So here they are (drumroll please) according to TIME magazine, the ten greatest books of all time: They were compiled from many lists and are noted in the book The Top Ten by J. Peder Zane (Norton 352 pages)
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Oh my… one more thing to make us all feel inferior. How many have I read you ask? Hmmm… let’s see. Hamlet, Huckleberry Finn, and Lolita. I have tried several times to get through The Great Gatsby (I totally do not understand the attraction or the critical love of this novel) and Anna Karenina (couldn’t get into it). I remember carrying around War and Peace in High School to impress a boy (Anyone remember what happened to Pat Hogan, Adamson High School class of 72?), and to be quite honest I’ve never even heard of In Search of Lost Time. I think I saw the movie of Madam Bovary, if that counts.
I think everyone should have their own list of, if not the “greatest” or even their “favorite”, at least “Some Books I Love”. So here are five of mine, because you’re not really interested in ten.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith -The story of Francie Nolan, who grew up in Brooklyn at the turn of the (last) century. I have read this book at least a dozen times, probably more. I used to read it once a year. When I first read it I was Francie’s age on the opening page – ten – and when I last read it, last year, I was probably as old as the oldest person in the novel. I get something new from it every time I read it. My daughter and I read it together when she was 12 or so, but I don’t think she loved it like I did. I have suggested it to everyone who has ever asked me for a reading club suggestion.
Gone With the Wind , Margaret Mitchell. Pat Conroy recently wrote a fabulous essay about GWTW in his memoir “My Reading Life”. Everything he says applies, so just read it and remember that I wish I had said it.
Land Below the Wind by Agnes Newton Keith. What – you’ve never heard of it? Of course you haven’t – it’s the best book that no one has read in fifty years. It is the story of Keith’s life in Borneo between the two world wars and it is fabulous. The only reason you may have heard of Keith at all is because she also wrote “Three Came Home” about her time in captivity under the Japanese during WWII. It was published in 1947 and became a national bestseller. The movie was made three years later and was quite controversial, but certainly doesn’t seem so today. Its portrayals of the horrors of war are quite tame by today’s standards. Land Below the Wind and Three Came Home were followed by Bare Feet in the Palace. I own and love all three of these books. She was a brave, courageous and witty woman way ahead of her time.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Does anyone not love this book? I have (no exaggeration) worn out four or five paperback copies of this novel. Each time the pages start falling out so I just throw them away as I read them. I always have a copy of it in the car because you never know when you’re going to get stuck in traffic. I can pick it up at any spot and just fall in. I love the miniseries too, which is strange. Usually I love the book and hate the movie. While we’re talking about books and movies, when I first read Jaws, I loved the name of the sheriff, Martin Brody. I decided on an airplane flying home from an ill-fated sojourn in LasVegas that if I ever had a son I would name him Brody. I did, but he is quick to tell you that I named him from the book not the movie. (Only real readers get that joke)
I actually have a love-hate relationship with Larry McMurtry. I love the dramas – “Horseman, Pass By” (later made into the movie “Hud) and “The Last Picture Show” (same movie title) and of course “Lonesome Dove” but I hate the comedies. “Texasville”, which purported to follow the characters created in “Last Picture Show” really ticked me off. It was as if McMurtry was so contemptuous of those of us who loved his novels and characters that he had to belittle them.
“Slammerkin” by Emma Donaghue, lately famous for “The Room”. This is NOT everyone’s cup of tea. It is about a young woman in 18th Century England who, after being thrown out of her home becomes a prostitute and gets her comeuppance. Fully fleshed out (no pun intended), I love Mary Saunders and her tawdry world.
So there you have them. Notice I didn’t call them the “greatest” anything – so you don’t have to feel inferior because you didn’t read them. To read more about Time’s list go to : http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1578073,00.html#ixzz1WGtpXZkz