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Top Ten Favorite Books (so far)...

1. Cry, The Beloved Country - Alan Paton

I read this book when I was 17 and did an hour-long oral presentation on it for a high school English class. Ten years later I re-read this book and was blown away by how much I just didn't get the first time I read it. I'm going to try to re-read this book every ten years to see what else I'm missing. Paton is an elegant writer. I have a thing for books set in Africa.

2. The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I read this book shortly after I became fascinated with everything Russian. After reading this book I read Elder Ambrose of Optina by Fr. Sergius Chetverikov. Optina is a famous monastery in Russia that Dostoyevsky visited frequently. Dostoyevsky wrote The Brothers with the specific intention of depicting the real-life, clairvoyant monk, Elder Ambrose, with whom he often sought spiritual counsel. Dostoyevsky's fictional character, Elder Zosima, was modelled after Elder Ambrose and Dostoyevsky put many of the words spoken by Elder Ambrose directly into the mouth of Elder Zosima.

I also just love Dostoyevsky because he was a tortured soul and I tend to like tortured souls because I myself am a tortured soul.

3. Till We Have Faces - C.S. Lewis

A re-telling of the classic tale of Psyche and Cupid. I really identified with the main character's god-angst. This book gives readers a picture of what it would be like to live with an orthodox pagan worldview, not this neo-happy-go-lucky-paganism that is popular today.

4. Middlemarch - George Eliot

They knew how to write back then (1871). If you think you're a good writer, read this book and realize that you're not.

5. Out Of Africa - Isak Dineson

Breathtaking, elegant, and a fascinating look into Africa.

6. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe

Another fascinating look into Africa.

7. The Chosen - Chaim Potok

A great book for young and old adults alike. A peek into the lives of Jews (Orthodox and otherwise) living in Brooklyn during WWII.

8. Love Medicine - Louise Erdrich

I read this book for a American Indian Literature class I took last fall. I love the way this woman writes and I copied entire passages into my offline journal.

9. Black Elk Speaks as told to John G. Neihardt

Another book I read for my American Indian Lit. class. I venerate Black Elk as a saint and hope to paint an icon of him some day and make a pilgrimage to his grave.

10, One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I'm reading this right now and I'm spellbound.

Honorable Mentions:
Youth of the Apocalypse - Monks John Marler and Andrew Wurmuth
1984 George Orwell
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Tonto and Lone Ranger Fist-Fight in Heaven - Sherman Alexie

***For extra credit tell me how many of my top ten books were written by women. Do not include honorable mentions.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 30th, 2004 01:23 am (UTC)
Your reads are way different than mine. I read for escape. I read fiction almost exclusively. Most of that is 'genre fiction'. I can't imagine myself getting through Jane Eyre.
Jul. 30th, 2004 08:40 am (UTC)
All of my top ten books are fiction, except for the book on Black Elk. If I had to guess, I'd say that you might dig Things Fall Apart and Black Elk Speaks. They are more guy accessible I'd say.

Yeah, Jane Eyre is kind of a girlie book. Oddly enough I was encouraged to read this book by a Russian Priest-monk.

Oh, and The Chosen is guy accessible too. It's bascially about the friendship between two Jewish boys--one is an Orthodox Jew and the other is also Jewish but not an Orthodox Jew. I learned a lot about Jewish history and culture by reading this book. My only criticism of this book is that it's too Zionistic. But a lovely, up-lifting read nonetheless.
Jul. 30th, 2004 07:42 am (UTC)
Oooooh, it looks like we have similar tastes in literature! I love "must reads" like, well, pretty much everything by Harper Lee, JD Salinger and George Orwell, but then I've never read Jane Eyre for some reason. I should do that. CS Lewis is another favorite of mine, but I've never read that particular one.

The one that really struck me on your list was Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe. I love LOVE that book! My personal opinion is that every single person alive should read that one. So simple, yet it totally blew my world view into a thousand bits the first time I read it. I have an urge now to buy several copies and distribute them to my friends.

I don't think I could even make a top ten list. So many can't even be compared. How does one compare Kafka to Homer? Or Frank Herbert? And just for starters I'd have to include everything ever written by Vonnegut... Maybe I'll write a top ten favorite authors list instead.

Based on your list, I'm going to read #s 1, 3 and 7 and maybe 8 as soon as I can pick them up.

As for your extra credit question, the answer is 3. 2 were gimmes, and the third I suspected, but wasn't sure so I looked it up. So I suppose I really only deserve a half point. :P
Jul. 30th, 2004 08:29 am (UTC)
Based on what I know about you I think you would absolutely love Til We Have Faces.

I'd love to read your top ten list!

Okay, I'll give you 3 extra credit points.
Jul. 30th, 2004 09:02 am (UTC)
Oh THANK you for kickstarting my brain!
My top lists have been something I've been meaning to do for sometime now. I'm thinking I may have to do a couple different lists though, because as I said, some just don't go with others. Apples and Oranges, so to speak.

Like, there are authors I enjoy for pure escapism, like Stephan King and Anne Rice, but I wouldn't put them up there with philosophers like Camus, or SciFi the calibur of Herbert's Dune series. (To be honest, I see authors like Herbert and Vonnegut as philosophers, and made that argument often to my philosophy professors)

So I think I'll make 3 lists. One for popular fiction, one for my favorite classic literary authors/works, and one list for the ones that just Blew My Mind and my world view. Achebe definitely goes on that list.

My summer has been kinda mindnumbing...this is a good project to exercise my brain a bit. Thanks.

I added both Til We Have Faces and The Chosen to my wishlists. The Chosen was a little harder to find, I kept finding Cliff Notes on it, but not the actual book. Does no one read anymore??? I finally found it on Half.com. Actually, Til We Have Faces was only on Audio at Half.com, and I had to go to Amazon to find it. Again, does no one read anymore?

Maybe I do deserve the 3 ec points, if only because I read books. :P Sigh.
Jul. 30th, 2004 08:51 am (UTC)
I had to read To Kill A Mockingbird in Jr year of HS. It's one of those 5 books I was forced to read and actually enjoyed....Another being Night.

I have Youth of the Apocalypse and I haven't finished it. I read some-stop-start over....I've done that like 5 times already.
Jul. 30th, 2004 12:11 pm (UTC)
That book really changed my life.
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Jul. 30th, 2004 11:54 am (UTC)
Please make a list! I love reading people's fav book lists.

I haven't read any other Dostoyevsky besides The Brothers, but I plan to sooner or later. I've been putting off reading The Idiot because I've heard that much of this story is lost in the English translation. I have serious doubts that my Russian will ever be good enough for me to read it in Russian. I also really need to read Crime and Punishment since this is one of my mom's top ten favorite books.

Yeah, consider giving Cry, the Beloved Country another chance. It didn't really impress me all that much in high school either but, man, what a difference 10 yrs. can make.

A whole class on C.S. Lewis? For some reason I'm not a big C.S. Lewis fan but Til We Have Faces had an impact on me that is difficult to describe. It was almost a mystical experience.

Many people find Middlemarch to be Eliot's most boring work.

Happy Reading!
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 30th, 2004 10:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the tips.
Jul. 30th, 2004 11:41 am (UTC)
Going for it
3 of the authors on your list are women.
Jul. 30th, 2004 11:55 am (UTC)
Re: Going for it
Yes, you are correct (assuming you did not include any of the honorable mentions).
Jul. 30th, 2004 12:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Going for it
Nope, I didn't.

I suppose I had an unfair advantage though; I majored in English.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )