The Ten Greatest Books: A List

Like I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for book lists.  Although the book, The Top Ten: Writers pick their Favorite Books, edited by J. Peder Zane, has been out for some time, I just discovered it (I know, I’m a bit slow).  This book does just what the title says it will, compiling the favorite books of 125 authors from around the world.  The book includes summaries of 544 books – each thought to be a top ten by at least one of the authors.

What do you think are the ten greatest books of all time?  What would the list look like if it was compiled from the top ten choices of over one hundred of the top authors in the world?

Lev Grossman, in Time (Jan. 15, 2007), states, “…literary lists are basically an obscenity… Take it from me, a critic who has committed this particular sin many times over.”  It’s a fun read:,8599,1578073,00.html

I say, let’s see their top ten (compiled from their individual lists): 

  1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  7. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
  9. The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov
  10. Middlemarch by George Eliot

So, there you go.  What’s your top ten (or is it obscene to ask?)?

4 responses to “The Ten Greatest Books: A List

  1. I think I could (and maybe will) write a whole post about my top 10 books. Because I’ve now got two favorite books this year…they’re both AWESOME but totally different. It would be like comparing apples to oranges. Both books are great but serve very different purposes. Kind of like comparing Steinbeck to Jane Austin.

    But alas, I have a running list of all-time favorite books. Crass, I suppose, but I’ll do it nonetheless. I don’t know if I’ll get to 10, but here goes:

    1. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
    2. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (the most beautiful book I’ve ever read…sad and depressing, but beautiful)
    3. Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis (this might be because I LOVE Scrabble, but even if you didn’t like Scrabble, I think you’d like this book)
    4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (when I reread it recently it wasn’t as good as I remembered)
    5. The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton (recently read and reviewed on my blog…probably not your thing)
    6. The Given Day by Dennis Lehane (my new favorite author)
    7. The Da Vinci Code (I don’t care what anyone says – I loved it)
    8. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

    I guess I can only get to 8. I know there’s more.

    You’ll notice there’s no “classics”…some favorites are Jane Eyre, Gone With the Wind, The Handmaid’s Tale…I love those books, I just don’t know if they’re better than any I’ve already listed…. Maybe The Handmaid’s Tale should jump on my list.

    Ohh… Good list.

  2. Wow. That’s a great list. What do you like best about Dennis Lehane as an author?

  3. His dialogue. Oftentimes dialogue in a novel seems contrived and not “real”. But The Given Day hit the dialogue spot on: from the black man who would use sir and suh, depending on who he was speaking to, to the drug dealer whose words were so gritty.

    I recently saw the movie Gone Baby Gone, and while I’m sure the book’s better and the movie didn’t do the book justice, I’d be surprised if the movie didn’t lift whole scenes of dialogue straight from the book. I don’t know why but it made everything so much more believable.

    OK, you sold me. I’ll try it. Thanks.

  4. youcouldbelievethis

    Well I’ve read four out of the ten on your list. I don’t know about a top ten…My favourite books are:
    The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
    Like Water for Chocolate- Laura Esquival
    House of Mirth – Edith Wharton

    Good list. I hear great things about Like Water for Chocolate, but have not yet read it.

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