Sunday, September 06, 2009

I love top 10/20/40 lists of novels and books

Lee Child (I think he's a writer?) has his Top 40 books of all time in the Telegraph this weekend.

How he managed to overlook Gone With the Wind, Noble House, or The Thorn Birds is beyond me, so maybe I'll messenger them over to him so he can see what he's clearly been missing.

You'll notice he also didn't list In Cold Blood. I am really surprised by that. I read it a LONG time ago, and it still chills me to the bone.

And, where oh where is The Great Gatsby? (I'm sorry but Tom Clancy AND John Grisham may be fine genre writers indeed, but to mention them and NOT Fitzgerald??)

30 comments:

Eric said...

Or Moby Dick. I know, I know, but how any serious writer cannot list Moby Dick is beyond me. It's the first, real, modern novel and it's still got everything.

But, well, it's the disagreements that make lists like this interesting.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I read those three and loved them, but I didn't read In Cold Blood. I did read another piece by Capote but can't remember the title. I do recall the impact of his writing, however. It was one of those 'holy crap' moments that fertilized the seed of the desire to write.

Peg McGuire said...

What about A Tree Grows in Brooklin, Prayer for Owen Meany, or A Farewell to Arms. These are the books I will take with me to Heaven.

Terri said...

I am waaay avoiding work today, so I checked this out. It seems he tried to cover a lot of different categories, especially in the crime/thriller genre. Also tried to include some iconic writing (I think we can all agree that Shakespeare can go into the Masters category and not take up a place on a 'best' list). There are obviously some personal favs in there (love our prez, but don't place him in the iconic writer stratosphere). As the previous commenter said, it is the disagreements that make it interesting.

Oh Oz, great and powerful, how about a holiday weekend meme inviting your loyal hordes to post their top ten lists and then we can gnaw on them instead of work?

Terri <--- loyalist

McKoala said...

These lists are slippery things. One person's favourite is another person's firelighter.

But Janet...The Thorn Birds?!

*furry chin hits floor*

gingin said...

No Nelson DeMille, either,

Les Edgerton said...

He left off Camus' "The Stranger?" And put Grisham and Clancy on it? No Faulkner, no Satre, no Gogol, no Evenson, no James Lee Burke (our present Faulkner), no...

Grisham and Clancy? Needs a couple of romance writers to round out the list...

Jack Reacher's my favorite contemporary character by far and I love just about all of Childs' novels, but his list is anemic...

gingin said...

peg maguire ... you're going to heaven?

Literary Cowgirl said...

I haven't been over to see the list, eyt, but I am always amazed at how many of these lists leave off Truman Capote, and Tennesse Williams. I really am bewildered when they do. Their impact can't be measured.

Janet Reid said...

Cowgirl, Tennessee Williams wouldn't be on a list of 'best books' since he wrote plays, but your point is well taken.

Jenna said...

Perhaps I should just give myself a flogging right now. I have read exactly TWO books off this list! And one is a play. By Shakespeare. Therefore, not a book. And I read both these... in high school. Dang.

As to your last comment, Janet, if Shakespeare is on the list with plays, then Williams could be on this list, too.

One thing I notice about this list is that it is heavily what I would consider 'modern' novels, as in 1900 or later. I prefer earlier works. I don't read much in the way of modern stuff, and have only just recently forced myself into expanding. Plenty of these books I'd never heard of. I've read a lot of late twentieth century sci-fi and fantasy, but not general novels. I find the rambling approach to some modern stuff just annoying.

I'm correcting my lack of exposure, though.

Now, I have read other works by some of the authors on this list, just not these books specifically. I think The Stand by Stephen King is one of the most brilliant books ever written. I've read some Grisham, but I prefer Crichton. Most people I know haven't read Dumas in the original French, so I gain points there. I've read a lot of ancient and philosophical texts also.

This list shows a thoroughly contemporary attitude, with very little in the terms of speculative work. A person who throws Brave New World on here, or lists anything by one of the Bronte ladies would be more of my ilk.

dylan said...

Dear Ms. Reid,

Huck Finn?

Jay Gatsby?

Humbert Humbert?

Gulley Jimson?

Hans Shnier?

Yikes. dylan

Travener said...

I've read The Great Gatsby three times trying to see what everyone else sees in it -- even wrote a paper on it in college -- and to be honest...I still don't get it.

And where on the list is Ulysses? A Hundred Years of Solitude? Anything by Dickens, for heaven's sake?

www.thebiglitowski.blogspot.com

Peg McGuire said...

gingin, I believe that there's a special place in Heaven for frustrated writers. Facing a blank page is our personal purgatory, and the endless self-doubt is our private hell.

Natalie Murphy said...

I had to read In Cold Blood for an American Literature class (I'm Canadian) and it made me feel sick. Have you seen the movie Capote?

Lola T. Parker said...

You'd have to be a crazy person to think you can make a 40 "best of" list about books . . . especially when you leave out Dostoevsky and Dante - good grief.

Travener said...

Peg, the best comment I ever heard about the writing life was Norman Mailer, in a letter to James Jones: "All writers are prisoners serving a life sentence."

Kinda sums it up, doesn't it?

www.thebiglitowski.blogspot.com

Literary Cowgirl said...

Sorry Ms Reid, he was also a novelist. He wrote not only plays, but novels, novellas, short story collections, poetry, and essays. "Moise and the World of Reason" and "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" are two fine examples.
Here is a pretty thorough list of his works:
http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/ms-writers/dir/williams_tennessee/pubs.html

Janet Reid said...

huh! The funny thing is I DID look up his list of works before I wrote that comment. Wikipedia, you've failed me!

A good example of looking at more than one source, thanks!

Literary Cowgirl said...

Since Wikipedia did not seem to be aware of his other works, they may not have had the impact on literature that they have on me personally as a writer. So, I also see your point. Though, Shakespeare is often included on many of these lists. Ah well, great reads are just great reads.

Chad Aaron Sayban said...

It's bad enought to leave out The Great Gatsby, but if he is going to list a Grisham and a Clancy novel, he could at least choose on of their best. Debt of Honor? Are you kidding me? It's not even on of Clancy's top three. This is the problem with one person putting out such a list - it's one person's opinion and is going to be picked apart by everyone else.

But really, Debt of Honor...

Les Edgerton said...

I have to agree with Travener--I don't get "The Great Gatsby." I hated it when I read it as a teen--found it tres boring--and then one of my advisers, Phyllis Barber at Vermont College made me read it again. Sorry, but it just reminded me of a soap opera and I know the big deal was that Gatsby as protagonist didn't change and only Nick (and the reading audience) did, as a result of what Gatsby did, which made it unusual, but I just could never get too worked up over the "tribulations" of the rich, especially when I spent time in prison, was homeless, etc. I've always felt that Fitzgerald was born in the wrong era--that he'd be a top writer for "General Hospital" today. In fact, in the Golden Age of Literature, when it was the easiest time in history to get published, when Zelda told him he had to sell something before she married him, he papered four walls of his bedroom with rejections before he made his first sale. Paid his dues, in a way, but during the easiest time in history to get published? Bukowski had a harder time getting published a few years later and he actually wrote about some s**t...

inthewritemind said...

Hmm, I don't think I'd agree with a lot of the books on his list :P

And In Cold Blood wouldn't be on my list at all! I about vomited reading it in college. But I'm overly sensitive so books like that I tend to avoid (only I couldn't in this case because it was for class...)

Joanie said...

I don't know if it means anything, but Lee Child is from the UK and only came to America as an adult, and that was after he'd been in BBC television for a decade or more. I don't know that explains all of his choices, but seeing his choice of the more modern works made me think it was because he became a late-American and chose the ones that coincided around the time of his immigration. Just a thought--maybe wrong--but it's what hit me when I read his list. Plus, of course, he write suspense so that would be something he would naturally get represented heavily on his list.

Ink said...

In Cold Blood was incredible... but, surpassed, I think, by both The Executioner's Song and Strange Piece of Paradise. Though the latter two might owe a debt of gratitude to Capote...

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

L'Etranger was required reading in French class. I understood it then, but it was (OMG) 30 years ago.

We had to read a lot of CanLit in high school, but also had fun with SciFi classics.

Heck, I'll read just about anything.

DCS said...

Maybe Mr. Child should have titled his list: 40 books I'd like to take to the beach with me.

gingin said...

Why so much whinig about Lee Child's List. It's HIS list not the Holy Grail...or WHATEVER. Since none of us is living in his skin, we can't possibly know what informs his choices.

I do know when I read Jack Reacher, I don't want to stop.

And I also know the only list that matters is the one on which I hope to be listed when I FINISH THE BOOK.

dlgarfinkle said...

I'd also include Phillip Roth, Steinbeck, Wallace Stegner, Catcher in the Rye, Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, Douglas Adams, and Don Quixote.

CKHB said...

I can't stand The Great Gatsby and I thought In Cold Blood was meh. But I'm with you on Gone With the Wind and Noble House!

And I can't believe that out of all of King's work, Child picked The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. come on.

I like these better when they're framed as someone's favorite books than "THE BEST EVER."