We all like to discuss the novels we love most, so I thought I’d formalize that this week by listing my ten all-time favorite novels and then asking for yours.
To make things more interesting, I’ll tally up everyone’s favorites mentioned in comments here, in comments on Facebook, and in comments on Twitter. Then I’ll rank them and post the results this Friday, March 31. (Ten points for each first-place mention, nine points for each second-place mention, etc.) I realize better-known novels might have an advantage, but, heck, there’s little that’s scientific about this little poll. 🙂
Needless to say, your lists can include everything from literary novels to mass-audience books to genre fiction.
My sometimes-hard-to-rank list, which includes novels by six women and four men – and authors from the United Kingdom (4), Canada (1), France (1), Germany (1), Italy (1), Russia (1), and the United States (1):
10. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Incredible tale of false imprisonment and epic revenge.
9. The Night in Lisbon by Erich Maria Remarque. The most gripping World War II novel I’ve ever read focuses on two German refugees.
8. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. A diagnosis of terminal illness changes a young woman’s life for the better. (Not a depressing book, I assure you.)
7. Possession by A.S. Byatt. An intricate tour de force that includes 19th- and 20th-century love affairs with some similarities.
6. History by Elsa Morante. Another riveting World War II novel, about a beleaguered woman and her two very different sons. Each chapter opens with a historical timeline.
5. The seven Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling (series are okay to include in your lists 🙂 ). Wizardry, friendship, cliffhangers, distinctive heroes/heroines/villains, humor, much more.
4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Feverish writing and psychological fireworks that glue you to the page.
3. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. Magnificent and heartbreaking (and one of the few 19th-century novels with three-dimensional Jewish characters).
2. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Powerful saga of the Joad family in particular and injustice in general.
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. A fiercely independent protagonist and one of literature’s great love stories — plus gothic/mystery elements.
And here’s my incomplete list of novels, mentioned alphabetically by author, that would rank somewhere between 11 and 100:
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, The Robber Bride and Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Old Goriot and Eugenie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac, If I Never Get Back by Darryl Brock, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, Kindred by Octavia Butler, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, Shogun by James Clavell, Claudine at School and The Vagabond by Colette, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper, The Pickwick Papers and Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Middlemarch, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, and Adam Bede by George Eliot.
Also: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Time and Again by Jack Finney, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lost Horizon by James Hilton, The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels by Stieg Larsson, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Sea-Wolf and Martin Eden by Jack London, Suttree and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, and Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers.
Also: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, Arch of Triumph by Erich Maria Remarque, Old Mortality and The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott, The Last Man by Mary Shelley, So Much for That by Lionel Shriver, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, His Dog by Albert Payson Terhune, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Native Son by Richard Wright, Candide by Voltaire, and Germinal by Emile Zola.
Your top-ten favorites? Of, if you prefer, you could list your top five or just one favorite.
The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone.
Next Sunday (April 2), I’ll be posting a piece about my new literary-trivia book Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to doing this weekly blog, I also write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column — now with Baristanet.com, which covers Montclair, N.J., and nearby towns. The latest weekly column is here.