Favorite Books List
I promise, I'm not trying to blog poor Kairos to death, but his very interesting post inspired my own thinking about a list of favorite books. (That's by way of saying you can blame him for this:-)) As I thought about it, I also thought that perhaps I should rank them, because otherwise the list is likely to look like that of a pretentious windbag (as though you hadn't already figure THAT out for yourself). So as I embark on my list, let me place at the very top of the list my three all-time favorite books/pieces of literature:
J. R. R. Tolkien-Lord of the Rings
Mark Twain--Tom Sawyer
Ray Bradbury--Dandelion Wine.
There, now that no one can accuse me of pretentious, the following is a list in no particular order of my favorite fiction. Nonfiction and spiritual books will have to wait for a more considered presentation.
Flannery O'Connor--Everything. An amazing, intense, fascinating, quirky artist.
Love in the Ruins --idiosyncratic, strange, nearly surreal.
The Haunting of Hill House forget the modern movie version--the 1963 Claire Bloom is closer to the book--still read the book memorable for its wonderful send-off "Whatever walks there, walks alone." Chilling and strangely sad.
The Turn of the Screw I really didn't much care for this until I grew old enough to know what it was really talking about. Now I find it one of the most eerily frightening books around.
Ulysses--Yes, the book that more people have started than ever thought of finishing, fascinating, aggravating, modernist, and ultimately a very satisfying puzzle, if one can overlook the sacrilege and very scatological humor.
Winesburg, Ohio--I love this book without reason and without apology--kind of the way I feel about Tom Sawyer--can't explain it, and will probably never read it in a way that would allow me to do so.
To the Lighthouse--I don't care if some regard her as an elitist virago, I find this book lovely beyond description with its gentle evocation of the persistence in memory of one long gone.
In Search of Lost Time--Read Alain de Boton's remarkable How Proust Can Change Your Life for a sense of why this is such a marvelous if flawed work. Talk about dubious morality!
War and Peace Skim those tedious essays on the nature of history and really savor this magnificent and interesting story.
Dune--That's right, I said "Dune." And while I'm admitting these deep dark things I may as well confess to H. P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, Peter Straub's Ghost Story and Stephen King's Salem's Lot (With that little revelation, my stock probably tumbled more than the entire Dow Jones over the last 18 months--oh well.)
Tom Jones--Yes following on my obsession with 17th century poetry is my obsession with 18th century novels, include here Tobias Smollet's Humphrey Clinker and Peregrine Pickle, Richardson's Clarissa, Sterne's Tristram Shandy, and Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland. (That's not to count all the wonderful age of Gothics Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolfo [and nearly anything else by Anne Radcliffe] and others)
Bleak House Who can help but admire the story of the endless lawsuit of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce and the people wrapped up in it.
All of Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, Dorothy Sayers, Most of Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen, and others of their ilk. (I know, the barometer keeps falling--that's okay, you'll have a more realistic estimate of what is written here).
All of M.R. James and most of Henry James. All of Nathaniel Hawthorne and nearly nothing by Melville (Here I agree largely with Kairos--side note to Kairos--You might enjoy In the Heart of the Sea which is a nice retelling of the story of the voyage that inspired Moby Dick.
Are you sufficiently bored yet? Perhaps more telling are those writers I simply can't stand--for example, Hemingway. I know, I know, you can tell me all you want about the remarkable transformation of style as a result of his spare, lean writing, it still strikes me as so much macho heavy-handed folderol.
Okay, enough, I have presumed upon your patience too much. There are many, many, many more. But I'll talk about plays and poetry, nonfiction, and spirituality some time in the future--if I haven't alienated my entire readership. Thanks for letting me share some of my thinking.
(As Pascal said to one of his correspondents--"If I'd had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.")