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:
- Herzog by Saul Bellow
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (review pending)
- The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
- Native Son by Richard Wright (review forthcoming)
- Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safren Foer
- Valis by Philip K. Dick
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.