Lists Are For Suckers: A Recap

on Tuesday, June 1, 2010
When I set out at the beginning of May to read through my top twelve books of all time, I suggested that lists of this nature were inherently arbitrary and ridiculous. Turns out I was right. Of the twelve, only eight or nine really stood the test of time and, of those, very few stayed in the same place on the list. The Solzhenitsyn, Ungar and Bjorneboe books, whilst still being excellent, were disappointing. I think I liked what they represented, which I'm a little embarrassed to admit was, above all else, a tangible manifestation of my literary arrogance (much like the obscure Sound of Music inspired title I gave the challenge). The only real regret I have is that I didn't get to reread a few other books that I know I loved and that would probably have made it into the top ten. The Road by Cormac McCarthy, War With The Newts by Karel Capek, Baddenheim 1939 by Aharon Appelfeld, Contempt by Alberto Moravia... There are so many that spring to mind.

So here, following a fantastic month of wanky self-indulgence, is my new top ten list of all-time:

1. The Trial by Franz Kafka
2. I Am The Cheese by Robert Cormier
3. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
4. The Assault by Harry Mulisch
5. The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow
6. Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal
7. A Dry White Season by Andre Brink
8. The Postman by Antonio Skarmeta
9. Waiting For The Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee
10. War With The Newts by Karel Capek (which arses its way in because I've pulled the other three from my list and it was the next in line)

I have also been asked to write a list of non-highbrow books for those who don't want to disappear further up their own arses with the turn of every page. As it was put to me, these are great books to read on the train on the way to work that aren't going to tax your grey matter and can be put down when you reach your stop. I feel it is my duty to stem the tide of Twilight and Dan Brown readers who seem to gather in hordes on our public transportation system. So, for those who asked, here's a top 10 of books that provide simple, unadulterated enjoyment without insulting the reader's intelligence (though some do verge on the lit-snobbish):

1. Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
2. Misery by Stephen King
3. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
4. The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
5. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
6. American Tabloid by James Ellroy
7. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
8. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
9. The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel
10. Binu and The Great Wall by Su Tong

I could go on listing forever but I'm keen to get started on the June challenge. See you tomorrow.


Hannah A said...

Recommending Life of Pi for public transport reading? But what about the nearly inevitable tears at the end? That's going to cause some uncomfortable public transport experiences.

The Bookworm said...

Yeah true. Though at least it is more comfortable than tearing up while reading Twilight. You may cry, but at least you retain a scrap of dignity.

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