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A Mixed Bag of Brilliant Books!
Top Ten Fiction - General
Member Name: nakmeister
Top Ten Fiction - General
Advantages: Something for everyone I hope
Disadvantages: Not everyone will have my reading tastes
Below I have attempted my top 10 fiction books of all time. In coming up with this list, I have tried to be fair to myself and include books based on how I enjoyed them when I initially read them, not on how much I think I'd like them now. The books therefore reflect my changing tastes over the years. This left me with the dilemma of whether to include books I enjoyed as a child - eventually I decided to include them but limit children's books on the list to two.
Books and reading are highly subjective, and everyone will have their own opinions on what makes a good book, and different people will also be looking for different things in a book. Some people like to read classics to say they've read them or because they feel they should. I've fallen into this trap myself sometimes - not always with bad results - but most of the time don't tend to. Fiction books I just read to enjoy, and if after a while I'm not enjoying a book I will stop reading. Life is too short for bad books. Some of the books on this list will have a lot of literary merit, some are what I call 'popcorn' books - mindless pap that's great fun to read.
So here goes with the list, not in any particular order mind - it's hard enough limiting myself to 10 books, never mind trying to rank them!
1) 'Magician' by Raymond E. Feist. This is a 'Tolkien-esque' fantasy novel, with elves, dwarves, magicians, warriors and Kings. While on literary merit and originality it ranks far below Lord of the Rings, for sheer enjoyment it is unrivalled in the fantasy genre. I first read this book when I was 12, and have re-read it many times over the years. It is little known, but was in the BBC Big Read Top 100 books poll a few years ago, and has sold several million copies. It's a doorstopper of a novel, at over 800 pages long but well worth a go. I often tell people, read to page 120. If after that you don't like it give up. More than likely you'll be hooked!
2) 'The City and the Stars' by Arthur C. Clarke. When I was a teenager/early twenties I read a lot of science fiction, and this was always my favourite. It's quite short, about 250 pages. It's about the last city in the universe, Diaspar, millions of years in the future. No-one new has been born in Diaspar for thousands of years, the same people are born, live, die and are reborn again (only gaining memory of their old lives when they come of age). Then one day Alvin is born, a totally new individual... Widely considered one of the true classics from the Golden Age of science fiction, The City and the Stars, more than any other novel I've ever read invokes in me a sense of awe and wonder.
3) 'Killing Floor' by Lee Child. An American crime thriller, written by British born Lee Child who is my current favourite author. This is the author's first book, and introduces the character of Jack Reacher, an ex-major in the military police, now a loner who wanders across America, exploring his home country having spent his first 35 or so years of life on American army bases round the world. One day he stumbles into Margrave, a small town in Georgia where he is immediately arrested for a murder he didn't have anything to do with. Reacher is a very tough character, incredibly smart and very unlike any other character I've ever come across. The book is excessively violent in places (it's Lee Child's most violent book to date) but is arguably required by the (very clever) plot, and for me is it's only possible negative point.
4) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The only pre-20th century novel to appear in my list. I read this after watching the BBC television adaptation, and loved it just as much as the tv programme if not more. The characters leap off the page, and it's such a gentle, easy read. The tv adaptation followed the book quite closely, but there are some extra scenes in the book not in the tv series or film, particularly the epilogue showing Lizzie's life after marrying... oh but I really shouldn't say, just in case there's someone reading this that doesn't know the story!
5) 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea' by Judith Kerr. My first favourite book I think. I got it for Christmas when I was 2 - apparently I was ill that Christmas and couldn't sleep so my mother read this book to me - I liked it so much that I made her read it again and again and again... Years later I still loved reading it. It's about a family who hear a knock at the door - it's a tiger who asks to come for tea and basically eats them out of house and home. Simply brilliant. A perfect book for very young children.
6) 'The Historian' by Elizabeth Kostova. This book is about the search by successive generations of a family for the tomb of Dracula, but worrying events make them wonder whether Dracula is quite as dead as everyone thinks... The book combines all the elements of a thriller with a historical mystery and fair dash of horror. Together these different aspects make up a whole far greater than the sum of their parts. An absolutely brilliant book.
7) 'Chocolat' by Joanne Harris. The book is about the characters of Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk who arrive and cause a stir in a sleepy, rural French village when they open up a chocolate shop, challenging the traditions and staid way of life of the villagers. The book is hauntingly evocative and beautiful - you can almost smell the rural French air and taste the exquisite chocolates in Vianne Rocher's shop. I admit my infatution may be influenced by reading this book on a sunny beach in Turkey on my first holiday abroad and first holiday with my girlfriend, now wife. Still, I loved this book.
8) 'The Day After Tomorrow' by Allan Folsom. On the first page, main character Paul Osborne spies the man who murdered his father many years ago in cold blood on a busy street. The man was never caught and never seen again until that day. Paul follows him, seeking answers and revenge, and is catapulted into a nightmare... I read this book many years ago, and still lives in my memory as the ultimate thriller novel, even though I can remember next to nothing about what happens after the gripping opener. After I read it, this book was passed around every member of my family, and everyone loved it, including some who didn't like thrillers, and my brother who doesn't read books (for many years the only books he read were this one, and Magician which is number one on my list).
9) 'The Reality Dysfunction' by Peter F. Hamilton. I used to read a lot of science fiction, as I think I mentioned earlier, so should really have another book representing the genre in here. The Reality Dysfunction is massive - 1000 + pages, and the first in a trilogy of equally long books. It is Space Opera, science fiction that is vast in scope with many characters and stories across many planets... Set in 2600, on a distant colony world an utterly alien entity accidentally gets in between a dying human and the afterlife, with terrifying and awful consequences (don't worry no demon legion appears or anything like that!). This is awesome, brilliant stuff, but only read if you've got plenty of time to dedicate to it.
10) 'The Island of Adventure' by Enid Blyton. Between the age of 4 and 10 I read pretty much nothing but Enid Blyton so had to include the Queen of children's books on this list. OK so her books are very dated, and all the children eat about 20 sandwiches each on every picnic but who cares? The Adventure series of books feature just above the Famous Five in my estimation, and Island of Adventure is the first book. It's got spies, a mysterious island and a parrot called Kiki. What more could you want?
Phew, that was harder than I thought it was going to be. There are so many great books I've read over the years, and inevitably lots couldn't be included. Here are a few that just missed out:
The Island by Victoria Hislop
Trader by Charles De Lint
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre
Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
Harry Potter (all)
I hope at least some of this list was useful or interesting. They will not all be to everyone's taste but it's such a varied list that I hope whoever reads this review can find at least one new book to enjoy from my list. Happy reading!
Summary: A varied list of great books