13 March 2012

Tuesday Top Ten: Titles

Reading in Paris... with a cat. (Taken at Shakespeare and Company)

I shared some of my favourite novels with my online Resolutionary Challenge group a few weeks ago and ever since then I keep thinking of other books I'd also add to the list. Then a friend asked me to share the list so in no particular order, here are books that I have loved to read and recommend.(if you think we have anything similar in our taste at all, that is.)

1. I'm counting the Harry Potter series as one since I wouldn't be able to add anything else if I didn't! LOVED these. And so glad to hear she is planning on writing more.  I don't think I need to describe these. (And just in case you were wondering - read the Twilight series and discouraged my niece from doing the same but enjoyed (not nearly as much though) the Hunger Games series.)

2. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett - since you may not know this one - I'll include the wikipedia description.

Based on the Lima Crisis, this book is about a group of terrorists who hold high executives and people of high political standing hostage. It explores how the terrorists and hostages cope with living in a house together for several months. Many of the characters form unbreakable bonds of friendship, while some fall in love.

3. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - such a great classic! My mother's favourite from her childhood and now it is one of mine.

4. The Canticle of Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. - one of my all time favourites!

Set in a Catholic monastery in the desert of the southwestern United States after a devastating nuclear war, the story spans thousands of years as civilization rebuilds itself. The monks of the fictional Albertian Order of Leibowitz take up the mission of preserving the surviving remnants of man's scientific knowledge until the day the outside world is again ready for it.
Okay that is the wikipedia description. I just became fascinated with the idea of how knowledge is valued and shared. The power it gives and the threat it poses. This was Walter Miller's only novel published in his lifetime.

5. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbury - I've read this more recently and was so moved. Lovely characters - challenging writing.

The book follows events in the life of a concierge, Renée Michel, whose deliberately concealed intelligence is uncovered by an unstable but intellectually precocious girl named Paloma Josse. Paloma is the daughter of an upper-class family living in the upscale Parisian apartment building where Renée works.
6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Not what I expected at all. After all, I grew up with the Munsters and the Hilarious House of Frightenstein. And while these are comedies, I knew that they were based on  much scarier tales of fantastic monsters. This is not that kind of book. It is deep and philosophical, handling topics of creation, destiny, alienation, religion, obligation, family... so much within a tragic tale.
7. Agatha Christie novels. Again - how to narrow it down?? I remember reading "4:50 from Paddington" in junior high and becoming hooked! (Also known as "What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!" or later on as "Murder, She Said". I now love the BBC dramatizations of these great detective novels and listen to them often.
8. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - both by Douglas Adams. Brilliant comic writing and classic references I think of in many situations. The Vogon poetry and that scene with Arthur and Fenchurch and Dire Straits. And the reference to penguins sitting on suitcases in Dirk Gently...
9. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Epic novels. The Fountainhead added flame to the spark of interest I had in architecture and both novels brought to life some of the political and philosophical debates that made up my university experience.
10.  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. (the abridged version!!)
Okay I cheated and slipped in multiple titles in some which were in a series or by the same author. This list doesn't even mention the novels I became obsessed with in my China period, my German period,  my Russian period, the novels I read for my cultural anthropology studies from South America, the Caribbean, India, and the Middle East. And the Canadian authors I love. Only some of the novels from my historic fiction period. From my "I can only find Penguin novels in Korea" period. I only mentioned a few relatively recent novels - and I'm not sure they will stand the test of time  - and missed entirely "Suite Francaise" and "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" and how these two present a very interesting picture of WWII when read side by side. (Okay - now I've slipped those in there - whew). I didn't include non-fiction books - that would be a different list of titles that opened my mind and taught me about myself and the world I live in.
I was watching the TED video on the power of introverts and in part she describes her family of readers. It made me consider how I became this way. I packed a suitcase of books on every family camping trip as well. I know my mom and grandmother, both being teachers, instilled that love of books early but I didn't really have this behaviour modelled for me.  I know my mom loved to read as a girl and talks about disappearing on the farm in order to spend time reading undisturbed.  I'm grateful for a family that allowed me to be that introverted kid with the suitcase of books.  And for the record, still the best Christmas present in the world!

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