Today is the first Monday question in a series of five where we share our Top Five lists for several things. First up are books. (Advance warning: perfume will be last, so we have some time to pick our five most beloved scents.)
So let’s get started with Part I:
What are your Top Five books of all time?
Here we go, after much deliberation:
1. Gabriel Garcia Marquez: One Hundred Years Of Solitude (RIP, one of the most wonderful, magical authors ever). – A sweeping story of generations full of magic and unforgettable characters.
2. John Irving: A Prayer For Owen Meany – the story of a very unusual man and how he saved the world.
3. Umberto Eco: Foucault’s Pendulum – everything you ever wanted to know about arcane wisdom, the occult and more. There is almost nothing Eco doesn’t touch. He is a true renaissance man.
4. Wally Lamb: I Know This Much Is True – a rich, intricate novel about identical twin brothers dealing with their family history in very different ways. One is schizophrenic, the other is not. Impossible for me to summarize in a few words, this is a book that won’t ever leave you again.
5. Pat Conroy: The Prince Of Tides – deeply touching family history set in the deep south. Also made into a very good movie with Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand.
Special mention (because I just can’t leave them out!):
Stephen King: The Dark Tower Vol. I-VII – King’s opus magnum, the culmination of his entire body of work. A must-read for fans and just a fantastic story for everybody else.
Isabel Allende: The House Of Spirits – what can I say? I am a big fan of South-American magic realism.
Irvin D.Yalom: When Nietzsche Wept – a ficticious story about real people. What happens when Friedrich Nietzsche goes into therapy with Josef Breuer. Oh yes, a young medical intern is also important to the story, his name is Sigmund Freud.
Dennis Lehane: Shutter Island – dizzying crime story about a murder set on an isolated psychiatric hospital on Shutter Island. A psychological closed door murder mystery with a twist you’ll never forget.
I cannot wait for your Top Five Books!
Loved your books! My top five, in no particular order, are:
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Quincunx by Charles Palliser
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
the Stieg Larsson trilogy
I will definitely read The Quincunx and The Power Of One soon, thanks for sharing, Sandra!
It’s a very hard question to consider, actually, but I very much enjoyed reading about yours.
It is! I would love to get a glimpse of your reading preferences, I have a feeling I’d want want to read them all! If you have a minute, please share your top five (or the first five that come to mind which you can’t be without). 🙂
Lovely idea for Easter Monday. Here are five, the first that spring to mind (if I think about it too long I’m sure the list would change!)
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (reading this currently)
Emma by Jane Austen
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
The Seamstress by Maria Duenas
The Player of Games by Iain M Banks
Great timeless books! Thank you, Alice!
We do have quite a few in common, at least authors.
So mine are, in no particular order:
Umberto Eco Foucault’s pendulum
John Irving Last night in twisted river (but could also be Garp, so I’m cheating a bit here)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez 100 Years Solitude
J.R.R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings
Margaret Atwood Cat’s Eye
We do have a lot in commone indeed! I could have picked many Irvings an the Tolkien too…
I found “Solitude” far and above my head. Owen Meany was a wonderful book but I love all of John Irving’s work that I’ve read. My most consistent re-reads I will have to put as my faves. These are all books that I have had to replace because they fall apart on me after a few reads. Tolkien, Austen, and a slew of others have to be left off the list, though it hurts me to do it.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Dune by Frank Herbert
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Magician (Series and counterseries with Yanny Wurtz) by Raymond E Feist
Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Magician is a great choice! 🙂
Pride & Prejudice another great love.
Oh I love Dune, Portia! The movie is a classic, too.
Hey Annina, I never saw the movie. Read the book almost annually and have the fragrance. One day maybe.
I love that you read them so often you had to replace them!
Thanks for sharing your favorite books, P.
That’s a difficult question…It’s been a while since I read any novels, these are some books that stick in the mind:
Anna Karenin/ Tolstoy is sensational in the writing and sometimes one is in the mood for tragedy!
The Road To Wigan Pier/ George Orwell (as a young person, made an impression about the way other people lived, again beautiful writing)
Man’s Search for Meaning/ Viktor Frankl (life in the concentration camps, keeps you grounded about what’s important in life)
The Hare With Amber Eyes/ Edmund de Waal (superb story telling of his family’s fortunes from 19th century Vienna onwards, done through tracing the history of 264 wood and ivory netsuke)
Recently finished and greatly enjoyed
Mr Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead (the irrepressible, inimitable, forward-thinking founder of the Selfridges department store in the UK – the Jeremy Piven series on British TV was great – the first man here to put perfume and cosmetics on the ground floor and make girlie shopping fun!
I will have to look up Wally Lamb, my dear friend who is a great reader has recommended it to me so many times and When Nietzsche wept sounds fascinating.
For a more jolly bank holiday I recommend A short history of tractors in Ukrainian/Marina Lewycka never fails to put a smile on our faces at home.
Thank you for taking the time to share your wonderful picks, Lila! I must finally get around to read The Hare with the Amber Eyes! Mr Selfridge also sounds like something I would enjoy a lot.
Top five? Ohom, almost impossible- love your list though, many of your favourites are mine as well,Okay…trying to pick the five…:
The Lord of The Rings by JRR Tolkien (I can read this one 5 times a year…)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Thank you, fruwinther! Neil Gaiman is great, I need to put this particular one on my list.
I can’t believe this! 🙂
That’s because I’m lazy and slow.
I’ve been meaning to introduce my top 5 posts for weeks now and now I’m too late. 🙂 Hell.
My top 5 books of all time (in some cases, series, sorry).
1. Harry Potter
2. Lord of the Rings
3. Marija Jurić Zagorka: Vitez Slavonske Ravni (that’s a Croatian one)
4. Max Brooks: World War Z
5. Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
But now you have the perfect answer handy- 😉
You keep mentioning World War Z, is it really that good? I’m intrigued…
Actually, it is. 🙂 The zombies are not as important as the message. Did you see the movie? If not, see it before you read the book. Otherwise take into consideration that they share only the title. 😉
I didn’t see the movie and I think I never will. but I will read that book. 🙂
Just so you know, it’s not that bad. 🙂 It’s funny. The book though, that is rather scary when you think about it (and not because of the zombies).
I also heartily recommend World War Z, B!
I know you are a fan as well. I must really read it it seems! 🙂
Oh, great (and difficult) question! Off the top of my head, here’s my list. But I’m sure I’ll have thought of more as the day goes on.
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins
Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut
The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
The Four Agreements, Miguel Angel Ruiz
Spiritual Midwifery, Ina May Gaskin
The Hunger Games Trilogy
Creation, Gore Vidal
Oh thanks for mentioning your special mentions. I found the Four Agreements very good too and loved The Hunger Games!
Hi Birgit – interesting topic an very difficult to come up with a shortlist, but these are ones that changed my consciousness, just a little:
That Old Ace in the Hole – I love Annie Proulx’s characterisations of mid Western eccentrics
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Hard Times – Dickens
Music for Torching – A M Homes – gateway to American contemporary literature, for me
The Tortilla Curtain – T C Boyle
… A couple of philosophy texts changed the way I view the world, and I did love Les Miserables, too …
Hi Jane P!
Thank you for sharing a few of your most important books. I never heard of A M Homes (is that a cringe-worthy hole in my knowledge? I fear so!), I will have to immediately rectify that.
She’s won a couple of literary prizes, most recently for May we be Forgiven in 2013. I am always amazed at the authors I have not heard of. Lists like this are great and make me scurry off to Amazon :).
Me too! 🙂
That’s a great idea! So interesting to read everybody’s favorite books. My top 5, in no particular order:
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
The Hour I First believed, Wally Lamb
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
White Oleander, Janet Fitch
The Frozen Heart, Almudena Grandes
Thanks, I love that too! Nothing beats peeking onto people’s nightstands (or kindle libraries these days). 🙂
Love your top five, Claudia!
R.I.P. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I also love John Irving, but my ultimate favourites are:
To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee
Lady Chatterley’s Lover, DH Lawrence
Le Rouge et le Noir, Stendhal
The Unconsoled, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver
Thanks, rosestrang. I always unfairly skip over Ishiguro on my reading list, I really shouldn’t…
5 only is difficult, very difficult… Mine are really all time favs, most of them cherished by me since my teeage years (which I passed just yesterday really !).
The World According Garp (or anything else by Irving)
The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger)
We were the Mulvaneys (JC Oates) – was hard to decide, I love her books
What I loved (S. Hustvedt)
The Sirens of Titan (and lots of others by K. Vonnegut)
Honoarary : Ice Storm (R.Moody), So Much Pretty (C.Hoffman), Winnie the Pooh (AA Milne); Pale View of Hills (K. Ishiguro), Catch 22 (J.Heller)
Sorry for stepping in, but I just thought the other day that I wanted to read the S. Husvedt again. Not an easy novel for me, sort of too close to home in some ways, but wonderful.
No need to apologize for stepping in! You are not. We love all conversations here! 🙂
Oh, I love people stepping in ! I’m a big fan of Siri Hustvedt, I wish she was more “productive”
Most of those I have read and loved as well, the others go straight on my list. Thanks, LJG!
I knew I forgot somebody (well I have forgot quite a lot of them…), but I simply HAVE to mention Annie Proulx, the master of short stories.
Thank you for adding her!
The first four aren’t hard to place:
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
Toni Morrison, Beloved
I find it impossible to pick one last book, though. My Collected Keats? Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale? Donna Tartt, The Secret History? David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest? Anything by P. G. Wodehouse or Douglas Adams? The list keeps expanding instead of contracting.
I know the feeling!
The Secret History is a book I have read often but forgot to mention today (why o why?), so I’m glad you mentioned it.
We share quite a few all-time-favorites! One Hundred Years of Solitude is my #1 favorite. House of the Spirits, Foucalt’s Pendulum, & I Know This Much is True are all on my top 10 list.
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Imaginal – Clive Barker
The Passion – Jeanette Winterson
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
I love reading!!!
Thanks for sharing your faves, Amy Bella! I love reading too, what would I do without books?!
I adore seeing what everyone loves. It’s a great way of learning about people. My favorites are rather fluid, but at this moment-
A Tale of Time Being (Ruth Ozeki)
Half a Yellow Sun (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
The Inheritance of Loss (Keran Desai)
The Map of Love (Ahdaf Soueif)
The Pursuit of Love (Nancy Mitford)
and all women…..
Such an interesting list! Thanks, Tomate Farcie!
Yes, that Ruth Ozeki is absolutely phenomenal!
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An almost impossible task but here goes:
Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley
We Were the Mulvaneys – JC Oates
Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett
Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
JR Tolkein – Lord of the Rings
And because I’m a series nut, I give honorable mention to:
The Outlander Series – Diana Gabaldon
The Dresden Files – Jim Butcher
A Song of Ice & Fire – GRR Martin
Marion Zimmer Bradley! I love her dearly!
And the second mention of that particular Oates novel made me put it on my Amazon wishlist, thanks.
Oh I have to second Disc World. Terry Pratchett is so much fun.
But I love me a 19th century novel so manage to re- read Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds or Can You Forgive Her? or Austen just about every other year. Also have to have some Waugh, A Handful of Dust, and Mortimer’s Summer’s Lease, plus Dorothy Sayers! Read a lot of non-fiction though…
I never got into the Discworld series (yet!), since they seem so overwhelming in their multitude. 🙂
I read a lot of non-fiction too, but no matter how fascinating the topic, nothing bears the thrill of immersing myself in the world of a well-written novel.
This is going to be so interesting to see what all of your read. I’m an English teacher and have
hundreds, but here are some of the top ones:
War and Peace (read it once every decade to see how my perception changes)
Ship Fever…Andrea Barrett
The Human Stain…P. Roth
Mendel’s Dwarf…Simon Mawar
Pale Fire…V. Nabokov
Oops, it seems I can’t count..
You don’t have to know how to count, you’re an English teacher! 😉
I love reading about your favorites, thanks for sharing them here.
Thanks, Birgit. It looks as If I need a proof reader too…”to see what all of you are reading”.
I wanted to wimp out of this one but it’s only fair to try and play the game. Especially as I enjoyed reaidng everyone else’s lists so much.
My Top 5 is –
To Kill A Mockingbird
Catcher in the Rye
Paula by Isabel Allende
Now the cheating –
Either of the two Tropic books by Henry Miller which make me feel alive and grounded
or Stardust/Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman which take me somewhere else entirely
Books that made such an impression I recall them often –
The Girls, a novel about conjoined twins
Never Let Me Go, which makes me fearful whenever there’s talk of genetic engineering and the like.
The Time Traveller’s Wife, which bored me during the first third and then engrossed me.. The ending is a killer.
I must read Wally Lamb Birgit (as well as lots others mentioned) my sister is obsessed with his books at the moment.
So glad you didn’t wimp out on us, Tara!
I love your selections. I think you will love Wally Lamb! His She’s Come Undone is wonderful too.
Never Let Me Go scared me no end, it’s a phantastic book but I couldn’t read it once again. Really, I feel the Panic in my stomach now that we just talk about it,
Long time lurker here, but this is a topic close to my heart. Also, almost impossible to narrow it down to 5! It depends on mood and circumstance, I think. At the moment, then, my top five (and these are just novels) are:
1. Adam Bede (George Eliot)
2. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
3. The Violent Bear it Away (Flannery O’Connor)
4. Life A User’s Manual (Georges Perec)
5. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
After thinking about it for a while, I realized it would be much easier to name my top five perfumes or top five pieces of music than it would books.
I’ve loved reading about everyone else’s choices, though.
Hello, Kate, I’m glad you decided to de-lurk for this topic!
Thanks for taking the challenge of narrowing it down. The Perec sounds very intersting, I will investigate…
You’ll get your chance to name music and perfumes in the coming weeks! 😉
Here are five that haven’t already been mentioned:
John Updike, the Rabbit series
Ian McIwan, Atonement
Geraldine Brooks, March
Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
A.S. Byatt, Possession
O what fabulous books, thanks for mentioning them, Farouche!
Also,,,all three novels by Alison Krauss:
A Man Walks in a Room
The History of Love
The History of Love was sooo beautiful! Love it! Have to read the other two.
On the list!
Oh, how I love this – cannot wait to see what the next 3 will be. My favorites:
1. A History of Love (Alison Krauss)
2. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)
3. The Book Thief (Markus Zuzak)
4. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint Exupery)
5. Beautiful Souls (Eyal Press)
and an extra pitch for Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll) and all the Harry Potter Books (JK Rowling)
I love your favotie books, Gretchen! Thank you for sharing.
Well, I won’t even try to compile a list. I’m a voracious reader, and I would find it very difficult to pick my top five. However, one possibility may certainly be The House of Spirits. My aunt recommended it to me. It was so lovely and so full of magic. It has a fond place in my heart since my aunt was my hero, and she is now gone. Whenever I think of the book it not only reminds me of a lovely story, but a wonderful women.
How lovely to have a book (and such a special one too!) to remind you of your aunt.
Wow, great question and one I’m finding very hard to answer. It seems as most of my favorites are series or the entire writing of certains authors. My answer goes from my childhood thur adult years
Madeleline L’Engle – A Wrinkle in Time Series
C.S. Lewis – Narnia series & Out of a Silent Planet
Frank Herbert – Dune series
Jean M. Auel – Clan of the Cave Bear series
W.E.B. Griffin – Semper Fi series
Honorable mentions must go to Robert Heinlein, John Steinbeck, Henning Mankel, Stig Larsson, Donna Leon and Andrew Vachss. Wow, it’s sorta hard to stop listing authors but all of these are ones I can still read & enjoy. I love books either bound or e-version but I always have a book on hand. Escapism at its finest and cheap traveling!
I wholeheartedly agree, books are adventure in the head and no other pastime is better (or cheaper!).
You reminded me of how much I liked A Wrinkle in Time as a teen.
I loved reading your books, dear Birgit. “Owen Meany”, “One Hundred Years”, and the Dark Tower series are among my favourite books as well. “Mystic River” would be my pick of Lehane’s books. But Shutter Island was very good. I haven’t read Allende yet, but she is on my list.
My answers to your questions will come from my own top ten blog post from earlier this year. In no particular order they are:
My Side Of The Mountain by Jean Craighead George
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Quiet by Susan Cain
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
my full top ten post is here: http://jamesdennard.com/2014/02/21/top-ten-books/
Thank you for adding the link!
My pleasure 🙂
Such beautiful classics, Jim! You are a classy man in every way.
Oh, thank you for your compliment, my friend. Your writing, your subjects, and you are always wonderful. xo
I would say, in no particular order (and slightly cheating):
Perfume, by Patrick Süskind (read way before I had any real interest in perfume!)
Harry Potter series
All the books of Michel Folco, especially “Dieu et nous seuls pouvons” (I read them in French, not sure if they were translated, but if you do read French, definitely a must read!)
Pillars of the Earth, by Follet
Hygiene and the Assassin, by Amélie Nothomb (again, not sure if the English translation is good, but the original is amazing)
Special mention to the Stieg Larson’s trilogie, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help.
unfortunately my French is not up to speed for Folco or Nothomb. 😦
Funnily though I find the German translations of French books always better than the English ones…
Thanks for sharing your favorites.
Interesting. I’ve never much enjoyed French literature, and wondered if the English translations were to blame. My own fault, I suppose, for not learning French.
I can’t resist – although (as everyone says) such an impossible question. Here is a list of books that I read again and again, just for the sheer pleasure of reading them …
1. O’Hanlon, Into the Heart of Borneo
2. Caudwell, Thus Was Adonis Murdered
3. Wodehouse, anything with Jeeves (or Psmith or Lord Emsworth).
4. Nabokov, Pnin
5. Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield.
Fascinating to see all the other lists.
I love your list. I’ve never read #2, will have to remedy that.
A spectacularly funny and learned mystery novel. Sarah Caudwell only wrote four novels, and the first is the best, though I must say I love them all. Julia is my role model.
Your own list is pretty fascinating to me! I will look these up right away.
Thanks for sharing!
Into the Heart of Borneo has a special place in my heart. Although it is a little too long, it’s amazingly funny. I remember I nearly fell out of an airplane seat into the aisle the first time I read it, I was laughing so hard – and I was flying coach. It’s a nonfiction narrative of a natural historian and a poet going upriver in Borneo. I am not brave enough to undertake such a trip, but I can enjoy the narrative in my happily leech-free surroundings!
It was a tough question, you feel like betraying a favorite book by not including it into the short list. But then I decided to cheat and give you two lists – five my favorite books (I decided to name those that weren’t mentioned by others yet) and five of my vSO’s (three of which are my favorites as well ; -) ).
My list (random order, of course):
1. Vladimir Nabokov, Mashen’ka (English translation: Mary) (it’s hard to choose just one novel from this author, I really like at least four more but Mashen’ka, in my opinion, is an ideal way into Nabokov’s world)
2. Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
3. Erich Maria Remarque, Arch of Triumph
4. Boris Vian, Froth on the Daydream
5. John le Carré, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold
My vSO’s list:
1. Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading
2. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Devils
3. Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum
4. Jorge Luis Borges, Short Stories
5. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
An honorable mentioning: Stephen King, It (for me it’s not a horror novel but rather an ultimate story about a childhood) and Patrick Süskind, Perfume (I read it soon after it had been published and it changed forever my feelings towards previous centuries: now I always think about how it all stank back then).
Thank you, Undina! I cheated too! 😉
I totally agree with you that It is a fantastic coming of age novel, the horror is completely secondary, as is often the case with King (the horror element is why he is so unfairly underrated by many who believe that is what it’s all about).
I love reading everyone’s lists! Off the top of my head, some books that would definitely be included on my top more-than-five list would include The Dark Tower series (so wonderful!), The Hobbit by J.R.R.Tolkien, The Once and Future King by T.H.White, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and the 44 Scotland Street Series by Alexander McCall Smith 🙂
So good to hear you are a fan of The Dark Tower too.
Thanks for sharing your list, Nemo!
Hi Birgit – this is a tricky question and I love seeing what other people have on their lists.
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Middlesex – Jeffrey Euginedes
Bring Up The Bodies – Hilary Mantel
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Love In The Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I also love Margaret Atwood and can’t believe I didn’t get her in on my list.
Am currently reading the Game of Thrones books – up to the second one – A Clash of Kings. These books are door stoppers – will take me a while to finish!
I am somewhere past page 2000 in the Game of Thrones series (the kindle version has them all in one big chunk), so I know what you mean!
Thanks for sharing your faves with us!
Wow, so nice to see Froth on the Daydream by Boris Vian pop up in Undina’s list – it is one of my favourites and I made a special study of his work at university. I had forgotten all about it though, it was all so long ago…
I am not sure of my five but in there might be:
The Magus by John Fowles
A Passage to India by E M Forster
The Secret History by Donna Tartt (already mentioned!)
One by Barbara Trapido but not sure which…maybe Juggling
Anita Shreve The Last Time They Met
And No 6 can be The Stranger in the Mirror by Jane Shilling, haha!
All of yours made it on my to read list. Yes, even no 6. 😉
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