Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fifty Favorite Books

I love a good list. I love a good list, and I've got a draft to finish by the end of the month, so of course when my friend Joe Hill made a list of his Fifty Favorite Books I decided to take a break from the draft and make a list of my own.

There were going to be rules to this – no comics/ graphic novels, no poetry collections, plays are fine, no non-fiction, nothing that hadn’t been published. Some of those I kept, some I didn’t. It turned into a  “will I feel like a liar for leaving this off the list?” test. It's best not to lie when it comes to books.

I listed them in alphabetical order, because I would still be resorting if I were trying to do this in order of love.

Same caveat applies – favorite does not equal best. These are not the fifty books I think are the best in the history of literature, although there would be some crossover. Nor are they the fifty books that have influenced me the most, although again, the overlap is there. They're just my favorites.

Lloyd Alexander – The Chronicles of Prydain

Anonymous – Beowulf (the Heaney translation)

WH Auden – The Sea and the Mirror

Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice

Peter S. Beagle – The Last Unicorn

Ray Bradbury – From the Dust Returned

AS Byatt - Possession

Susanna Clarke – Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Susan Cooper – The Dark is Rising series

Pamela Dean – Tam Lin

Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol

EM Forster – A Room With a View

Tana French – In the Woods

Christopher Fry – The Lady’s Not for Burning

Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
            The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Lauren Groff – The Monsters of Templeton

Lev Grossman – The Magician King

Elizabeth Hand – Mortal Love
            Waking the Moon

Seamus Heaney – The Cure at Troy

Joe Hill – 20th Century Ghosts

Shirley Jackson – The Haunting of Hill House

Diana Wynne Jones – Fire and Hemlock

Guy Gavriel Kay – The Lions of Al-Rassan
            A Song for Arbonne

Stephen King – The Eyes of the Dragon

Ellen Kushner – The Privilege of the Sword

Madeleine L’Engle – The Arm of the Starfish
            A Wrinkle in Time

Kelly Link – Stranger Things Happen

Penelope Lively – Moon Tiger

China Miéville - UnLunDun

Erin Morgenstern – The Night Circus

Garth Nix - Sabriel

Arthur Phillips – The Song is You

JK Rowling – The Harry Potter series

Karen Russell – St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Mary Doria Russell – Doc
            The Sparrow

William Shakespeare – The Tempest
            Twelfth Night

Dodie Smith – I Capture the Castle

Patti Smith – Just Kids

Bram Stoker - Dracula

Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Donna Tartt – The Secret History

James Thurber – The 13 Clocks


  1. Having only read a handful of those, I can't comment much (by the way, this looks like a great list of suggestions). But still I'd like to understand what made you choose these particular Gaiman works (over, say, "American Gods").

    "The Tempest" is my favourite Shakespeare play, too.

    1. It's hard to explain, because it is a list of favorites, and so even more subjective than these types of lists usually are. And I left off books that I loved by authors that are on this list, because I love them, but I love others more. I do love American Gods. It's a terrific book. But I don't love it the way I love, say, Neverwhere.

      I guess I'd say these are the books that I couldn't not choose, the ones that I reach for again and again, because something in them speaks to something in me in a way that matters.

    2. Neverwhere is my favourite Gaiman book (Stardust comes a close second) over American Gods. I got a signature on my old battered copy of Neverwhere that's kind of falling apart rather than my copy of American Gods which is in better nick because I don't read it over and over!

    3. Some good authors here!

      If I made a list like this, Neverwhere would definitely make the cut. Along with Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay, almost everything by Jacqueline Carey, and The Scar by China Miéville.

      Been meaning to read A Wrinkle in Time for years now...

    4. The thing I love about lists like these is seeing what other people choose as their favorites. Kushiel's Dart was one I considered really seriously adding, and The Scar is terrific.

  2. I have seen a few of these lists, and the same thought keeps striking me -- where are the picture books? If I were to make my list, I would have to have at least a few on it, because without the love for those books, I never would have learned to love reading at all.

    1. For me, I would exclude picture books for the same reason that I didn't include comics on this list - the art is too integrally wrapped up with the story, and so it becomes a different sort of thing.

      I would, of course, love to see your list.

  3. I have really great memories of The Chronicles of Prydain - I think it was one of the first fantasy trilogies that I really dug into. I really need to double back and give it another go.

  4. Have you read incarnations of immortality by pires Anthony?