The List of Lists of Lists

I’ve borrowed a library book called The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books edited by J.Peder Zane. The editor asked 125 writers to list their favorite books, and then made more lists of the lists. The Top Top Ten were;

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 by F. Scott Fitzgerald

8. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

9. The stories of Anton Chekhov

10. Middlemarch by George Eliot.

I’ve heard of all of those authors and titles, and have actually read six of them, which I suppose isn’t too bad, but (since we are listing here) when I looked at the writers who actually made the lists, I found I recognised only 46 names. Worse, I’d only read books by 19 of those authors. I excused myself a little by saying that the ones I didn’t recognise were mostly American authors and since there are just so many whose books published in the US that don’t make it here… Perhaps the truth is, I don’t read widely enough.

I thought I would have read a lot of the books on the 125 lists, but actually, when I was really really honest, and didn’t count books I’d skimmed or started and not finished (or even just seen the film) it was only a miserable 69 out of the 546 books.

Then I found myself almost agreeing with Annie Proulx, who said ‘I find this list of ten books project to be difficult, pointless, and wrong-headed… One could of course quickly go on to put together list after list after list. Moreover the lists would change from week to week as ones tastes change and one reads more widely.’ If I was asked to list my 10 favourite books, it would really depend on why I was reading. And also when I was reading. So here are some of my categories. By the way, they’re all fiction, and no poetry or plays.

I Thought These Were Great, by Somehow I Don’t Want to Re-read Them

1. Austerlitz by W.G.Sebald

2. Madness of the Seduced Woman by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

4. The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

5. Lady Oracle by Margaret Attwood

6. The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

7. Possession by A S Byatt

8. Memento Mori by Muriel Spark

9. The Dispossessed by Ursula le Guin

10 The Women’s Room by Marilyn French

I Thought These Were Great, I Re-read Them and I Still Think They’re Great 

1. The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa

2. Middlemarch by George Eliot

3. Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

4. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Attwood

5. the Claudine books by Colette

6. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

7. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

9. Persuasion by Jane Austen

10. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Authors I Re-Read When in Need of Comfort

1. Jane Austen

2. Barbara Pym

3. L.M. Boston

4. Colette

5. Michael Innes

6.Elizabeth Goudge

7.Kathleen Norris

8. Raymond Chandler

9. Mary Roberts Rinehart

10. Georgette Heyer

Books I Loved in Childhood

1.The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

2. The Midnight Folk by John Masefield

3. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

4. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l’Engle

6. Mistress Masham’s Repose by T H White

7. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner

8. Little Women by Louisa May Allcott

9. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

10. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery






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2 Responses to The List of Lists of Lists

  1. Jane says:

    Hi Susan, I hope you enjoyed the writers festival. Your booklists got me thinking and I made a few of my own. It was a very interesting exercise and I realised although I read a lot, I no longer read authors such as Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy or the like. I really enjoyed them when I was younger, but now I struggle to concerntrate on the language, prefering something I can read much faster. It must be the lack of time factor again or perhaps because of the years of reading something suitable to children before bed. I still have a few Jane Austen’s so I must try again. Regards, Jane.

    • susan says:

      Thanks, Jane. I did have a good time at SheKilda. The session on “crimance” – crime/romance or as its practitioners like to call it, ‘Romantic Suspense’ was hilarious. I can see that the Romance Writers Association is the club to belong to if you want to have fun.
      I’m working very hard to finish a novel at the moment (plus I’m just generally a bit too busy) and I’m finding I just can’t read anything requiring concentration. Or any books that are really long, or really really serious…
      Regards, Susan

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