Most of you know that I recently finished a reading challenge that I worked on for a few years. There are 50 books on the list that I did not choose for myself. (That’s a big part of what makes it challenging). Of the 50 books, I created a list of my own top ten favorites. Some were no surprise, but there were a few that I had never even heard of that really impacted me.
*My Top Ten list from the LOST Book Club. More on this photo in an upcoming post.*
#10 – A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
“It was a dark and stormy night,” and Meg has a strange visitor that claims she can help her find her long lost father. Good and Evil, love and loss, the time-space continuum, family and a few wacky witches combine to make this a beautiful story where love conquers all. I really wish I read this one when I was younger. (But the chapters would have been too long for me.)
#9 – To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
One of my favorite books of all time. Read it in high school, read it again as an adult, (and I almost never re-read a book), and I read parts of it again when each of my three children had to read it for school. Atticus Finch is one of my all-time favorite characters in literature and I kind of love Boo Radley too. The movie does all kinds of justice to the book. It’s a great coming of age story that exposes racism and ignorance in a heart-breaking and triumphant way.
#8 – The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Really, my favorite of the series was Prince Caspian…and The Silver Chair….and The Last Battle. But I can’t be giving up three slots in my top ten for the same series so I’m just naming all of them. This is another book/books that I wish I read when I was a kid. I think I would have enjoyed the child-like wonder and the gentle narration. I spread them out while working on the challenge cause sometimes I just needed something on the lighter side. Not in content mind you, but in ease.
#7 – Lord of the Flies by William Goulding
I know! It’s so disturbing! But I think it’s just a really important piece of writing. Especially for young people who are naive or oblivious about the heart’s capacity to take a horrible turn for the worse when love and authority are not around. Heck, we have the capacity for horribleness even when love and authority ARE around, how much more when we are scared, hungry and far from home? And even though the story is about these young boys stranded on an island, the language is very complex and deep and hidden in imagery. It’s not simple reading. It’s sad and scary because it portrays reality.
#6 – A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens if you want a heavy, lofty read, or Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie if you want a fun read.
They couldn’t be more worlds apart. Depending on what you like you can decide between them. I liked them both, even though I hated the first half of Two Cities. Really hated it, but the whole second half just makes up for all that misery. The story is just incredible! I mean, who doesn’t like a book with a woman named The Vengeance?? Come on now. And Agatha Christie…there’s gonna be a crime, probably a murder, and you’re going to try to figure out who done it and you’re likely to be wrong cause that’s how she rolls. That’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla in the world…there’s a book for everyone.
#5 – The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Ohh…did I go there?? YES! I did! This chick draws a reaction, that’s for sure. Some people pure hate her and others consider her a hero. Anyone who is well versed in philosophy or politics knows about her. I didn’t know who she was before the challenge but I soon learned. I watched several interviews with her on youtube while I was reading Fountainhead but I really felt like I learned more about her from the book. Now, I just read the book because it was on the list. I didn’t go into it to study or understand anything particular about her. I found this book to be the most thought-provoking on the list. I did. That doesn’t mean I agreed with it all, but I also didn’t disagree with it all. Having gone into it with no preconceived notions, no influences positive or negative, it provided me a wealth of things to ponder and discuss. I am a Christian, she is/was atheist. And even with that great divide of belief, I could easily see her logic and could see myself buying into some of it myself, if it weren’t for my faith. I could say so much more but it is way better discussed over coffee, as friends. I can’t be having no internet drama. I realize, that at least in the book blogging community, I am in the minority. That’s ok. Good actually, right? Chocolate and vanilla, reading outside of comfort zones and all that?
(I totally just blabbed all about the author and not the book.) Oops!
#4 – The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I know, I know. So pretentious! But when you read a book like this, when you invest that much time into it, you come away with feelings. And bragging rights. (I get bragging rights on Ulysses too but that one doesn’t make my top ten.) Three brothers; a scoundrel, an intellectual and a devoted Monk, all struggle being the son of a wretched, selfish, despicable, old man. Somebody offs dad eventually and you get to swim all around in their lives trying to figure out which one did it. This one would be fabulous to study with a class. I even caught myself finding symbolism and stuff. (That’s good for me.) There were definitely a couple of dry runs in there where my eyes would glaze over, but I was always interested in the characters. And I just love when I’m reading something else and I come across something like this…
“Rosewater said an interesting thing to Billy one time about a book that wasn’t science fiction. He said that everything there was to know about life was in The Brothers Karamazov, by Feodor Dostoevsky. ‘But that isn’t enough any more ,’ said Rosewater.” – (Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut) And my book club is currently reading A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle, non-fiction, and check out what she says: “…The truly great books are flawed: The Brothers Karamazov is unwieldy in structure; a present-day editor would probably want to cut the Grand Inquisitor scene because it isn’t necessary to the plot. For me, The Brothers Karamazov is one of the greatest novels ever written, and this is perhaps because of, rather than in spite of, its human faults.”
The Bros K ended differently than I thought it would, but there you go….life’s like that.
#3 – Survivors of the Chancellor by Jules Verne
Jules Verne was writing before he became one of the godfathers of science fiction. And thank goodness. I thought this was a gripping tale. It’s usually bad when you’re ship wrecked but being shipwrecked is just the beginning of this traumatic story. It goes from bad to worse, and I mean it gets really desperate all the way up to the quick, happy ending. Seriously. This one made me wonder…”What in the world would I do???” And with all the nail-biting, stressful circumstances that seemed to never let up, I’ll be doggone if he didn’t make me smile in the last paragraph. That’s good writing.
#2 – The Chosen by Chaim Potok
I reviewed this one here. You can check out all my gushing there. I still get a little self-conscious about making a big deal about this one because when I describe it, there’s not really much there to draw someone. Two Jewish boys from two different Jewish sects growing up in WWII Brooklyn. They shouldn’t be friends, but they are. They study and grow and try to balance their own desires for their lives with the expectations placed on them by their fathers. I don’t know, it just got inside me and mattered. I don’t know what else to say. I don’t know of anyone else that has read it except for James at Coyote Mercury. Maybe if one of you happen to pick it up, you’ll let me know what you think. Like… is this one really a great piece of writing, or was it just for me? Either way you go, we’ll have something to talk about.
#1 – Watership Down
I think I’ve been destined to read this book since the 7th grade. It’s popped up in my life a few times and caught my attention, but it wasn’t until I finally saw it featured on LOST that I decided I would read it. This book stuck with me for a LONG TIME. When I finished it, I thought about those rabbits for weeks. I even named one of the wild rabbits in my back yard Hazel after the reluctant leader in the book. I learned their language, I went with them through all their tunnels and burrows, I listened in on their rabbit folk tales, (not my favorite part), and I questioned some of the morality of what drove them. Ultimately, it is a book of survival. The rules change when your goal is survival, and these circumstances offer much to discuss. It is never relaxing. It is intense, bloody, suspenseful and exhausting. It is, in my opinion, an incredible book that takes you on an incredible journey. I’m so glad I read this one before I took the plunge with the rest of the list because it allowed time for the book to just sink in. I wasn’t moving right along to the next read, I was marinating in this one. That’s the way I like to do it. I get less reading of other books done, but I get so much more from one book.
That’s it! My Top Ten from a very diverse group of books. I posted all this here separately, because soon, I will be posting about my LOST Book Bash party that I recently had to celebrate the completion of my reading goal. On that night, I gave away copies of each of these books and a lot of other fun stuff happened too. If I wrote about it all in one post, you guys might not ever get through it all. See you next time!