Literature Favorite Novels

Aberdeen

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What are your favorite novels? This is not meant to be an argument about which modern novels are the best from a literary standpoint. Just discuss which novels you have most enjoyed reading and tend to revisit again and again, as if they were old friends. Hopefully, we can be international enough that they don't all have to be European, unless all the novels you've read and liked happened to all be European.

Here's my list.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams


Surfacing by Margaret Atwood


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin


Fifth Business by Robertson Davies


A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens


The Mill on the Floss by George Elliot


Dead Souls by Nicholas Gogal


The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass


Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy


Kamouraska by Anne Hebert

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway


Demian by Herman Hesse


Les Miserables by Victor Hugo


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce


The Stone Angel by Margaret Lawrence


The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann


100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro


1984 by George Orwell


St. Urbain's Horsemen by Mordecai Richler


The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien


The Barnchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope


 
What are your favorite novels? This is not meant to be an argument about which modern novels are the best from a literary standpoint. Just discuss which novels you have most enjoyed reading and tend to revisit again and again, as if they were old friends. Hopefully, we can be international enough that they don't all have to be European, unless all the novels you've read and liked happened to all be European.

Here's my list.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams


Surfacing by Margaret Atwood


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin


Fifth Business by Robertson Davies


A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens


The Mill on the Floss by George Elliot


Dead Souls by Nicholas Gogal


The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass


Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy


Kamouraska by Anne Hebert

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway


Demian by Herman Hesse


Les Miserables by Victor Hugo


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce


The Stone Angel by Margaret Lawrence


The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann


100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro


1984 by George Orwell


St. Urbain's Horsemen by Mordecai Richler


The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien


The Barnchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope


Some of mine are on your list, starting with Pride and Prejudice, although I'd put the whole Jane Austen opus on my list. I have a complete Jane Austen volume and I re-read the whole thing every couple of years. So,...

Jane Austen-all of them
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (and Jude the Obscure)-Hardy
One Hundred Years of Solitude (and Love In The Time of Cholera)-Marquez
The Magic Mountain-Thomas Mann
Les Miserables-Victor Hugo
A Tale of Two Cities-Dickens

Others Not On Your List:
The Count of Monte Cristo-Dumas
Wuthering Heights-Emily Bronte
Jane Eyre-Charlotte Bronte
Portrait of a Lady, The Golden Bowl and Wings of the Dove-Henry James
The Age of Innocence-Edith Wharton
Brideshead Revisited-Evelyn Waugh
A Passage to India and A Room With A View-E.M.Forster
How Green Was My Valley-Richard Llewellyn
Little Women-Louisa May Alcott
The Secret Garden-Hodgson

Crime and Punishment and The Idiot-Dostoyevsky
Fathers and Sons-Turgenev
Dr. Zhivago-Pasternak

The Sound and The Fury, Absalom, Absalom-Faulkner
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter-Carson McCullers
To Kill A Mockingbird-Harper Lee
Band of Angels-Robert Penn Warren
Lie Down In Darkness-William Styron
Gone With The Wind-Margaret Mitchell

Sophie's Choice-William Styron
The English Patient-Ondaatje
The Road-Cormac McCarthy
Corelli's Mandolin-DeBernieres
The Mambo Kings Sings Songs of Love and Mr. Ives'Christmas-Hijuelos
The Shipping News-Annie Proulx
The Color Purple-Alice Walker
Beloved, The Song of Solomon-Toni Morrison
Nobody's Fool, Risk Pool, Empire Falls-Richard Russo

Italian novels:
The Leopard-Lampedusa
The Moon and the Bonfires-Cesare Pavese
Zeno's Conscience-Italo Svevo
Storia-Elsa Morante
Reeds in the Wind-Grazia Deledda
The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love-Elena Ferrante

These aren't novels, they're memoirs, but I go back to them again and again...
Christ Stopped at Eboli-Carlo Levi
If This Is A Man-Primo Levi
Memories of a Tuscan Childhood-Kinta Beevor
War in the Val D'Orcia-Iris Origo
Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood-Mary McCarthy
Flame Trees of Thika-Elspeth Huxley
Out of Africa-Isak Dinesen

Sorry, much too long, but the titles just came pouring out...I didn't even have to think about it.
 
Angela has read a lot of stuff. That's for sure.
 
Lemme add some others in the list, although of Economic and Political nature.

The Road to Serfdom, von Hayek

Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman
 
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Lemme me add some others in the list, although of Economic and Political nature.

The Road to Serfdom, von Hayek

Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman

The subject is novels, specifically. And although I'd consider Milton Friedman's ideas to be inventions that have nothing to do with reality, he'd probably disagree.
 
Some of mine are on your list, starting with Pride and Prejudice, although I'd put the whole Jane Austen opus on my list. I have a complete Jane Austen volume and I re-read the whole thing every couple of years. So,...

Jane Austen-all of them
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (and Jude the Obscure)-Hardy
One Hundred Years of Solitude (and Love In The Time of Cholera)-Marquez
The Magic Mountain-Thomas Mann
Les Miserables-Victor Hugo
A Tale of Two Cities-Dickens

Others Not On Your List:
The Count of Monte Cristo-Dumas
Wuthering Heights-Emily Bronte
Jane Eyre-Charlotte Bronte
Portrait of a Lady, The Golden Bowl and Wings of the Dove-Henry James
The Age of Innocence-Edith Wharton
Brideshead Revisited-Evelyn Waugh
A Passage to India and A Room With A View-E.M.Forster
How Green Was My Valley-Richard Llewellyn
Little Women-Louisa May Alcott
The Secret Garden-Hodgson

Crime and Punishment and The Idiot-Dostoyevsky
Fathers and Sons-Turgenev
Dr. Zhivago-Pasternak

The Sound and The Fury, Absalom, Absalom-Faulkner
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter-Carson McCullers
To Kill A Mockingbird-Harper Lee
Band of Angels-Robert Penn Warren
Lie Down In Darkness-William Styron
Gone With The Wind-Margaret Mitchell

Sophie's Choice-William Styron
The English Patient-Ondaatje
The Road-Cormac McCarthy
Corelli's Mandolin-DeBernieres
The Mambo Kings Sings Songs of Love and Mr. Ives'Christmas-Hijuelos
The Shipping News-Annie Proulx
The Color Purple-Alice Walker
Beloved, The Song of Solomon-Toni Morrison
Nobody's Fool, Risk Pool, Empire Falls-Richard Russo

Italian novels:
The Leopard-Lampedusa
The Moon and the Bonfires-Cesare Pavese
Zeno's Conscience-Italo Svevo
Storia-Elsa Morante
Reeds in the Wind-Grazia Deledda
The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love-Elena Ferrante

These aren't novels, they're memoirs, but I go back to them again and again...
Christ Stopped at Eboli-Carlo Levi
If This Is A Man-Primo Levi
Memories of a Tuscan Childhood-Kinta Beevor
War in the Val D'Orcia-Iris Origo
Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood-Mary McCarthy
Flame Trees of Thika-Elspeth Huxley
Out of Africa-Isak Dinesen

Sorry, much too long, but the titles just came pouring out...I didn't even have to think about it.

That's a long and impressive list, and I'd have to agree with many of your suggestions. But when it comes to the novels of Henry James, we'll have to agree to disagree. I found his writing to induce a state of trance from sheer boredom. But some of the others, such as Wuthering Heights, yes, I have to agree. Other books, I haven't read, but will look for some of them in my local library or bookstore. As for non-novels, I definitely agree about Out of Africa - still one of my favorite books.

I imagine one's list is shaped partly by circumstances of one's birth. I haven't read a lot of American novels - when I was in school, there was a definite trend in Canada to value European authors more. I suspect a younger person from Canada would know more about American fiction, as I believe it's taught more in our schools now. And there are a lot of really good Canadian authors who are probably unknown outside this country. And of course, after a lifetime of reading, one's list of treasured novels could change from day to day, as old favorites pop back into one's mind.
 
That's a long and impressive list, and I'd have to agree with many of your suggestions. But when it comes to the novels of Henry James, we'll have to agree to disagree. I found his writing to induce a state of trance from sheer boredom. But some of the others, such as Wuthering Heights, yes, I have to agree. Other books, I haven't read, but will look for some of them in my local library or bookstore. As for non-novels, I definitely agree about Out of Africa - still one of my favorite books.

I imagine one's list is shaped partly by circumstances of one's birth. I haven't read a lot of American novels - when I was in school, there was a definite trend in Canada to value European authors more. I suspect a younger person from Canada would know more about American fiction, as I believe it's taught more in our schools now. And there are a lot of really good Canadian authors who are probably unknown outside this country. And of course, after a lifetime of reading, one's list of treasured novels could change from day to day, as old favorites pop back into one's mind.

Henry James has that effect on a lot of people.
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I read him at university and had a hard time getting through the novels. It's only in the last couple of years that he's grown on me.

You're right; so much of this has to do with exposure. My high school English courses were a marvel when I compare them to what kids are assigned today. Then, I took a course in Victorian English literature, so that's where I learned to appreciate many of those novels. I also took a course in the literature of the American south, and I was hooked for life.

Then, there's my lifelong interest in Italian history, and, because of the stories on which I grew up, books about the war.

I was also blessed to live in a neighborhood with a lot of very "arts" oriented people who formed a book club years ago. We started with people's recommendations of their favorites, but then moved on to working from the national book awards lists from the U.S. and the U.K. One book a month, and it starts to add up.
smile.gif
I just listed the ones that immediately came to mind...which reminds me...how could I have forgotten Angle of Repose, Stegner?

Btw, we do read Canadian authors, including the work of Alice Munro, and I admire her, but for whatever reason, her short stories don't "speak to my heart". I did like Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace very much. I somehow missed Surfacing, but I'm going to pick it up.

Oh, and I like the "new" Canadians. Ondaatje is on my list, and Mistry's A Fine Balance should have definitely been on it. I loved that book.
 
A Brief History of Time, S. Hawking

Juliette, Marquis de Sade (yes I know, "no good")

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers, R. Heilbroner

Elric of Melnibone, Michael Murcock

Zorba the Greek, Kazantzakis

The Last Temptation, Kazantzakis

I should have included both the Kazantzakis books on my list.

As for Madame Bovary, we'll have to agree to disagree, as Aberdeen said. I very much admire the craftsmanship of the novel, but I always found her too shallow, superficial, and materialistic. I didn't really care what happened to her. If she was bored by provincial life, why didn't she take up good works, or the life of the mind, instead of frittering away her life in meaningless affairs?

I have the same problem with Anna Karenina, the other great Victorian novel about a woman. In that case, perhaps it's because I don't understand a mother who is willing to lose her children over such a trivial man. I was itching to slap her face and tell her to "snap out of it", the whole time I was reading the book.:annoyed:

You are forgiven your taste for the books of Dan Brown so long as you don't believe they are accurate historically. :grin:
 
Henry James has that effect on a lot of people.
grin.png
I read him at university and had a hard time getting through the novels. It's only in the last couple of years that he's grown on me.

You're right; so much of this has to do with exposure. My high school English courses were a marvel when I compare them to what kids are assigned today. Then, I took a course in Victorian English literature, so that's where I learned to appreciate many of those novels. I also took a course in the literature of the American south, and I was hooked for life.

Then, there's my lifelong interest in Italian history, and, because of the stories on which I grew up, books about the war.

I was also blessed to live in a neighborhood with a lot of very "arts" oriented people who formed a book club years ago. We started with people's recommendations of their favorites, but then moved on to working from the national book awards lists from the U.S. and the U.K. One book a month, and it starts to add up.
smile.gif
I just listed the ones that immediately came to mind...which reminds me...how could I have forgotten Angle of Repose, Stegner?

Btw, we do read Canadian authors, including the work of Alice Munro, and I admire her, but for whatever reason, her short stories don't "speak to my heart". I did like Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace very much. I somehow missed Surfacing, but I'm going to pick it up.

Oh, and I like the "new" Canadians. Ondaatje is on my list, and Mistry's A Fine Balance should have definitely been on it. I loved that book.

I love Alice Munro's books, precisely because they speak of a world I'm familiar with, especially in books like Dance of the Happy Shades, when she talks about the past. Her writing has been described as "Southwestern Ontario Gothic", and I think she speaks to me in the same way that William Faulker apparently speaks to some people from the southern U.S. He's one American writer I am familiar with, and I can see and admire his expertise, but I just don't connect with his writing. Whereas Munro's characters are like people I knew in my rural childhood - even if I don't always like them, I can understand them and predict what they'll do and why. But I do think that a truly great and immortal writer can make us feel at one with the characters in his or her story, even if they live in a world we can't necessarily imagine because it's too far outside our experience - I'm thinking of Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain. So perhaps Munro may not prove to be one of the immortals, and perhaps people in Serbia or China won't be reading her work 200 years from now. But if I had to pick one favorite author, it would be Alice Munro (or possibly Margaret Lawrence, who also captures some of that "Canadian Gothic" feel in her writing, despite setting her stories in a different part of the country). Whereas I don't connect with Ondaatje or Mistry at all, although I do admire them.
 
Henry James has that effect on a lot of people.
grin.png
I read him at university and had a hard time getting through the novels. It's only in the last couple of years that he's grown on me.

What's the secret to enjoying anything by Henry James? I find his style unbearable. It's like he is constantly trying to make the reader reread his unnecessarily long and convoluted sentences.

Anyway, my favorite novel is probably The Monk by Matthew Lewis. Maybe that gives away the style I prefer.
 
When I have time for fiction - The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato. My wife laughs at my enjoyment of text books. Recently, I have read UnRoman Britain: Exposing the Great Myth of Britannia by Miles Russell, The Celts: A Very Short Introduction by Barry Cunliffe, and The Aegean from Bronze Age to Iron Age: Continuity and Change Between the Twelfth and Eighth Centuries BC by Oliver Dickinson.
 
anything except fiction books
 
I used to read a lot when I was a teenager. I loved Agatha Christie. I spent a week on Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind. I even read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, a lot of trash books and trash magazines, Alfred Newman, comics and a lot of non-fiction. Now I realize Ayn Rand is quite ignorant. As a teenager it was something strange to read almost a courtroom dialogue arguing about economics and socialism. That is what Randian literature is. Give me trash and or trash comics and I will read them. I used to read all the crime stuff too. A childhood friend's dad was a police officer and he had all those crime magazines which I used to look through. There were a lot weird stuff so now nothing fazes me. There was a story where a husband killed his wife by making pills from faeces and put them into her food. It seems faeces are poisonous and bitter. Sometimes I wonder if it could be true as eating that awful stuff would be detected by the taste unless she is a swallower. I know a lot of people just swallow their food. I know it is disgusting but that is me. I lived in a Dickensonian world so I am used to it.
 
sparkey;432874]What's the secret to enjoying anything by Henry James? I find his style unbearable. It's like he is constantly trying to make the reader reread his unnecessarily long and convoluted sentences.


Patience? Lots of Caffeine?
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On the chance that the question is serious, I'd say start with short pieces from the "early" James, things like Washington Square, or The Turn of the Screw, which is a good ghost story. I enjoyed those even years ago.

As for the "later" James, in his masterpiece The Golden Bowl, for example, you can't read James as if you have to know the exact meaning of every clause. The suggestion is, and this is not original with me, to read it the way that you would look at an impressionist painting, just gliding along, almost skimming, and absorbing "feelings", "impressions", more than hard edged facts, until, voila, you arrive at the meaning, usually revealed through a brilliant bit of dialogue. Or, think of it like being swept along by a river of words. I'd also say read it in chunks so it has time to sink in. Anyway, if you put the effort in, you're rewarded. I don't know a single author who more deeply sees into the complexities of the psyche and the soul of human beings.

Or, you can cheat, and watch the movies.
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There are good versions of Washington Square (the old one with Olivia DeHavilland is better) and The Turn of the Screw. There's even a good one of The Golden Bowl...best friend is sleeping with your husband, and has just married your very wealthy widowed father in order to stay close to your husband. How bad can it be?

Anyway, my favorite novel is probably The Monk by Matthew Lewis. Maybe that gives away the style I prefer.

Now there you surprised me.
 
anything except fiction books

But most books are fiction. Do you mean that you only like historical and biographical books?
 
I should have included both the Kazantzakis books on my list.

As for Madame Bovary, we'll have to agree to disagree, as Aberdeen said. I very much admire the craftsmanship of the novel, but I always found her too shallow, superficial, and materialistic. I didn't really care what happened to her. If she was bored by provincial life, why didn't she take up good works, or the life of the mind, instead of frittering away her life in meaningless affairs?

You are forgiven your taste for the books of Dan Brown so long as you don't believe they are accurate historically. :grin:

With madame Bovary, I think this is what the author wants to criticise.

I did not say that I consider Dan Brown as a supreme writer. Why do you say that broette?
 
I love Alice Munro's books, precisely because they speak of a world I'm familiar with, especially in books like Dance of the Happy Shades, when she talks about the past. Her writing has been described as "Southwestern Ontario Gothic", and I think she speaks to me in the same way that William Faulker apparently speaks to some people from the southern U.S. He's one American writer I am familiar with, and I can see and admire his expertise, but I just don't connect with his writing. Whereas Munro's characters are like people I knew in my rural childhood - even if I don't always like them, I can understand them and predict what they'll do and why. But I do think that a truly great and immortal writer can make us feel at one with the characters in his or her story, even if they live in a world we can't necessarily imagine because it's too far outside our experience - I'm thinking of Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain. So perhaps Munro may not prove to be one of the immortals, and perhaps people in Serbia or China won't be reading her work 200 years from now. But if I had to pick one favorite author, it would be Alice Munro (or possibly Margaret Lawrence, who also captures some of that "Canadian Gothic" feel in her writing, despite setting her stories in a different part of the country). Whereas I don't connect with Ondaatje or Mistry at all, although I do admire them.

I understand what you're saying. I "get" Italian literature, or let's say that it "resonates" with me in a way that English language literature doesn't, but that doesn't mean that this vast body of literature can't move me very profoundly. (What I had to do years ago with literature written by the British and the Americans of a certain era was to turn off the voice in my head that constantly wanted to ask, why don't you just tell him or her, or touch him or her. )

What a specific piece has to do is speak to me about what I suppose I'd call "universal" themes depicted through characters with whom I can connect emotionally. A poetic sensibility, figurative language, is also very important to me. So, for example, although in America I am probably most "foreign" in the American south, the literature of "southern" writers (which I don't think is really regional at all) is the one with which I most deeply connect, and not just because of its excellence in terms of style, etc., but because it speaks to me about the burden of history, the scars of a war fought on one's own soil, the demands of family and culture and tradition, the power of communal narrative, the shifting sands of memory, all things that I understand. That, and they're just good stories, and if all that weren't enough, they deal, as no other literature of the world did, with the corrosive power of racial politics.

Likewise, while of all Ondaatje's work, I only really connect with The English Patient, which has very little to do with his ancestral roots, Mistry's A Fine Balance, while grounded in Indian culture and history, is very universal I think, and most importantly, for me, I absolutely love and admire the characters. So often, with books like Frantzen's The Corrections, for example, I find the characters so repugnant that only duty forces me to to finish them. I actually remember going to the book club meeting and saying, "I don't know how much I can contribute here, because I hated these people so much I can barely talk about them." Luckily almost everybody else had the same problem, so it was actually a good start for a discussion.:)

Ed. This reminds me...I really like The Kite Runner too.

And, I'm going to give Alice Munro another try, and not only because of your explanation of her work, but because they obviously don't give out Nobel Prizes for literature for nothing!
 

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