Tell me what you love… (Part One: Novels)

I wanted to write about some of my favourite books, and start the post with the idea that by knowing what someone loves, you learn something about them as a person… and then Verena stole my idea. And it’s hard to do something about it when you’re part of the same symbiosis. But I can grumble. Ha!

Obviously, anyone who takes top tens or similar lists seriously has some pretty severe flaws in his or her thinking. (Harold Bloom and his Western Canon would be a good example) But if they’re not taken too seriously they make for an excellent intellectual exercise, a way of recalling and comparing things you read or saw that can lead to interesting thoughts and discussions. And it’s fun. Just don’t think that it’s even remotely possible to achieve some sort of accuracy or deeper truth.

So, here’s a list of ten books that have deeply affected me and my writing. I’ve not counted nonfiction, because that would make the list impossible, but I did count a book of Blake’s that’s not really a novel and still belongs on this list. This is my list, so I can cheat.

  1. The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, J. R. R. Tolkien
  2. The Dark Tower, Stephen King
  3. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake
  4. The Gap Series, Stephen Donaldson
  5. Star Maker, Olaf Stapledon
  6. Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling
  7. Duma Key, Stephen King
  8. I See By My Outfit, Peter S. Beagle
  9. The Riddle-Master’s Game, Patricia McKillip
  10. Belgarath the Sorcerer, David and Leigh Eddings

Of course this list is ridiculous. It’s missing The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, It by Stephen King, The Liar by Stephen Fry, (what is it with all the Stephens?), The Beach by Alex Garland, the novels of Isaac Asimov, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip, The Innkeeper’s Song and The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, Childhood’s End and Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, various books by Paul Auster, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon, To Kivotio (The Box) by Aris Alexandrou and a whole lot more. Perhaps I should make a longer list one of these days.

It’s all absolutely worth reading, though.


  1. Pingback: Tell me what you love… (Part Two: Nonfiction) « Jonas Kyratzes

  2. I have a few I am rather fond of, in no particular order :

    Lord of the Rings

    Harry Potter

    Dragonriders of Pern series, Anne McCaffrey

    Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke

    Magician/Silverthorn/Darkness at Sethanon, Raymond Feist

    Recently I have been reading the Lensman series by E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith, quite enjoyable, if you can take the frequent use of superlatives.

    Short story I really like :
    The Last Question, Isaac Asimov

    There is more, but enough for now.

  3. IAmNobody

    In no particular order (as I would find that impossible!):

    Middlemarch, George Eliot
    Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
    The Wings of the Dove, Henry James
    Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
    Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
    To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
    Notre-Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo
    In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust
    The Tale of Genji, Lady Murasaki Shikibu
    Villette, Charlotte Bronte

    Do I believe this are the best novels ever written? Not really (well, “In Search of Lost Time” I do consider the greatest), but overall these are here simply on the basis of how deeply they affected my life.

    P.S. In reference to your quip at Harold Bloom’s list at the end of “The Western Canon,” Bloom himself believes it silly as well. On several occasions he has claimed that publishers forced him to write it, and that he did not and does not “take it seriously.” Indeed, he fervently wishes it be removed from any future editions of the work as, ultimately, “readers and writers decide the Canon, not the critics.”

  4. Gurges

    I’m saddened that no-one has mentioned The Phantom Tollbooth. That’s really the top of my list. It’s the only book I’ve read more than twice, and I can count the books I’ve read more than once I can count on one hand. Anyway, my belated list (IAmNobody can post late, so can I!):

    1. The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster
    2. The works of Douglas Adams, primarily Last Chance to See and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
    3. The Millennium series – Stieg Larsson
    4. The Abhorsen Trilogy – Garth Nix (favorite fantasy world ever)
    5. The Last Unicorn – Peter S. Beagle (mostly because I grew up with the movie, but it’s great on its own merits as well)
    6. Discworld – Terry Pratchett
    7. The Redwall series – Brian Jacques (haven’t read one in years, but as a child I’d devour them each as they came out)
    8. Asimov. ‘Nuff said.
    9. Codex Alera and Dresden Files – Jim Butcher
    10. Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman

    Sure, I took some liberties on what qualifies as a ‘book,’ but really, why limit myself?

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