AMV interlude: top 5 novels

There are several posts that I very much want to write on a variety of fascinating topics, but life is conspiring against me at the moment so I thought I’d break the silence with one of those lame list posts. On the other hand, I am a white, college educated, indie-rock lovin’ Gen Xer so, you know — lists.

Here are my top 5 novels at this moment in time:

  1. The Master and Margarita
  2. Anna Karenina
  3. The Golden Bowl
  4. Death Comes to the Archbishop
  5. The Castle

This doesn’t really illuminate much other than how conventional I am. Perhaps I need to do a top 50 works of narrative art or something. Here’s the thing, though. I could add in a few more titles, but comparing the above with my own meager production of creative work (published, written and planned), I’d have to say that clearly, there’s some sort of influence going on with these specific 5 novels.

So what’s your top 5 or 10 or 20 (of whatever)? And if you produce narrative art, do your top titles influence your creation?

Disclosure: the links go to Amazon.com. If you buy something after clicking on the link, AMV gets a small cut to help pay for web hosting.

26 thoughts on “AMV interlude: top 5 novels”

  1. I could not possibly count the hours as a fellow Gen Xer that I have enjoyed and therefore not wasted (T.S. Elliot) doing lists.

    The Castle is the only one on your list I have read but I have been meaning to get to the others especially James and Tolstoy.

    Even a list off the top of my head without thought leaves me no doubt of its great influence once I look at it.
    1.The Iliad-Homer
    2.The Black Stranger-Robert E. Howard
    3.A Moveable Feast-Hemingway
    guess I like H’s
    4.Silmarillion-Tolkien
    5.Huckleberry Finn-Twain

    Yes I’m a barbarian.

  2. Love top 5 lists. But I just can’t limit myself. Here’s my current top 9.

    The Brothers Karamozov
    Absalom, Absalom – Faulkner
    Frankenstein – Shelly
    Name of the Rose – Eco
    The Unconsoled – Ishiguro
    Lord of the Rings
    Light in August – Faulkner
    Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man – Joyce
    Heart of Darkness – Conrad

  3. Off the top of my head, some of my top novels:

    1. Possession by A.S. Byatt
    2. Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros
    3. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway
    4. Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Hardy
    5. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez

  4. Erm…just five? I am a rebel!

    These are the ones that have influenced my writing the most, not necessarily my favorite right this very minute, and they are in no particular order:

    Atlas Shrugged, Rand
    Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe
    Little House series (pretend it’s one), Wilder
    Tregaron’s Daughter, Brent
    Wolf & Dove, Woodiwiss

    I have no favorites at the moment. I’m pretty much read out, except for Business Week in the, ah, library.

  5. So far Dallas has got my favorite list, though it’s good to see “One Hundred Years of Solitude as well,” one of my own personal favorites. Here are my top ten novels as of 10:50pm on November 18th, 2009 (five isn’t enough, and these are off the top of my head and subject to change pretty much any time you ask me, though they’ll remain more constant than my list of favorite movies, which is just way too long to even think about dealing with):

    1. City of God, E. L. Doctorow

    The Rest, alphabetically:

    The Nonexistent Knight, Italo Calvino
    Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
    Notes From Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky
    Moominvalley in November/The Summer Book, Tove Jansson (can’t decide between them)
    One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    The 13 Clocks, James Thurber
    Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
    The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
    Quick Service, P. G. Wodehouse

  6. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh” and Capote’s “The Grass Harp” just sprung to mind as two other possible inclusions. I’m sure there will be many more. I’ll have to stop thinking of this and go to bed now. I love lists to the point of obsession.

  7. All kind of arbitrary and approximate, but maybe fun nonetheless (this allows me to get in 15 instead of 5):

    top 5 at age 18:

    Don Quixote
    Brothers Karamazov
    Catch-22
    Madame Bovary
    Fathers and Sons

    at age 28:

    Invisible Man
    Hopscotch
    Gravity’s Rainbow
    The Radetsky March
    The Good Soldier

    at age 38 (now):

    The Sleepwalkers
    The Man without Qualities
    The Alexandria Quartet
    Life and Fate
    The Gallery

  8. .

    I despise considering “favorites” because I get sick with worry about making an error. So instead, here are a few excellent books that I, as a person who rarely rereads (I’m going for breadth, not depth these days) are anxious to reread (I stuck with prose novels):

    Possession (A.S.Byatt)
    Quinn’s Book (William J. Kennedy)
    Timequake (Kurt Vonnegut)
    Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (Susanna Clarke)

    And I would add Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat, but I just checked out its sequel Witch Baby to read instead.

    And here’s a list of prose novels that have a) read for the first time in the last two years and b) heavily impressed me in some way:

    Atonement by Ian McEwan
    Dorian by Nephi Anderson
    The Enoch Letters by Neil A. Maxwell*
    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
    Mr. White’s Confession by Robert Clark
    On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan**
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    Replay by Ken Grimwood
    The Road by Cormac McCarthy**
    Watership Down by Richard Adams
    Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block**
    Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett***

    *not the most sculpted fiction but I can’t stop thinking about it
    **blew me away
    **reminded me how to write like I did as a teenager
    ***incredibly the only pratchett book I’ve read in probably four years

    And since all people really want to see in lists is books they already know, I’ve certainly gone on long enough.

    But shoutouts to the above:

    Byatt! Kafka! Vonnegut! Thurber! Milne! Wodehouse! Twain! Etc! Love you all. You’re awesome.

  9. I’d do much better at naming favorite non-fiction, but here’s my fiction favorites:

    “¢ A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
    “¢ Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, Robert Heinlein (Heinlein’s finest, imo)
    “¢ A Dram of Poison, Charlotte Armstrong
    “¢ Lincoln’s Dreams, Connie Willis

    Other novels that have impacted my writing/approach to writing:

    “¢ Arms and the Man, G.B. Shaw (okay, it’s a play, not a novel, but I’ve only read it, not seen it)
    “¢ King Lear, Shakespeared (another play, I know)
    “¢ Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin, Leon Uris
    “¢ The Fletch (and the Flynn) mystery series by Gregory Mcdonald
    “¢ The Burglar Who mystery series, Lawrence Block
    “¢ Very Far Away from Anywhere Else, Ursula K. Le Guin
    “¢ The Sneetches and Other Stories, Dr. Suess
    “¢ The Black Arrow, Robert Louis Stevenson
    “¢ The Myth Makers, Hugh W. Nibley (not quite a novel, but written as “fiction” — sidenote: Not seeing too much Mormon fiction on any of these lists. Hmmm.)
    “¢ Anything by P.G. Wodehouose
    “¢ Anything by Alistair MacLean

    Honorable Mentions:

    Dracula, Bram Stoker
    Lord of the Rings, Tolkien

    — Lee

  10. .

    Speaking of Connie Willis, I had better add To Say Nothing of the Dog to my must-reread list.

    And I count three Mormon books so far. Not a lot but not embarrassing.

  11. Wow, I should do posts like this more often. If we’re going to include nonfiction, plays, young adult fiction, then that changes things. I’m going to stay on topic, though, and follow Bill’s lead.

    At 18:

    1. The Great Gatsby
    2. The Return of the Native
    3. Crime and Punishment
    4. The Plague
    5. The Lord of the Rings

  12. Anne of Green Gables (Montgomery)
    That Hideous Strength (Lewis)
    The Golden Compass (Pullman)
    Blood and Chocolate (Klause)
    The Phantom Tollbooth (Juster)

    Literary obsessions when I was a kid: anything by Asimov; all the James Blish Star Trek novelizations; Glory Road by Heinlein.

  13. — Pride and Prejudice (Austin)
    — The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)
    — The Talisman (King and Straub)
    — Winds of War/War & Remembrance (Wouk)
    — Boomsday (Buckley)
    — the 20-volume Jack Aubrey novel (O’Brian)
    — Saints (Card)

    I’m sure I could add a lot more, but these are the ones that popped up. ..bruce..

  14. “The Phantom Tollbooth”! Huzzah!

    Lists rock.

    I would certainly be up for lists of non-fiction, poetry/poets, movies (though my list would be way too long), plays, musicians/albums, or whatever else.

    Regarding Mormon fiction, Samuel Taylor’s “Heaven Can Wait” should also be on my list.

    Also, in response to the actual post, I’m not sure that you’d find a lot of direct influences on my writing or other work in any of those novels (except maybe an occasionally Wodehousian turn-of-phrase), but I think taken together they offer a general sense of taste, interest, and overall sensibility that is probably also often found in my writing. Probably the single greatest influence on me as a writer is Woody Allen.

  15. Aside from Card’s “A Storyteller in Zion” which is non-fiction (and I know influenced Th. too) I regretably can’t say any Mormon has influenced my writing-save perhaps Mormon himself. But again its not fiction.

    I guess I would give a shout-out to Dave Wolverton on craft he has taught me but not style.

  16. .

    Yeah, the Book of Mormon definitely has influenced my style — didn’t OSC write an essay about that?

    As for Mormon fiction that’s influenced me — actually influenced me, not just in a this-in-emulation-worthy way — possibly The Invisible Saint by Curtis Taylor. I read it at a time in my life that it’s hard to imagine my comedic work doesn’t taste at least a little invisible.

    But that’s all I could come up with scanning through my Mormon books (note: this list not complete — I still have a bunch of books in the garage that remain uncatalogued).

  17. Top 5 YA fantasy series

    1. Dark is Rising series
    2. Westmark trilogy
    3. Abhorsen trilogy
    4. Wrinkle in Time series
    5. Chronicles of Pyrdain series

  18. 1. The Long Goodbye (Chandler)
    2. Angle of Repose (Stegner)
    3. Stories (Flannery O’Connor) (eat it, arbitrary rules!)
    4. The Glass Key (Hammett)
    5. David Copperfield (Dickens)

  19. 1) To Kill a Mockingbird
    2) Cry the Beloved Country
    3) Wuthering Heights
    4) Walden
    5) The Wind in the Willows

    William, I read The Master and Margarita earlier this week, as a matter of fact. Excellent book.

  20. All good choices — I love The Wind in the Willows.

    Children’s chapter books for kids 5-6:

    1. The Wind in the Willows
    2. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm
    3. A Cricket in Times Square
    4. The Mouse and the Motorcycle
    5. A Bear Called Paddington

    This one is very shaky, though. There are a lot of other titles I might swap in were I to think of them, I bet.

  21. Psst! This is off topic, but over at By Common Consent, J. Stapley has posted a 2009 Christmas gift book guide with lots Mormon non-fiction, but very little Mormon fiction. Anyone care to go over there and give him some ideas for the fiction-reading crowd?

  22. All-time most life-changing books:

    1. Dune by Frank Hebert
    2. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
    3. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
    4. Collected Stories of Flannery O’Connor
    5. Making Certain it Goes On by Richard Hugo

    And sometime I should tell the story of how I bought Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by accident, which made me decide to become a writer.

  23. I recently listened to George Guidall’s narration of Zorba The Greek. Guidall also narrated The Knight’s Tale, and The Friar’s Tale in the splendid recording of 12 Canterbury Tales in middle English with modern pronunciation. I’ve also listened twice to his narration of Stephen Mitchell’s Gilgamesh.

    After Zorba I listened to Guidall’s narration of Richmond Lattimore’s Iliad and John Lescault’s of Samuel Butler’s Odyssey. (12 hours of Lescault is almost as monotonous as 67.5 of Walter Zimmerman reading Warren Piece. Fortunately, both stories are good enough to compensate for the narration.)

    Today I started listening to Simon Calloway’s narration of Robert Fagles’ The Aeneid. In January I’ll probably listen to Beowulf, then The Divine Comedy. Why all this epic poetry?

    While listening to Zorba I decided it was time to read Kazantzakis’s sequel to The Odyssey, which I got from my father’s library. The book has intrigued me for decades, and I figured I ought to reread Homer before taking it on–it’s much longer than the original.

    I’ll probably read The Rock Garden first because, according to the publisher’s note, the sections K. incorporated from his The Saviors of God are helpful in understanding his spiritual journey. The ideas also appear in Books XIV and XVI of The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel.

    Then if I get really ambitious I might finally read Seamus Seoyce’s retelling of Ulysses. (Maybe I can get the library to order the full recording, which Jongiorgi Enos praised highly on AML-List several years ago.)

    After all this I should be in a good position to read Marden Clark’s short study, Modern and Classic: The Wooing Both Ways, though I should read Robinson Jeffers’ Medea first. Can’t find it anywhere, though.

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