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“Best Book Category” Books

Musing Mondays2

This musing is about what should or shouldn’t make a “best books” list. What elements do you think lands a book in that ‘best’ category? Think of your top 5 best books and tune in next week to see the collated list.

I am answering last week’s question, since it’s related to this week’s discussion. First and foremost, regardless of genre, subject, and time period, a book to be considered in the “best category” must be highly readable. Readability is not just clarity and beauty of language, it’s the ability to appeal and make readers resonate. A literary fiction might possess a neat turn of words and devices but fail to appeal to human hearts. A popular fiction could be a page turner but fail to make a lasting impression. The point is: preference is a subjective matter and that is highly vulnerable to change of time and values. The fact that we always interpret literary works to some extent in the light of our concerns—indeed that in one sense of our own concerns we are incapable of doing anything else, might be one reason why certain works of literature seem to retain their value across the centuries.

In keeping the sentiment of these thoughts, I present you my Subjective Five:
East of Eden John Steinbeck
The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov
The Name of the Rose Umberto Eco
The Painted Veil W. Somerset Maugham
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Objective Five would be books that appeal to most readers, in both readability and significance:
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
Of Mice and Man John Steinbeck
Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell

9 Responses

  1. Here are my top 5, since I was a child and can remember. (not in any particular order)
    1) Charlotte’s Web – EB White
    2) Little Women – L.M. Alcott
    3) 1984 – George Orwell
    4) Oliver Twist -Charles Dickens
    5) Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    Runner up ) Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

  2. “A literary fiction might possess a neat turn of words and devices but fail to appeal to human hearts. A popular fiction could be a page turner but fail to make a lasting impression. ”

    What you said make a lot of sense… it is subjective. sometimes I find the most boring, unreadable books make it to the list. But Most of the time, it proves to be a good read. But a “best books” list does help me to become a better reader!

  3. Bravo. I like your intro to the lists. Even though I think that your objective list is also subjective! I wholeheartedly agree with the Bulgakov book.

  4. Crikey, 5 books! Hmmm. Well my 5 top books would have to be:

    A Confederacy of Dunces
    Cat’s Cradle
    Good Morning, Midnight
    The Housekeeper and the Professor
    The Book Thief

    (all books which have made a lasting impression and are rather contemporary in text and content).

    Enjoyed reading your subjective and objective lists. Interesting post!

  5. I think both your subjective and objective list are very good. Of course, every ‘best’ list is subjective to a large degree, isn’t it.

  6. Since objectivity in literature is not my strong suit, I’ll submit my subjective five — plus one I couldn’t bear to leave off:
    War and Peace
    Bleak House
    Persuasion
    Passage to India
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    The Master and Margarita

  7. I like the idea of “subjective” versus “objective,” even though I think the “objective” list is more difficult to put together, because really it must be a list based on technical choices–style, etc.–and placed in context with other works, and both the list maker and the people receiving the list must have some shared concept of, say, “What is literature?” Every “best” list I make is subjective, which is why I prefer to say “favorite” instead of “best.”

    Mine? It changes! but for today:
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro
    Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
    Plainsong by Kent Haruf
    Rare and Endangered Species, by Richard Bausch

    Note, three of those are story collections!

  8. The Name of the Rose
    is definitely on my top 5 as well
    (but you already knew that).
    So hard to pick the rest of my top 5
    but off the top of my head I’d say:
    The Silmarillion
    Love in the Time of Cholera
    2666
    Moby Dick.
    Of course, this list changes everyday. 😀

  9. I would definitely include ‘The Great Gatsby‘ on my list of the best books. I first read it in high school and since then, have re-read it umpteen number of times. Its readability along with the beauty of the language is unsurpassed. In many ways, Fitzgerald makes a statement on the then society in America, with all its artificiality, its lack of morals, its decadence. This came home to me after I referred to Shmoop where I got a chapter by chapter analysis of the book. Sure made things easy!

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