Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Best of...Sandy's Top 10

In honor of my first bloggiversary this past Tuesday, I felt it was time to finally reveal my own list of top 10 books. I've forced the project on all my friends and family, so it is only fair. This isn't easy to do, is it? I labored over it! How do you draw the line between a wonderful book, and a favorite? My reading tastes have changed over the years...dare I list a book I read 10 years ago? Here was my conclusion, after long thought. There are some books, on rare occasion, that move your spirit. You turn that last page, and you have a feeling that cannot be duplicated. It might be a feeling of elation. It could be devastation. You wish the book could have lasted forever. With these emotions in mind, here are the 10 books that rose to the surface:

1. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee: How I waited 43 years to read this book is beyond me. Most civilized people are required to read this in high school or college, aren't they? My mom had always stated that this was one of her favorite books and movies of all time, but I didn't take the hint. What finally inspired me was the Southern Reading Challenge, in which I seized the day and listened to it on audio. Sissy Spacek narrated as Scout, and she was a delight. She was the embodiment of our favorite little precocious tomboy.

2. Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett: Yes, it is long, and yes it is cram-packed full of the architectural struggles of building a cathedral in medieval England. But the characters come alive in this amazing chunk of historical fiction. You feel you have toiled along right beside them. What made this read special...almost a four-dimensional experience...was that I read it while working in London. I not only read about these cathedrals, but took a quick train into the countryside and saw them for real. Little did I know that I would have to wait over 15 years to finally read the sequel "World Without End".

3. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote: In my earlier years, I dedicated at least a decade of my life to reading crime novels, particularly true crime. So it is with the utmost confidence that I say that this is THE BEST true crime novel ever written. Capote became so immersed in the story, so bewitched by one of the killers, Perry Smith, that he was virtually ruined after finishing the story. The crime was so brutal and senseless, I believe it would leave most red-blooded humans just a little less comfortable laying their head down to sleep each night.

4. My Life in France - Julia Child: I've always loved Julia, even long before blogger Julie Powell brought her back into the spotlight. I read this book within weeks after its publication, and was smitten all over again. This large, loud American bursts into France with joie de vivre, but no culinary knowledge whatsoever. This is a story about overcoming odds and achieving your dream. It is also a love story. I finished the book with a tear in my eye, and sole meunerre on my mind.

5. The Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling: Pure magic. Pure enchantment. And pure unadulterated joy in reading. It doesn't matter your age, these books grab you at hello and leave you mourning and depressed when it is all over. A hint? Once you finish the books and the movies, listen to the audios.

6. Beach Music - Pat Conroy: If you've ever visited coastal South Carolina, you know that there is something special, something atmospheric about the region that almost defies words. Unless you're Pat Conroy, that is, in which case your books exude this aura. Close your eyes, and you're there. This story weaves a tale of the famous Carolina Beach Music, family secrets and the horror of the Holocaust in one, powerful, life-changing read. This one is on my re-read list in the near future.

7. Rebecca - Daphne DuMaurier: A recent contender! Having just read this for my read-along, I can't not put it on my list. Du Maurier crafts a roller-coaster of a reading experience that is part drama, part murder-mystery and part romance. It is brilliant in every way.

8. Outlaw - Warren Kiefer: You may remember this book on Kenny Cupples' (my husband's co-worker) top 10 list awhile back. Actually, he loaned me this book about five years ago, singing its praises. I took one look at the cover and thought to myself "Are you kidding me? A Western?". This is SO not me. But I humored him. What I found was a man's compelling life story, from a cattle thief to an oil baron, encountering Pancho Villa and fighting in the Spanish-American war. I distinctly remember being forced to run errands and being at the end of the book. I read at stop lights, and finally pulled into a parking lot to finish the darned thing. Then I cried. May I never judge a book by its cover or genre again.

9. Into That Darkness - Gitta Sereny: I know, I won't shut up about this book. After getting into an intense debate with my husband's company's chairman, Dick Shura, over capital punishment and abortion, he handed me this book and told me to be prepared to have it change my life. And it did. Journalist Gitta Sereny digs deep for answers to the Holocaust. She doesn't just stop at interviewing the commandant of Treblinka, Franz Stangl, she takes it further than you could ever imagine. At the end, we are left with our own conscience, and asks questions that aren't comfortable to address.

10. Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen: This is another book that took me 43 years to read. I stumbled upon it at the library and picked it up on a whim. Listening to it on audio was an epiphany! So THIS is what all the hype was about! I didn't think I was a fan of this genre, but I was wrong. I fell head over heels in love with Austen.

Are any of these books on your favorites list? How do you define a favorite?


Unknown said...

Great list! I could have predicted a few of those would appear. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird, but I read it when I was 16, so I think it is time for a re-read.

I have a copy of Pillars of the Earth here and hope to get to it in the next few months.

A few people have mentioned In Cold Blood, so I think it is time I found a copy.

Great selection, but no matches with my top 10 - yet!!

Susan said...

Yay! Your number one is my number one! I love Sissy Spacek, so I really should listen to the audio version, too.

I just found a really nice Pillars of the Earth at Goodwill. I've seen it on a few lists, and even though it doesn't sound like my cup of tea, I am going to try it on for size.

I loved Beach Music, but to me it doesn't come close to The Prince of Tides, my second favorite.

Outlaw sounds very interesting. I'll have to see if they have it at the library.

Great list, Sandy! Thank you for letting us see inside your awesome mind!

Julie P. said...

Great list. I don't think I could come up with one, but I do know my number one is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I also think IN COLD BLOOD is the best non-fiction/true crime book I've ever read.

Beth F said...

Love your list. The seven books I read would definitely be on some kind of top reads list for me too.

I haven't read Beach Music (and don't really have plans to), I wrote down Outlaw before and that will likely make it to my TBR. Into That Darkness may be read sometime, but I don't know.

bermudaonion said...

I love your list! I've read 5 of the 10 and have one more in my TBR pile! I'm not sure I could come up with a top ten list.

Anonymous said...

Yay! I have very recently read To Kill a Mockingbird (review on Graasland, my blog) and plan on reading In Cold Blood with my online book group in November (it was nominated by me because it has been waiting on my shelf for ages).

It has been longer ago that I read Jane Austen and Rebecca by Du Maurier, but I liked them a lot.

Pillars of Earth is still on my wishlist... Great list, thanks for sharing and congrats on your bloggiversary!

Caitie F said...

Great list! To Kill A Mockingbird is also my #1 book (I read it for the first time when I was 9, and have read it at least 5 times since then).

I also loved Beach Music and the HP series.

To me, a favorite book is one you can read more than once and find something new to love about it. I try not to make a list of favorite 10 books because it changes so often, but seeing others people makes lists makes me want to revisit my favorites!

Serena said...

Great list. I have yet to read Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett or Into That Darkness - Gitta Sereny

The Bumbles said...

I haven't read Pride & Prejudice yet so don't feel bad. Everywhere I turn it is Austen this and Austen that. So a part of me feels guilty about it and another part wants to rebel over the hype. My aunt had an old dusty copy on her bookshelf when we were visiting. I asked her if she had read it. She said she had - but because it took her so long to get through it she didn't appreciate it. She said it wasn't one you could easily pick up and set down while busy with other things (like the daughters she was raising at the time) so that perhaps given her full attention she might think differently of it.

Thoughts of Joy said...

What an fabulous list! I have not heard of two of them and am eager to look into them some more. Thank you for the encouragement to try books outside of my comfort zone.

ds said...

Great, eclectic list, Sandy (reflectling your great, eclectic personality)! To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time faves, too. Have never read In Cold Blood, but was blown away by Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of Capote in the eponymous movie...Have added Ms. Sereny's book to my list. If there is anyone who can get me to delve deeply into WWII, it is you--and that is a sincere compliment.
Thank you.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Jackie - I think if I had to do a top 20, a couple of yours would be in there! It is so hard to do these lists!

Susan - My mind isn't so awesome right now. It closely resembles mush! You know, I did love The Prince of Tides too. My only hangup there is that I saw the movie first and I have issues with Barbara.

Julie - Oh, In Cold Blood is TOTALLY the best true crime there is. I probably need to do this list again in a few might change!

Beth - I'm not sure I've seen your list. That would be something. You should think about doing one!

Kathy - Well, it wasn't easy, and I'm not sure it would be the same list if I did it in a few years. It WAS fun to try!

gnoegnoe - I don't think I've ever seen your blog, so I will head on over soon! Funny thing with In Cold Blood...some love it, some hate it. It will be interesting to see what your club thinks. I think it is brilliant!

Caitie - Wow! 9 years old! I didn't get much culture at that age. It would be interesting to see how my opinion of the book would have been at that age!

Serena - They are both so good, but Pillars is a little chunky!

Charles - thanks for sharing your opinions. I will have to look up your book!

Bumbles - I do have to admit, we certainly get Austin out the wazoo around here. I tend to be a rebel in those scenarios, but in this case I fell prey. It is something you need to lose yourself in.

Joy - Definitely let me know if you read any of them!

Unknown said...

I read and enjoyed half of the books on your list. I should probably read the other half. I've not made a list of top ten favorites yet, but Mockingbird and In Cold Blood would be contenders.

It turns out that Conroy's Great Santini is more or less based on my childhood, so that one is my favorite of his. I don't know how he managed to base a book on my life since we've never met. ;0)

I always think of all Jane Austen's novels as one big novel. My personal favorite is Persuasion, but P & P is a very close second.

Craftymoose Crafts said...

Wow! What a diverse list! I doubt that I could narrow mine down to 10 as eloquently as you did!

I have seen the movies of several of them--I will have to check some of the others out. One thing I've always overlooked is books on audio--time for me to move into the 21st century!

Ti said...

To Kill a Mockingbird and In Cold Blood.. what classics. Not to mention Rebecca. Great list!

Frances said...

Yes, yes, yes to Julia even before the dawn of the amusing but far lesser Julie. Great list! I feel like I know so much more about you.

Jeane said...

I couldn't get through In Cold Blood, but the other titles I recognize on this list are definitely among my favorites, especially To Kill a Mockingbird and the Harry Potter books.

Darlene said...

Great list Sandy! A few of my faves are on there-To Kill a Mockingbird, Pillars of the Earth and the HP series but you've got a few I haven't heard of that I'll have to check out. Thanks for sharing.

Melody said...

Great list! I've some of those in my pile (read P&P), and I'll have to check out #6, #8 and #9.

caite said...

certainly have to agree about Mockingbird...and I am off to Amazon to check out Into That Darkness.

Amy said...

I'm impressed you were able to come up with a list! Um, we have Harry Potter in common? :)

Carrie K. said...

Harry Potter would definitely be on my list, as would To Kill a Mockingbird. I'd pick Persuasion over Pride and Prejudice, though, it's my very favorite Austen.

Pillars of the Earth is on my list to read - and now, so is Into That Darkness.

I'm so glad you did this! I would have a very hard time limiting myself to ten - thus my various favorites lists. :)

Ana S. said...

What a wonderful list, Sandy! I love 1, 3, 5, 7 and 10 as well. Must keep the others in mind.

Argh, I think I'd have a really hard time narrowing down my many books!

Matt said...

I like your list Sandy! Although the list is completely different from mine, I love these books. I have never read Pat Conroy so I guess Beach Music would be the one to start. :)

Unknown said...

I haven't read Into the Darkness and based on the little bit you said about it, I think i have to. I'm going to try to get my husband to read it to which I think he will. You have many of my favorites on your list - Mockingbird, In Cold Blood, Harr Potter, Pride & Prejudice...
Beach Music is a great book and it's funny that you say you"re going to re-read it because it's on my to be read again list! I read it years ago and I know I'll see some thing in a different light now. I have never read a western so I may give Outlaw a try.

I think I am one of the very few who didn't absolutely love Pillars of the Earth. I liked it but didn't love it.

Wonderful list, Sandy. Thanks for sharing!
~ Amy

Margot said...

I like your list. I found it very interesting. I've also read several of your books and wrote down a couple. I'm glad a western made your list and that you went outside your comfort zone to find that. Not too many people read westerns these days.

Jenners said...

You have some great choices on there ... about half I know and would agree with and the other half? Well, I totally want to read them now. And I agree -- it is hard to pick TOP 10 books ... what are the criteria? Writing? How it made you feel? What made you laugh? I think you did a great job!

And happy blogiversary!

Heidenkind said...

Hooray for Pride & Prejudice! I think we're going to make a romance reader out of you yet, Sandy. ;)

I have Pillars of the Earth, but I haven't read it yet. When I first saw it, I was like, "What's that, the Bible?" :P I also love In Cold Blood--that's a great book.

Anonymous said...

TKAM and Harry Potter are two of my faves. I've been meaning to read In Cold Blood for awhile and need to get to it :)

Kathleen said...

I really need to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird and I love the movie with Gregory Peck too!

Alice said...

Great list, Sandy!

I need to get IN COLD BLOOD. It's in my wish list. I love the others you've mentioned and definitely enjoyed reading REBECCA in your read-along. I have PILLARS OF THE EARTH in my TBR.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful list, we have quite a few in common don't we!?! Glad to get your top ten and have now added several to my TBR thanks Sandy!

Melissa said...

TKAM is wonderful! It's one I need to reread again as I haven't in a while.

I am currently reading P&P on my reader and am liking it, but not in love with it. Maybe I will try the next one on audio...

Anna said...

I really need to get off my rear and read Into That Darkness. That book sounds fascinating. Great list!

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