Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: All-Time Favorite Books from the Past 3 Years

It's been a while since I've participated in the Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week's topic is far too enticing to pass up. At first, I thought that they meant to list your top 10 favorite books published within the last three years (which of course, would be impossible for me to do) but since this is not the case, it is a whole different ball-game. I have read a lot of great novels since 2013 and narrowing down my list proved to be a grueling process. However, I am fairly content with the end results:

  1. Herzog by Saul Bellow
  2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (review pending)
  3. The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
  4. Animal Farm by George Orwell 
  5. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
  6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  7. Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
  8. Native Son by Richard Wright (review forthcoming)
  9. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safren Foer
  10. Valis by Philip K. Dick  
Initially, I tried to include only one book per author but these constraints served no real purpose. As you can see, Saul Bellow and Guy Gavriel are the only ones to appear twice but their works are so exceptional that excluding them would only make me appear false to myself. 

If I were to make an arbitrary list consisting of my favorite novels of all time, Herzog would easily make the Top 5. In fact, my passionate adoration for this novel is so profound that I might even boost it up into the the top 3. I've read it twice now and currently making my way through it again for a third time. If this were Saul Bellow's only novel, I would have no qualms of proclaiming him as one of the great writers of the 20th century. Luckily for us, he wrote extensively over his lifetime and Seize the Day helps to confirm his status.

Crime and Punishment would likely make my top 10. I've been putting off writing a review for over a year now because I cannot possibly do this novel justice. Every single time I attempt to sit down and crank something out, my mind goes blank. I could easily bestow a heap of superlatives to describe many of its admirable qualities but that would come across as redundant--come on now, it's a Russian classic for a reason. However, I can state with the utmost confidence that it does rank as the most complex and intense psychological case studies on morality and religion that I have ever come across in a piece of literature. I really need to read more from Dostoyevsky.

If you have been following my blog at all, my rabid obsession with Guy Gavriel Kay has been well documented and I'm always eager to recommend his works to others. You won't find many authors as talented or original as him when it comes to the fantasy genre. I plan to organize a GGK read-a-thon in the near future, stay tuned.

George Orwell's allegorical masterpiece Animal Farm might seem all cute and fuzzy on the surface but it is a serious and important literary work that takes a firm stance against Marxist ideologies. I may not always agree with Orwell's political views but his general premise that communism only works in principle and not practice, is difficult to refute.

Ray Bradbury is probably more famous for his short-stories but Fahrenheit 451 has always remained at the top of SF's best novels of all time lists and for good reason. It's depiction of a terrifying world where books are considered a threat to the very foundation of a Utopian society because they encourage free-will and independent thought, has lost none of its relevance. The rise of totalitarianism through censorship, media control and our increasing reliance on technology, Bradbury's future seems right around the corner.

Richard Wright's unflinching portrayal of the black experience in his novel Native Son is so controversial, so thought-provoking, so powerful and so heartbreaking that it will remain an undisputed classic for many generations to come. It's scary to think that not a lot has really changed in 2015 concerning race relations in American since Richard Wright's time during the 1930's. Reading this novel today is a painful reminder that we still have a long way to go in achieving racial equality.

Everything is Illuminated defies accurate categorization. A truly original work from a young author that mixes fiction, autobiography, magical realism and history--the story is intricately written, flipping back and forth between past and present; combining an abstract epistolary narrative with a fragmented one that is most ingenious. In less talented hands, this convoluted approach would spell disaster but Jonathan Safren Foer somehow manages to pull it off swimmingly. I strongly believe that with enough time, he will be recognized one of the great writers of the new millennium. 

It was inevitable that Philip K. Dick would appear on this list. After all, he is my favorite SF writer and Valis proves once again why I hold him in such high regard. This novel is mind-blowing and for those who might be under the false impression that the genre has nothing substantial to offer in ways of originality or ideas, think again. 


  1. I can't believe I haven't read Crime and Punishment or Fahrenheit 451!!

    Here's a link to my TTT post for this week: http://captivatedreader.blogspot.com/2015/03/top-ten-books-you-would-classify-as-all.html

  2. Oh yes, I know that I must read Bellow at some point. I'll mark this one (Herzog --- I want to type Hedgehog --) as my first. But with all the books I'm promising to read, I need to escape again to be able to find uninterrupted reading time!

    I'm so excited to read Crime and Punishment but hesitant too. I think Dostoyevsky's going to take some getting used to.

    I read Fahrenheit 451 but I wasn't that fussed. I think I have a simmering resentment towards Bradbury after I read his Something Wicked This Way Comes. Gag!

    I'd have loved to have known what books would fill spots 11 through 20. Was it as hard for you as it was for me to stop at 10?

    1. To be honest, I really don't think you'll like Hedgehog, ooops, I mean Herzog. :P

      In fact, I have the sneaking suspicion you will find Saul Bellow intolerable. Just a hunch. He's not for everyone and while most authors can be deemed an acquired taste, Bellow seems to be one of those love/hate kinda authors. No middle ground. Might I suggest "Seize the Day" or trying out some of his short stories first?

      Now with C+P, there is no doubt in my mind that it will live up to its expectations. I was under the impression that D's writing would be problematic for me because I haven't read many Russian literary works before; whether it was the excellent translation by Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky or the author's own deft touch, I found myself completely mesmerized. It's scary to think that I see so much of myself in Raskolnikov.; it was like holding up a mirror. I obviously didn't kill anyone but all of the existential feelings and meandering thoughts he has reflect my very own. I was blown-away.

      Sorry to hear you didn't take kindly to Bradbury. I haven't read "Something Wicked This Way Comes" but I do hope that you are able to give me another chance by reading some of his short-stories. He's a master of the craft.

      Looking back on everything new that I have read over the last 3 years, I really haven't come across many GREAT novels. The majority of the works were mediocre or just plain awful. I need to read a lot more before making a top 20 list.