Favorite Books

Today on Twitter, I asked “what’s your favorite book?” There are two reasons for this: one, I am going away on a week long vacation, and two, I have actually read all the books in my bookshelf here in Toronto. The last book I read was Diary of a Bad Year, by J.M. Coetzee – it was an astonishing, unique mix of fiction and non-fiction. It’s structured with parallel story lines – literally – each page is divided into three sections: one is Coetzee’s non-fiction piece (“strong opinions”, they are called), and the two other are Coetzee and the female protagonist’s dialogue and inner thoughts. Fascinating. Check it out.

Anyway — I would love to build a list of favorite books. I am lucky to follow and be followed by some pretty great people on Twitter, each with their own passions, interests and – presumably – taste in books. As the daughter of a publisher, I’ve always been surrounded by books and literature, though I let reading fall by the wayside at some points – life and work get in the way, sometimes. I’m making a conscious effort to read as much as possible, and using downtime (commutes, waiting rooms, etc.) as opportunities.

And if you’re still not convinced to pick up a good ol’ book, consider this: [r]eading …is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction, a matter of engagement in a society that seems to want nothing more than for us to disengage.” (This quote comes from an article Bonnie Koenig shared on Twitter the other day about the importance of reading)

Twitter friends have responded to the bleg, and here some favorite books:

– @Bonniekoenig: The Eight and The Magic Circle by Katherine Neville (Bonnie notes these books are good vacation reads)

@fubarista: All Our Relations by Winona LaDuke

@viewfromthecave: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (I adore – seriously – DFW, but I like his other books so much more)

@viewfromthecave: White Noise by Don Delillo

@laurenist: English Passengers by Matthew Kneale

@tmamone: Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

@timothythompson: Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

@johnness: Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

@lrakoto: Le métier d’homme by Alexandre Jollien

@lrakoto: Nudge by Sustein & Thaler

@tertsheminator: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

@saratu: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (read it, loved it)

@saratu: The Believers by Zoe Heller

@justineabigail: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (have not read the book, but really loved the movie – as hard as it was)

@karlincharge: House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

@northernpikefly: Cider House Rules by John Irving

@naheedmustafa: Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

@davealgoso: Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

@thecjmview: Outside Lies Magic by John Stilgoe | The Giver by Lois Lowry | Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon (read this one, and loved it too) | In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

@ubriacopriscila: The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

@endeavoringe: East of Eden by John Steinbeck | Bee Season by Myla Goldberg | Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem | Waiting by Ha Jin

@tmsruge: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

@debelzie: The Deep Field by James Bradley

@saundra_s: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (classic, fun read)

@parrav: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (excellent) | Dune by Frank Herbert

@intldogooder: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

@KPMcDonald : Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (unforgettable) | Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

@davidweek: Where were you last Pluterday by Paul Van Herck | The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut | The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

@ithorpe: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

@sonjasugira: White Teeth and On Beauty by Zadie Smith | Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri | White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty | The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

@meowtree: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz | Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight Game and A Street Smart Song: Capoiera Philosophy and Inner Life by Nestor Capoeira | Memory of Fire Trilogy by Eduardo Galeno

@idealistnyc: Ishmael by Daniel Quinn | The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

@pamelascully:Emergency Sex by Cain, Postelwait, Thomson | Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michael

@akhilak: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri | Dry by Augusten Burroughs | The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein | Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte | Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (loved it – as well as Strength in What Remains)

@giantpandinha: Aya by Abouet and Oubrerie

@shotgunshack: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (love this book – she’s a great author)

@michaelkbusch: Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar

@talesfromthhood: Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco | Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins | Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman

@texasinafrica: Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

@bill_easterly: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

@postcardjunky: Herzog and Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow | Light Years by James Salter | World’s Fair by E.L. Doctorow | Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell | Jump by Nadine Gordimer | African Laughter by Doris Lessing

– @transitionland: Country of my Skull by Antjie Krog | The Keys to my Neighbor’s House: Seeking Justice in Bosnia and Rwanda by Elizabeth Neuffer | 4000 days by Warren Fellows

@abmakulec: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand | The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

@keshetbachan: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy | The Jewish Dog by Asher Kravitz (which is so far the only book I could not find on Amazon)

– Special Canadian edition: recommendations from @nobauerm and @janereitsma: Generation X by Douglas Coupland | Larry’s Party by Carol Shields

@janereitsma: Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

@nobauerm: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon | Life of Pi by Yann Martel

@karinabthatsme: Speak Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

@lithaca: Half the Sky by Nick Kristof | Creating a world without poverty by Muhammad Yunus | 100 years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (if you have not read this yet, do yourself a favor and pick it up now. Epic)

I’d like to add to this list, and keep it growing. What’s your favorite book? Leave a comment, or send me a tweet @penelopeinparis.

10 thoughts on “Favorite Books

  1. Awesome list, Penelope! Will definitely be referring to this once I’m in need of a new read!

    Also, if you loved the movie version of The Reader, you will love the book 100x more. And it is 1000x more difficult to go through. Not to scare you away but I honestly (with no exaggeration) locked myself in my room for an afternoon just crying. SO INTENSE!

    1. Oh dear – well, that actually makes me want to read it. I love intense books that really take you in, you know?

  2. Where has all that time I used to find for devouring great fiction gone these days? I’ve always struggled with picking one (or twelve) all time favs and I know you’ve read all the obvious that come immediately to mind. One book I’ve always ADORED and have never heard anyone else mention is The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt, I highly recommend. The People of Paper uses multiple narratives (even the different columns on one page like the Coetzee you described) and lots of magical realism, think its category is “metafiction”? which I know nothing about but I found it unique and engaging.

    Not so much for vacation but a great subway commute collection of short stories is The Nimrod Flipout.

    And in high school I used to read all Madeline L’Engle again and again – particularly A Wrinkle in Time, might dig that out and read it again soon.

    When do you leave?! Let’s skype before you head off.

  3. Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko. I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s a very powerful story.
    Your Native Land, Your Life. Adrienne Rich
    Ambiguous Adventure, Cheikh Hamidou Kane.
    Ways of Dying, Zakes Mda.
    West With the Night, Beryl Markham.

  4. p.s. more great reads:

    The Hakawati, Rabih Alemeddine
    Frida, a Biography of Frida Kahlo, by Hayden Herrera.

    (yes, on White Noise; yes also on The Reader.)

  5. I saw you asking on Twitter but I am horrible at coming up with recommendations (for books, movies, restaurants, whatever) when people ask. However, some of my all-time favorites are on this list – Ender’s Game, Confederacy of Dunces which I’m pretty sure you recommended to me, Ishmael, etc. I also loved The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (his sort of autobiography, totally stream of consciousness crazy talk but super interesting) and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. And…Harry Potter. Heh. And The Measure of A Man, Sidney Poitier’s autobiography.

  6. Funny, I was going to mention Machado de Assis and Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko… I guess I felt like throwing in comics to your list, that book is not my *favorite* – it is a good addition to your holiday list.

  7. 2666, by Roberto Bolano – five stories linked around the fate of a mysterious German novelist. it s really good and each story is completely different in style and scope.
    The True Story of Paradise, by Cezair-Thompson – an amazing novel about Jamaican political history though the history of one family.
    The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing – ladies, that s our bible!
    Drifting cities, by Stratos Tsirkas – a demanding novel set in the middle east during WWII. A Greek classic
    Patagonia Express, by Luis Sepulveda – mix of travel and politics as the author describes his escape from Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship.
    The foundation Novels, Isaac Asimov, a great scifi treat apart from the last book of the series, which sucks

    I am very glad someone recommended the book thief – i just bought it!

  8. What a fantastic list. A lot of these are my own favorite books — loved “The Reader” (book and movie) and “White Noise.” I really like collections of essays, so I recommend Sloane Crosley’s “How did you get this number” for an insightful, hilarious look into the life of a young person in New York/the world. I also love Ann Fadiman’s “Ex Libris”, a collection of essays on the relationship between writers and books (books they own, not the ones they write!) Happy travels, happy reading!

  9. so sorry I missed this twitter conversation earlier! but no matter, I can add in my favorite vacation reads here: “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrill” by Susannah Clarke, “The Life of Pi” by Yann Martel, and for our family it is a tradition to read JRR Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” out loud during the evenings during our annual beach vacation – before we break out the banjo and the ukulele’s for the songfest 🙂

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