My top ten vs. Hemingway’s…


I have read most of these books, and all of these authors with the exception of Thomas Mann and George Moore (I don’t know how I have managed to avoid Mann; he is one of my husband’s favorite authors). But in numerous ways this list bugs me, so I thought I’d blog about what I might put on such a list.

I am happy to see Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights on Ernest’s list, but where are the other women? By all means, read Dubliners (read it once a year), read Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and James. But on my top ten list you will find instead of W. H. Hudson, Rumer Godden (start with An Episode of Sparrows). Look up the Joan Acocella’s essay, “Assassination on a Small Scale” about Penelope Fitzgerald, and then read Fitzgerald (start with The Beginning of Spring). If we’re talking strictly classics, then we can at least get Jane Austen on there, and the other Bronte sisters.

A list of ten books–from anyone–probably can’t do justice to one’s personal tastes. Where is Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain on Hemingway’s list? What about William Faulkner? What about Toni Morrison? Of course you have to read Graham Greene. The Heart of the Matter and The Power and the Glory are probably my favorites. Another one I’ve reread is The End of the Affair. Rereading…although it’s been a few years, A Tale of Two Cities by, of course, Charles Dickens, is a book I’ve read numerous times.

Read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Read Eudora Welty’s The Optimist’s Daughter. Oh, and how about Carson McCuller’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter? 

There. I feel better now. What do you reread?bookheart

5 replies
  1. Carolynne Harris
    Carolynne Harris says:

    I am not a reader of literature since high school and college. Never did get thru a Tale of Two Cities – I do like your list but. . . . I’m not there. I like books more current and I love Rumer Godden. However, I like your list more than I like Hemingway’s. We visited his grave in Idaho. And I think it’s really cool you have a list, a copy?, with his name.

    • Janet Blumberg
      Janet Blumberg says:

      You’re right, there’s a HUGE tug-of-war between my personal greats, the favorite books that have made an enormous impact on my own life, and those works I must recognize as truly, truly great by any measure at all.

      I’d be fascinated to hear some attempts at lists from Bethany’s readers (and from Bethany).

      Here’s mine:

      The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky
      James Joyce (Dubliners, Portrait, Ulysses)
      Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
      Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
      Moby Dick, Herman Melville
      Madame Bovary, Flaubert
      The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
      The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
      The Once and Future King, T. H. White
      Til We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis
      Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

      (ok that’s 11)

      But the designation “novels” or “books” makes me leave out the greatest of my greats, which have been both life-changing personal favorites and works that are transcendently classic artworks by any measure.

      Homer’s epics
      Plato’s Dialogues
      Aristotle’s lecture-notes
      Augustine’ Confessions
      The Middle English Pearl
      Dante’s Divine Comedy
      Milton’s Paradise Lost


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