Posted by: Jeanie F | May 5, 2010

Ten Best Books

Let me start by saying that this list is a lie. It’s impossible to identify the ten best books. I might be able to come up with a “ten best” in categories –

  • The 10 best Victorian novels
  • The 10 best political satires
  • The 10 best Jane Austen novels (a good trick as Susi, from The Book Affair Blog, correctly points out –  there are only seven)
  • The 10 best to read when you’re sick, etc.

Still, I decided to try to identify a generic list of those books that have fit this criteria:

  1. I never wanted the book to end;
  2. I’ve thought about it often ever since;
  3. The elements fit together in a new or profound way;
  4. I wanted to go back and begin rereading the minute I finished;
  5. It struck a deep emotional chord – maybe happy, maybe tragic, maybe outraged – but definitely deep.

Here’s my first cut at it:


City of Thieves by David Benioff


Blindness by José Saramago

#8  AND

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner and Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (really, almost any title by these two authors)


The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle


The Known World by Edward P Jones


The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers


Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

#3  AND

The Angle of Repose  and Crossing to Safety, both by Wallace Stegner

#2  AND

Beloved and A Mercy, both by Toni Morrison

AND . . . the #1 best book I’ve ever read

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

I look at this list and immediately think of all the books that could fit here as easily as many that are listed. With the exception of City of Thieves and A Mercy, all are books I read for the first time AT LEAST five years ago and have stayed with me over time. If I wrote this list tomorrow – or next year – I think I would still want each of them on it.


  1. While I fully agree that it is impossible to list the 10 best of any books, I had to chuckles at your “10 Best Jane Austen Novels” as she only completed 6 and started on a 7th. I guess her list would be easy.

    While I agree with many on your list, I had real problems with Blindness. I guess the translation was a little off for me. I am currently reading through the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and I know that Saramago is listed. Maybe I’ll give Blindness another chance.


    • See, that’s just what I need – lists that are complete at 6 or 7! It would be so much easier for me. LOL!

      Blindness is on this list because it was such a strong and devastating novel that I’ve thought about it over and over again. It was a tough read – so cruel and bleak. Also, such a strange and unique concept. However, you have to careful about who you recommend it to!!

  2. I completely agree with Beloved. To my shame I have to say that it’s the only book on your list that I’ve actually read. But seeing as those are classified as your best reads, I will certainly check them out now. 🙂
    And I know what you mean about the list being a lie. Making lists like that is so difficult. There will always be books afterwards that you want to add to it.

  3. Susi, wasn’t Beloved great? A Mercy is just as good. I could really put all of Toni Morrison on this list – Sula? The Bluest Eye? Song of Solomon? The only one that I had mixed feelings about was Paradise. I liked it, but not as much as the others.

    I can’t recommend A Fine Balance strongly enough. It’s a big book – I think over 600 pages – but SO worth the time.

  4. Weirdly, I didn’t enjoy A Mercy. :S

    I do agree with A Fine Balance though. Loved the book to bits.

  5. Isn’t it fun to look at what people love/don’t love in book lists? I LOVED “A Fine Balance”, which could be #1 on my list too, but I could not do “Beloved” at all! I am a huge TC Boyle and Faulkner fan as well. But I did not like “Cry Beloved Country”, (although I did get emotional in the end I had a hard time keeping focused during the story) –
    I also peaked at your worst books of all time, and I actually did like some of those when I read them too. Oh well, discerning tastes are the spice of life!

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