About a month ago my charming husband Derick suggested a swap of sorts. He’d give me a list of his top 5 favorite books of all time in exchange for my list. We’d both try reading from the other’s list. I like this idea a lot.
Derick reads pretty much nothing but science fiction. The occasional book that has too many acronyms in the title and comes from the Microsoft store, but mostly science fiction. I like science fiction and read it almost exclusively in high school and university. Here is the list of books that he has for me to read (read more on his blog here):
- Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow
- Robot Visions by Isaac Asimov
- Blood Music by Greg Bear
- Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
- Confess, Fletch by Gregory Mcdonald
These days I read a variety of things; fiction, non-fiction, essays and true crime and historical fiction (the latter two are what I call my brainless cottage reading). If you follow my reading list you’ll see I go through quite a few books, and what I put on the list doesn’t include the ten or so craft or art instruction books that I’ll also have on the go at any one time. But where do you begin in putting together a top five list? It really ended up being more about authors as I do seem to go back to the same ones over and over. Thanks to Sophie for helping me to remember some I might have missed.
Number One When I graduated from university I decided to quit reading the novels of the pulpy variety that were a relief from studying. The book that was recommended to me was What’s Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies. This book was such an eye opener for me. And this is my number one choice. If you haven’t read anything by Robertson Davies this is a great place to start. ( I should point out that it is part two of The Cornish Trilogy but you can read it on it’s own, or go ahead and read all three novels.) Subsequent to reading this I read all of his trilogies, his ghost stories, some of his essays and even went to Stratford, Ontario with my dear friend Jane to hear him speak.
Number Two How can you choose just one of Carol Shields’ books? The Stone Diaries won her the Pulitzer and the Republic of Love is one I’ll always keep on my bookshelf but the one that stays with me is Unless. The book is as haunting and inspiring as the story of how Ms. Shields’ wrote it – dying of cancer, she sent each chapter to her editor as she wrote it. Much of the story is set in Toronto so I could picture the exact locations. And as a mother, I could empathize with the mother in the story. Just writing about it makes me realize that I need to read this again.
Number Three I’ve written about my love/hate relationships with A.S. Byatt before. But you cannot argue with her ability to write. The first time I picked up Possession (see note below) I ended up setting it aside after about 100 pages. It didn’t make the move to Bellevue with us so when my book club picked it I not only had to buy it again, I had to make a better attempt at reading it. And it is a great book. And I’d put it here at number three except that I know Derick wouldn’t make it more than 25 pages into it so instead I’ve picked a book of short stories by A.S. Byatt. But even this was a difficult choice Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice is worth reading just for "Baglady". The Matisse Stories, each story inspired by Matisse’s art, how can I resist? But in the end, my choice is Little Black Book of Stories. Thanks Sophie for reminding me of this one.
Number Four you know, that author, who wrote that book, that had the balloon? He also wrote the book that was made into that movie last year? Crap, why can I never remember Ian McEwan’s name or the title of any of his books? A travesty really. Because he’s an amazing author. I started by reading Atonement six years ago. Since then I’ve also read Saturday and Amsterdam but my pick for fourth spot is Enduring Love. I think about this book now and then and a few months ago saw the movie that was made from it (it has Daniel Craig in it, which of course was an added bonus). This is the one with the balloon.
Number Five Over the past year, since Miss R announced that she would henceforth be a vegetarian, we have tried to change the way that we eat. I have also become a vegetarian, we read labels a lot more closely and we are trying to follow Michael Pollen’s advice to "eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables". But more than anything else, this book is influencing how we shop, how we think about our food and how we cook it. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Our family has a long way to go to I like to think we’re on the right track. I’m really looking forward to Derick reading this. Oh, and please note Ms. Kingsolver in the honorable mentions, below because she is generally known more for her fiction.
Note: my kind friend Sophie pointed out that I said "Persuasion" instead of Possession by A.S. Byatt. Sorry to all you Jane Austin fans out there (I’m looking at you Evelyn). Persuasion is actually one of my favorite movies though, if you’re keen.
Honorable Mentions In addition to the books mentioned in the above paragraphs, here are a few more of my favorites that I can think of. I know there are many, many I’ve missed. I welcome suggestions here!
- 1000 Acres, by Jane Smiley
- Bel Canto and The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
- Runaway by Alice Munro
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
- Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie *read anything and everything of his
- A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
- Lamb by Christopher Moore *I love the wackiness of all his books
- Speaking with the Angel by Nick Hornby (editor) *all his books are great
- Salt by Mark Kurlansky *there is a children’s version that is equally good
- Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins *this is a series for kids and it’s fantastic
- zen 24/7 by Philip Sudo