Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Love [A Favorites List]

Top 10 Fiction Favorites @ Mt Hope Chronicles

Choosing a top 10 list of fiction favorites is an exercise in crazy-making. But I adore lists. I adore book lists. And I adore top favorites lists. So you see, it is inevitable. I’ll just have to weather the crazy.

It is also inevitable that my choices shift over the years. Isn’t it interesting how one can read a book at various stages of life and feel differently about it each time?

And, oh, how personal is the experience of reading a book! Everyone comes to a story with his or her own set of ideas and experiences as well as personality, emotions, and associations. This means that not everyone will love my top ten as well as I do.

I’ve grouped this list by similarities rather than rating them from one to ten.


The Art of Grace

Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson writes art. Her command of words and phrases is exquisite, but it is the human-ness and grace in her books that bring me to tears. I’ve read Housekeeping (my least favorite) and Home (so painfully beautiful), but Gilead is my favorite. I love the narrator, John Ames. I love the moments of humor (oh, I laughed out loud) mixed with the quiet memories, the intellectual and theological musings, the community life, and the unexpected plot revealed toward the end of the book. I have dipped my toes into Lila and look forward to finishing it soon.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

What can I say about Mockingbird that has not been said before? Beautifully written. Strong characters (who doesn’t love Atticus Finch and Scout?!). Compelling plot. Relevant social issues. I am eagerly anticipating Harper Lee's newly discovered manuscript, Go Set a Watchman, on my to-read list this year.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

I just re-read this one this past week. It occurred to me that it is the best of Gilead and To Kill a Mockingbird all rolled into one. Exquisite and entertaining writing, grace-filled theology, a strong father-figure (Jeremiah Land rounds out my top three literary fathers), an interesting plot, moral dilemmas, and a compelling child narrator (with a precocious sister).


Epics (Redemption and Revenge)

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The history, the powerful metaphors and imagery, the first and last lines, and the tale of redemption propel A Tale of Two Cities to favorite status above David Copperfield.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The intricate plot of The Count astounded me the first time I read it. Revenge has never been so complete. I first read this one in high school and have re-read all 1,200 pages a few times since.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

I will confess that I read this first (and only) at the age of thirteen. It was a formative experience, however, and one that sparked my love of literature. My love of the story has since been kept alive by the Broadway musical. It stirs my soul. I’ve attended two live performances and often watch the 10th Anniversary Concert on DVD (on YouTube below). Most recently, the movie version with Hugh Jackman has moved me yet again. What a masterpiece. Victor Hugo has given us a timeless and gripping picture of grace and redemption.



New Worlds

Watership Down by Richard Adams 

Adams convincingly constructs a world in which rabbits have their own language, history, culture, and mythology, and it is shockingly captivating. This is not a sweet children’s story. It is a story about exceptional leadership in the face of danger and upheaval.

Perelandra by C.S. Lewis

Everyone is familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia, which every child should read, and Lewis’s non-fiction book of Christian apologetics, Mere Christianity, which every adult should read, but Perelandra is a brilliant mix of both fantasy and theology. Lewis imagines a garden of Eden story set on the planet Venus. It is the second book in Lewis’s Space Trilogy, and another must-read from Lewis.


About a Girl (Obscure Favorites)

The Little French Girl by Anne Douglas Sedgwick

This is my most obscure favorite, but at least two people with exceptional taste in books love it almost as much as I do (my mom and my friend Susan Keller) so I know I’m not completely crazy. It is not a children’s book due to slightly mature themes. The story explores the differences between the French and English cultures in the early 1900s (it was published in 1924) through the experiences of a young woman who leaves France to live with an English family, the move due in part to her mother’s lifestyle. The writing and mood of the story are simply iridescent.

Maggie Rose, Her Birthday Christmas by Ruth Sawyer

Maggie Rose is the only children’s book on my top ten list. It was a family favorite during my childhood and it still delights and moves me. The simple illustrations by Maurice Sendak have so much life and personality.


Your turn to play along! Share your top ten list of favorite fiction novels! I look forward to the conversation in the comments.

[Next up: more book lists!]


Jill O. said...

In no particular order: Gone With The Wind (the history! the romance! sooo amazing! one of my very favorites, but I do admit it took about 200 pages to get into it!), These is My Words (another historical romance, this one is more just fun reading), Gilead (I loved it, too - I'll have to try her others!), The History of Love (I know you didn't like this one quite as much, but I love it to pieces), The Chosen by Chaim Potok (another amazing father figure(s) in fiction, a powerful and ponderous look at parenting), Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn (for me, this was the most amazing parenting book I ever hope to read, life-changing), Of Mice and Men (just barely more than Grapes of Wrath), Outliers by Malcom Gladwell (he does such interesting research/analysis). I was obsessed with Jane Eyre as a teenager, and as a child I loved the book Mandy by Julie Andrews (yes, the Julie Andrews of Sound of Music fame - it is a charming little book). Just writing these out makes me want to pick them all up and read them again! I'm excited to try some of your recommendations - thank you! :)

Windhover Farm said...

If I told you the names of my children you might be able to guess my favourite books but probably
not(!) so here's my list. The top 3:
"Godric" by F. Buechner, "Gilead" M. Robinson and "Island of the World" by M. O'Brien. 4 favourites that are of my region or country: "Brothers K" by D.J. Duncan, "The Living" by Annie Dillard, "Fifth Business" by Robertson Davies, "The Stone Angel" by Margaret Laurence. 2 favourites that changed me: "The Power and the Glory" by G. Greene, "Descent into Hell" by Charles Williams. And finally, The Little House series for so many reasons.

Jessica Stock said...

I love book lists! So glad you shared yours. Marilynne Robinson definitely tops my lists. And I am listening to the audio version of the Count of Monte Cristo thanks to your recommendation.

Heidi said...

Jill O.~ The Chosen is on my to-read list this year, and I love Jane Eyre. Thanks for sharing your list!

Windhover Farm~ My mom loved Island of the World. I'm not sure I have the fortitude to read it. Brothers K is on my to-read list this year. Thanks for sharing!

Jessica Stock~ I hope you enjoy The Count. It's really easy to get bogged down when he's in Rome (just a heads-up), but be sure to persevere. The plot after that is so intense and amazing.

Skeller said...

I DO love The Little French Girl. And TKAM. They both make my top ten. :-D

You know what I read this week and totally found myself enamored with (it's a shocker ... you might want to sit down ... it's manga): Cross Game by Mitsuru Adachi. Totally delightful story and characters. And baseball. And I liked it anyway ;-).

Megan said...

I'm a long-time reader of your blog, but I don't think I've ever posted a comment. Today, though, I had to respond with a hearty "Yes! Yes! Yes!" to Peace Like a River. Such a wonderful read! I wish everyone would pick up that little gem. Also glad you listed another of my all-time favorites--The Count of Monte Cristo. Makes me want to open it up and jump in again this very minute. Thank you for taking the time to share your list!

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I love Leif Enger, too, and so many of these that you mention.

Have you read City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell? Lovely!