As expected, I had a difficult time choosing only ten books to stand as my favourite novels. The first problem I encountered was a purely logistic one. Out of the 1200 or so books I have listed on GoodReads, 191 have a five star rating. I had to choose ten. Logically, I needed to pick my favourite favourites. Logic flies out the window when confronted with a trip down memory lane, however.
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein appeared twice. Not sure how or why. It is an important book; I own several copies and I knew going into this that it would have a place in the top ten. What I couldn’t quite articulate was why. I’ve read some terrible reviews. In fact, a lot of Heinlein’s books receive terrible reviews. But, the purpose of this article is not to defend a single author, or my choice of books. I will say I am somewhat hesitant to reread Stranger in a Strange Land, though. It would be terrible if it didn’t live up to my twenty year memory of it.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley was not on the list. WHY? This book was utterly pivotal in my development as a reader. It changed my life, which is much the reason Stranger in a Strange Land is on the list, not once, but twice. A visit to my library answered the question. I don’t actually own a copy. WHY? Even though many of the books I’ve listed on GoodReads were library books or remembered reads, it’s a ghastly oversight.
Such issues aside, I still had nearly two hundred books to consider. Some could possibly be downgraded to four stars. Looking back, I remembered being captured at the time, but the memory wasn’t as fond. I’d read something better since. By the same token, some of the titles in the four star list could be upgraded. But again, that was not my purpose.
See how difficult this was?
Emotions in check (squeals of joy and querulous clicks of the tongue aside), I rated the top 191 with a goal of reducing the list. I ended up with 63 absolute favourites. Another pass and I had 52. Another left me with 44. Of those 44, I had given 13 a ‘1’, the majority a ‘2’ and a handful a ‘0’, meaning I had thirteen contenders for the top ten slots, about twenty books I had a sentimental attachment to and a handful of books that felt like honourable mentions.
I set myself a new task. I sorted the top thirteen, intending to use only the top ten for this article (which is already longer and probably more boring than I intended). Oh, the pain. Then I sat back and studied my list. There were books missing, authors too, and I had to concede that while Drizzt Do’Urden is one of my favourite characters, his books are merely among the best, not The Best. Same with Anne McCaffrey. Dragonsong and the Harper Hall Trilogy captured my imagination enough for me to obsessively collect every Pern title (until fairly recently) and to read McCaffrey’s many other series. I have guides to Pern and I role played in a Pern MUD. But none of those books ended up in my top ten.
The final list contained a lot of science fiction, which didn’t surprise me. Returning to the problem of logic versus emotion, I decided that if I had compiled the list ten years ago, the list might have been very different. As with five years ago, or twenty years go. Which led me to conclude this is not an ultimate list, it’s simply representative of how I felt, at a point in time, about the books I’ve read over the last twenty years or so. Which led to another question: If I were to reread these books, would I still give them five stars? Would they continue to occupy a slot in my Top Ten?
Another project and another post.
So, without further rambling, here is my “current” Top Ten, in order, my absolute favourite book being the first on the list:
And the three that fell off the bottom, which are fabulous books: