Longtime Millions reader Laurie sent in her reaction to all these “top ten” book lists that have been floating around in recent months, while also, of course, sharing her own:
In the wake of the release of The Top Ten, [there is also a Web site] a collection of top ten books chosen by 125 British and American writers, the Washington Post is soliciting readers’ top ten picks.
These exercises are fun, but I hope no one takes them seriously. The lists they receive (like mine) will lean toward American/British books, with a smattering of European titles, partly because American schools emphasize Western literature. Cao Xueqin’s Dream of the Red Chamber should be as well known as War and Peace, but most Americans have never heard of it. Even when we have read the non-Western classics, we tend to favor the familiar — my list included The Old Man & the Sea and To Kill A Mockingbird, but Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji and Abolqasem Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh are probably greater works.
My top ten (not set in stone, except for Heart of Darkness):
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
- The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
- Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
- Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man – James Joyce
- To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
- Don Quixote – Cervantes
- The Iliad & The Odyssey – Homer
- The Dream of the Red Chamber – Cao Xueqin
- War & Peace – Leo Tolstoy
- Oedipus the King – Sophocles