Sunday, February 15, 2009

Books: Overrated, Best and Worst

I recently stumbled upon another book list - this one is someone's 10 Most Overrated Novels list. I pretty much agree with the list with the glaring exception of 100 Years of Solitude. (see my comments which are number 666).

The Modern Library has two lists - you can see them side by side - one is The Board's List and the other The Readers' List. There is a rival list from another publisher here.

The lists are fun, I think, since writing, like art, is so subjective. No two people would ever have the same list. You could measure popularity - most purchased, most checked out of a library. You could take a poll. You could see which ones are used most in classrooms. The possibilities are endless.

As far as my favorite books, well, I suppose that would change according the type of day I was having. I would say Little Women and Charlotte's Web were among the most important when I was a girl. I loved Jane Eyre, Uncle Tom's Cabin and A Tale of Two Cities, all of which I read as an adult. For contemporary fiction I'd say Bel Canto, Beloved and The English Patient. Non-fiction is hard to rate since it really depends on how interested you are in the subject, but I'd say that Women Who Run With the Wolves came to me at an important time in my life and has influenced me since.

I love to read biography, memoir and travel narratives for fun, but really good fiction can affect us more deeply, I think (and poetry too, for those who understand it).


Anonymous said...

yes, Little Women - still have the book from my childhood, Jane Eyre, Rebecca - love those moorish and/or wave crashing English stories, The Little Prince, Ayn Rand books, the Snow Leopard, Carolyn Myss books on healing ... these lists could get long as things pop into memory
the fish

Anonymous said...

I'm back ... read your comments ... I think Ayn Rand would roll over to see her writing remind someone of a Marxist prof ... but that list - dunno, Im not familiar with some of the books and the overall tone of the list writer seemed so dismissive
but I am a fish ... what do I know?

Anonymous said...

I have read (or listened to) every one of those books and heartily concur with most of the choices. Well, I haven't read 100 Years of Solitude, but that is not for lack of trying -- kinda proves the point, doesn't it? I was especially tickled to see Confederacy of Dunces on the list; I found it unutterably boring. And here I thought it was because I am just an imbecile.

Sprocket said...

The problem with 100 Years of Solitude (one of my absolute favorites) is that it doesn't translate well. I'm a native Spanish speaker and was horrified when I read the translation. To be fair, it's not the translator's fault. The magic of the book happens in the interplay of language and subject matter--the whole point of the book is gone. There is no way to translate the cleverness of GGM's word choice or the images that certain words evoke for Latin Americans. That doesn't make it a bad or overrated book--just one that's hard to appreciate in English.

Look at the lists of favorites--Little Women, Jane Eyre, etc--kind of not a fair fight when you are comparing the original with a translation.