
5) Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy: This is a huge, epic book about World War II, mostly from the point of view of female characters. The characters in this book span continents and many of them die. They are soldiers, spies, female pilots, concentration camp victims, and Jews. No book has ever given me such a comprehensive view of World War II, and such a human one.
6) Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver: I went to college in Tucson, Arizona, where Barbara Kingsolver was revered. To be rebellious I didn’t read her work until I left, and then I couldn’t believe I waited so long. At the time she only had a handful of books, and Animal Dreams was one of them. This book is about the Southwest, teaching, love, international policy, among other things. It’s also gut-wrenching.
7) The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. I discovered this book when a high school English teacher assigned it to me. Even though I hated school at the time, this didn’t feel like literature, it felt like a romance novel or a soap opera. Eustacia Vye is one of my all time favorite characters (and one of my favorite names in literature) – she’s tormented, insecure, and sometimes downright mean. And in true Hardy fashion she comes to a tragic end, but she learns a few things along the way. I love the really screwed up characters. Which leads to my next pick…
8) The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. What can I say? When I read this book in college I felt like I knew exactly what Plath was talking about. I’ll have to reread it to see if it still resonates. Plath was a beautiful writer with (again) a tragic end. Boo, Ted Hughes.
And now for my “fluffy” picks:
9) The Stand by Stephen King. I’m picking the Stand because writing about it recently reminded me how much I loved it, and how much the story still seems likely to happen today. And even though Frannie now looks like Molly Ringwald in my head and Stu looks like Gary Sinise (if only favorite books weren’t made into movies), I still love it and recommend it to people all the time.
10) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Best romance/time travel/Scotland book of all time. I remember reading this book on a beach outing during law school, and what I always remember is the horrific sunburn it gave me because I stayed out so long. It’s that good. Gabaldon turns every romance cliché on its head in this book. This is the book that inspired me go to Scotland, and it was as glorious a country as I hoped it would be.
If I took off the children’s books I would add: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, Animal Farm by George Orwell, and Emma by Jane Austen.