Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Favourite Novels

A lot of my friends ask for my favourite novels - and I often ask them too.

So here is my list:
  • Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. I have read this at least half a dozen times. Some people criticise its meandering antiquated style, but I think it makes it all the more rich. It's all about recreating myth. The unusual focus on language provides a rich context and transforms myth into a layered novel.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The only other novel I've read multiple times. A brilliant work.
  • Middlesex by Eugenides. I may be culturally biased here - but this is a masterpiece and in my opinion the western version of One Hundred Years of Solitude - not with regards to magical realism but regarding the scope and nature of the work. I absolutely loved it and I recommend it to everyone.
  • Freedom and Death by Nikos Kazantzakis. Excellent characters in a well-written and powerful piece. Underated.
  • Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. Many say The Heart of the Matter is Greene's best but my favourite is definitely this one. The whiskey priest is a captivating protagonist in a moving story. Greene was generally a fine writer (The Honorary Consul and The Quiet American are also great reads) but this exceeded my expectations and has long stayed with me.
  • The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle. Not on many favourite lists but this is by far the funniest book I've read. You need to become accustomised to all the 'mans' at first but once you do it's an absolute delight. A must read. 
  • Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut. Panned by the critics but I loved this disguised autobiographical piece. An excellent insight into a witty mind
  • Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
  • God Bless You, Mr Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut 
  • The Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. I love them all - although I did prefer the earlier novels when he hadn't split the worlds.The best medieval fantasy I've read along with LOTR. A masterpiece of entertainment and scope - and I can't wait for the next one. Plus the dwarf, Tyrion, is one of my all time favourite fictional characters.The questions are: Will Martin finish it properly? Has the world become too big for him? I can't wait to find out.
  • The Man in the High Castle by PK Dick. A fantastic concept and Dick's best work. His change in narrative voice alone in this piece was unique and something to be admired.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces Rich, satirical and comical. A novel of genius, which deserved the Pulitzer. Tragic that it was published posthumously.
  • The Road by Cormac McArthy A minimalist bleak world, which is made only bleaker by the minimalist prose that accompanies it. A compelling story of survival and the loving bond between a father and son. Easily my favourite of Cormac's works.
  • Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Benieres. Just a great lyrical narrative that has it all: romance, comedy, tragedy, love, hope and war.  Although the aged locals do say it depicts the Italian occupation as far more flattering than was the reality. Hope reading when I was 17 means that it still holds up. 
  • Macroscope by Piers Anthony. I read this at 13 so my memories and age may have clouded its quality but at the time I was impressed.
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Possibly my all time favourite. An incredible exploration and celebration of the American identity. Epic in scope. Pathos and pothos, humour and brutality, poignant and meaningful. 
  • Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter. Rich, comical and touching. Fevers is one of the greatest of all literary characters. A lady of binary pairings. And nobody can pull off narrative voice like Carter can. 
Feel free to comment on the list or add your own too.