It’s a time of year for gift giving. If you were going to give someone your top ten books, what would those ten books be? My friend Janet writes:
I wish your readers would share “what they reread.” If you put it that way: all of Jane Austen every couple years. All of Dorothy L Sayers’ Lord Peter and Harriet mysteries (in order!), Lord of the Rings, Jane Eyre, the Harry Potter books. I love myth and epic and romance. I go back to these over and over.
I found it really hard to settle down and write my list. I wish it could sound brainier, more literary. In fact, I’ve read some fat, immensely literary books more than once (okay, okay), but my list will surprise my American Literature students. Although I’ve read The Scarlet Letter and Moby Dick and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn multiple times, the books I would buy my friends for Christmas are less well known. I love The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene, The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Bread and Wine by Ignazio Silone, anything by Penelope Fitzgerald (I’ve reread The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels multiple times), The Dubliners by James Joyce. And Flannery O’Connor — especially her short stories.
There were a few books I read this year that I’d like to reread, and I have been pushing all my friends to read: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (brainy, but worth it), Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson, and The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. (The last three are not “brainy,” but no less willing to plumb the depths of human quirkiness.)
Now that Janet has reminded me, I wouldn’t mind rereading Dorothy Sayers. I’ll start with Gaudy Night.
But–a life list of favorites? Every title makes me think of several more. I have deliberately avoided poetry here.
Okay, your turn. What would you reread? What books do you tell your friends to read?