Monday, April 12, 2010

Musing Monday...The Best Books

What would I do without Musing Monday to let me know that it is the start of another week? Happily, we don't have to find out.
So let's wander over to Just One More Page and see what interesting question Rebecca has for us this week...

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about the ‘best’ books'.

There’s been some discussion on my blog this week about what should or shouldn’t make a ‘best' books’ list. What elements do you think lands a book in that ‘best’ category? Think of your top 5 best books and tune in next week to see the collated list.

Oh, this may take some thought...
I admit I like these "Best Books" lists. I don't always agree with them, but I still like them. I think they make for some interesting discussion. Now I must also admit, if the Da Vinci Code or the Twilight books or Harry Potter are on the list, I just disregard it. No doubt some fans are raising their voices in protest but come on folks...they may have sold a lot of copies and they may be popular, and they may be fun, but the Best Books of all time...please. Let's be honest, my dear reader. Sometimes we just like to read something that is a little junky or a little trashy or a little mindless, but just because a lot of us did that, does not make it "great".

What makes a book one of the best? Well, it must be well written, it must have great characters, an engaging plot and, maybe most of all, a timeless element. It must be a book that can speak to people today, a hundred years ago and a hundred years from now. It is a book that can speak to us on several levels, that has an element that is addressed to each of us, that we recognize regardless of our race or gender or age or nationality. It is a book that stands the test of time.
But I think perhaps that there is no perfect, objective criteria. In large part, it is a very subjective choice.

But what the hay, I will give it a go. As an aid, I will consider an imaginary scenario. Someone, an All Powerful Figure, comes to me and informs me that I am to be spirited away to some distant place and can take with me only 5 books to read. Those are the only books I will have for the year, so they better be books I will want to read again and again. Now I might be tempted to take very big books, or books I have never read, but that would be a dangerous choice I think. No, I will go with some of what I think are the very best. This is a hard choice and another day I might pick another 5, but The All Powerful Figure will not wait, so here we go.

For this exercise, I will stick to fiction...and I will not included the Bible, although if I only could take one book, that would be it.
  • Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien- Long and great. It has it all.
  • Death Comes For the Archbishop by Willa Cather- I was tempted by my other Cather fav, My Antonia, but the Bishop Wins out.
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh- A classic story of love and family and faith...and some great dysfunctional characters.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- Simply a great story, great characters. The image of Gregory Peck in the movie will comfort me too.
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer- For something a little different. Another books that has it all..I laughed, I cried...I could read it over and over. And it sounds great read aloud, which may keep me company.
Ok, there are some off the top of my head. If I think about it more, I might change my mind, but the All Powerful Figure is waiting and I must grab them, so no time for too much thought. I would love to throw in a copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare and maybe the Complete Sherlock Holmes if the APF does not notice...

But I am curious what you, my dear readers, might pick. 
Any of the 5 you agree with, any you totally hate?
Do tell!


  1. I've only read To Kill a Mockingbird and The Canterbury Tales from your list.

  2. well Kathy, you really should get right on to the others! ;-)

  3. Lord of the Rings was in mine. I named more than 5 though.

    Here is mine

  4. Gosh .. if an All Powerful Figure came and told me to pick 5 books, I would be a in complete tizzy.

    I do think the quality of "timelessness" is very important though ... it has to speak to multiple generations to really be worthwhile.

  5. A great book should be able to make the reader empathise with the character(s), identify with the contexts, and involve a humanistic thread that one might want to aspire to besides leaving one refreshed.

    Maybe you might want to try Rohinton Mistry's books.

  6. To Kill a Mockingbird would definitely be tops on my list!

    Brideshead Revisited and Lord of the Rings are both on my TBR shelf - and I have already Canterbury Tales :)

    I have yet to read any Willa Cather (shame on me) --- although O Pioneers and My Antonia are patiently waiting their turn.

  7. This was a thought provoking question. First off I'd be in the minority I guess for not having any interest in Lord of the Rings but I would most heartedly agree on your choice of Brideshead Revisited. A few others for me would be The Oxford book of English Verse( mainly because it included the Rime of the Ancient Mariner), Complete anthology of Mapp & Lucia by E.F. Benson, Anna Karenina and the collected stories of Lord Peter Whimsey. Call me weird, but that's my list.

  8. Cather is a winner and I thing Death Comes For The Archbishop is a wonderful book.

    Kaye, I think they are excellent choices. Hardly weird at

  9. I similarly discuss the element of timelessness.

    Liked your list. Mine's here:

  10. Lord of the Rings is my fav from your list. I haven't read the others. My list is a Any favs there?

  11. I read My Antonia when I was young, and it was one of the first books I read that didn't have the ending that I had hoped for. It was a depressing day and a hard lesson, but I've since come to appreciate all manner of endings. :) I enjoyed your post!

  12. is not all about happy endings...

  13. I have yet to read Lord of the Rings much to my young adult sons horror!

  14. I agree with a couple on your list: Death Comes for the Archbishop and To Kill A Mockingbird. I also like your criteria, especially good strong characters.

  15. The only one of your five I've read is To Kill A Mockingbird, and I agree that it is a great book. (I remember reading and really liking My Antonia years ago... but I can't remember enough about it today to put it on any lists!)

    I could never get into The Lord of the Rings. It just didn't seem to be going anywhere. I enjoyed The Hobbit, though. Maybe because it wasn't so huge!

  16. wow, there are so many books I haven't read. I only read Lord of The Rings and not in total at that.

  17. Great list! Although I haven't read any of them. LOL

  18. personal favorite is anna karenina...but i have to read it in italian you knoqw

  19. so many little time...

    yes Bandit, I know what you say.

  20. The Lord of the Ring still remains as the most invincible goal to fulfill for my Reading Deliberately project. I need to get on it!


please speak up, I LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!!