The Top Ten

The Top Ten: Writers Pick their Favorite Books, edited by J. Peder Zane is a collection of top ten book lists that 125 authors submitted, with the results correlated in all kinds of interesting ways. (I know that’s not terribly descriptive, but I’ve been struggling with that one sentence for about 2 weeks now, so either take my word for it or go here for a slightly more eloquent description.)

Each book that appears on a list is given points for where on the list it appears (#1 books get 10 points, all the way down to 1 point for books in the #10 position). If a book appear on more than one list all its points get totaled and the books with the most points at the end make up the end-all-be-all top ten list. In total there were 544 books listed. The book also contains paragraph long synopses of each of the books listed.
Of course I had to keep track of my own stats as I went, and this is what I discovered. Out of the end-all-be-all top ten best books I’ve read seven :Anna Karenina (#1), Madame Bovary (#2), Lolita (#4), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (#5), Hamlet (#6), The Great Gatsby (#7), The stories of Anton Chekhov (#9); and haven’t read three: War and Peace (#3), In Search of Lost Time (#8), and Middlemarch (#10).
Out of all of the books I’ve read 87, 5 of which I want to reread. I’ve tried but didn’t finish 15, 9 of which I want to go back and try again, and I haven’t read but want to read 145. The remaining 280 I just have no interest in. (I know those numbers don’t add up to 544, but words, not numbers, are my friends.

I’ve read the most off of the top ten works of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, mostly because of my good friend Shakespeare, and I’ve read more American authors than British, Russian or French.

Interesting to no one but me? Probably. But here’s a question you may find more interesting, if you’re still with me– what are your top ten books? I’ve been thinking about it, and my tentative list is below. You can take “best” to mean whatever you want: favorite, most influential, most powerful, whatever- but the books should be fiction.

1) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fiztgerald
2) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
3) Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
4) Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare
5) The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Murial Spark
6) Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
7) The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

8) Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Cholderlos de Laclos

9) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

10) A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Those aren’t in order, it was hard enough to narrow it down without trying to choose which was the best of the best. (The Hours by Michael Cunningham and Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson are screaming to be on the list, I just can’t pick anything to take off to put them on.) And just so you know, my criteria for best included how much I love it, how much I enjoy reading and rereading it, the quality of the writing, and the contribution I think it makes to the world.

So what are your top ten?

5 thoughts on “The Top Ten

  1. bruce on

    My top 10? Hrm, that’s tough. Totally off the top of my head…

    1. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail of 76 by Hunter S. Thompson
    2. The Electric Cool-Aid Acid Trip by Wolfe
    3. Hakagure by Tsunetomo Yamamoto
    4. Taltos by Steven Brust
    5. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    6. HGTTG by Douglas Adams
    7. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
    8. Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Milman (I know, total hippy book)
    9. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fiztgerald
    10. Hamlet by Shakey

    Hrm, it might be slightly different if I sat down and thought about it for a while.

  2. Becky on

    oh my, I haven’t read any of your top ten. I have heard or a few but never even read them from start to finish. I feel so illiterate!

    I need to think about my top 10…get back to you on that one. How did you ever narrow it down to 10?

  3. Becky on

    Okay here are my top ten:

    The Hiding Place – Boom
    Little Britches – Moody
    Les Miserables – Hugo
    Hatchet – Poulsen
    Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Stowe
    Pride & Prejudice – Austen
    The Chosen – Potok
    Heidi – Spryi
    Laddie a true blue tale – Porter
    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Twain

    I noticed that most of my favorite books were childrens books. Guess I need to start reading more adult fiction. 🙂

  4. Kim H. on

    OK, I sat down and thought about it. Here is my list, not in any particular order (I couldn’t contain it to 10, but I did stop when I realized I was getting out of control):
    Dragonsong (McCaffery)
    Pride and Prejudice (Austen)
    Incident at Hawks Hill (Eckert)
    Jane Eyre (Bronte)
    My Side of the Mountain (George)
    The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas)
    Great Expectations (Dickens)
    The Eyre Affair (Fforde)
    Dune (Herbert)
    Poisenwood Bible (Kingsolver)
    Hamlet (Shakespear)
    Daisy Miller (James)
    A View From the Cherry Tree (Reissue)

  5. Kim H. on

    Middlemarch hasn’t made it to my top 10 yet because I still haven’t finished it.

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