The best novels you've ever read?


(Kit Cope) #1

What are the best novels you have ever read in your life?

It is disturbing to me that I have only ever actually come across 5 or 6 novels that have absolutely grabbed me by the throat; as in I absolutely could not put them down and nothing else mattered except reading them. That’s how rare a truly gripping novel is (for me, anyway). Sure, there are many that are good, even great, but so rare is the discovery of that volume that dissolves away reality around you, and becomes with striking clarity the cause of your drawing breath.

As I writer myself (of Kit Cope Rides the High Country) I endeavour to write what I would like to see written and read myself, and also to the standard I feel fiction should strive to attain.

What are the novels that have grabbed you without letting go?


(scherpschutter) #2

This is a list of 25 novels (actually 26) that have given me excellent reading hours :

Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
Le Rouge et le Noir - Stendhal
Crime & Punishment - Dostoievski
Bleak House - Charles Dickens
The Mill on the Floss - George Eliot
Dubliners - James Joyce
A Sailer who fell from Grace with the Sea - Mishima Yukio
Snow Land - Kawabata Yasunari
La Coscienza di Zeno - Italo Svevo
Die Gerettete Zunge - Elias Canetti
The Dead Souls - Gogol
War and Peace - Tolstoy
A Prospect of the Sea - Dylan Thomas
The Big Chill - Ross MacDonald
The Long Goodbye - Raymond Chandler
The Blunderer - Patricia Highsmith
The Count of Monte Christo - Alexandre Dumas
Solaris - Stanislav Lem
Gone but not Forgotten - Philip Margolin
Pninn - Nabokov
Kaas - Willem Elsschot
De Avonden - Gerard Reve
Irrungen Wirrungen - Theodor Fontane
Strong Poison - Dorothy Sayers
All the pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy
Der Zauberberg - Thomas Mann


(TheBigSmokedown) #3

This is tough, but off the top of my head.

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  3. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  4. The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  5. King Solomon’s Mines by Sir H. Rider Haggard
  6. The Outsider by Albert Camus
  7. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
  8. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  9. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  10. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  11. Orlando by Virginia Woolf[/b]
  12. Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
  13. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  14. Dune by Frank Herbert
  15. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  16. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
  17. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  18. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
  19. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  20. The Hunter by Richard Stark
  21. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  22. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  23. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  24. The Death of Grass by John Christopher
  25. Hothouse by Brian Aldiss
  26. Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming
  27. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
  28. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
  29. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  30. The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer

It comes down to personal preference, but I’ve avoided duplicating writers. I could have put down more than one novel for many of these great writers. I know I’m missing a lot of great writers, many of whom I am familiar with.


(scherpschutter) #4

[quote=“TheBigSmokedown, post:3, topic:2953”]11. Orlando by Virginia Woolf[/b]

  1. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

  2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

  3. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

  4. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

  5. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells[/quote]

The titles could have been on my list too. As a child I learned to love Rice Burroughs, and I still like him. I prefer the Tarzan novels though.

@ Donna Tartt - What did you think of her second novel? I thought it was awfull. I couldn’t understand that it was written by the same writer who had brought us The Secret History.


(TheBigSmokedown) #5

I’m afraid was put off by some bad reviews and haven’t read it.


(Bad Lieutenant) #6

Casino - Nicholas Pileggi
Wiseguy- Nicholas Pileggi
The Godfather - Mario Puzo


(scherpschutter) #7

[quote=“Bad Lieutenant, post:6, topic:2953”]Casino - Nicholas Pileggi
Wiseguy- Nicholas Pileggi
The Godfather - Mario Puzo[/quote]

Gangster!


(ENNIOO) #8

Stig of the Dump.


(John Welles) #9

[quote=“scherpschutter, post:2, topic:2953”]This is a list of 25 novels (actually 26) that have given me excellent reading hours :

Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
Le Rouge et le Noir - Stendhal
Crime & Punishment - Dostoievski
Bleak House - Charles Dickens
The Mill on the Floss - George Eliot
Dubliners - James Joyce
A Sailer who fell from Grace with the Sea - Mishima Yukio
Snow Land - Kawabata Yasunari
La Coscienza di Zeno - Italo Svevo
Die Gerettete Zunge - Elias Canetti
The Dead Souls - Gogol
War and Peace - Tolstoy
A Prospect of the Sea - Dylan Thomas
The Big Chill - Ross MacDoanald
The Long Goodbye - Raymond Chandler
The Blunderer - Patricia Highsmith
The Count of Monte Christo - Alexandre Dumas
Solaris - Stanislav Lem
Gone but not Forgotten - Philip Margolin
Pninn - Nabokov
Kaas - Willem Elsschot
De Avonden - Gerard Reve
Irrungen Wirrungen - Theodor Fontane
Strong Poison - Dorothy Sayers
All the pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy
Der Zauberberg - Thomas Mann[/quote]
I’d like to say I agree with your list, but I’ve only read three: THe Long Goodbye, Dead Souls and The Red and Black. However, I am reading Crime and Punishment at the moment…

I notice the lack of Moby Dick - no love for it?


(Stanton) #10

Dead Souls was fun to read


(sartana1) #11

I dont read much fiction (other than comics) but I really liked Under the Roofs of Paris by Henry Miller. That dude was a big time perve!


(scherpschutter) #12

[quote=“John Welles, post:9, topic:2953”]I’d like to say I agree with your list, but I’ve only read three: THe Long Goodbye, Dead Souls and The Red and Black. However, I am reading Crime and Punishment at the moment…

I notice the lack of Moby Dick - no love for it?[/quote]

Moby Dick: Yes and no. There are terrific things in this novel, the character of Captain Ahab is unforgettable (Hav’ ya seen Moby Dick?), the ending (Ahab versus Moby) is unsurpassable, but all these non-fiction chapters about whaling are a Via Dolorasa, nearly impossible to get through. It’s at the same time one of the most fascinating, AND one of the most irritating novels I’ve ever read.
The opening sentence is possibly the best in history: Call me Ishmael.
So maybe for the good things I should have included it.
BUt I guess there are a few other novels/authors that could have been on the list (Balzac, Flaubert, Faulkner, Austen, Trollope)

@ The Dead Souls : One of the most underrated novels in history. To Russians Gogol is on a level with Tolstoy or Dostoievski, outside Russia he’s far less famous than those two. The Dead Souls is probably the funniest of the great novels. Some great authors had an excellent sense of humor: Dickens, Jane Austen, Nabokov, even Dostoievski could be very funny, but none of them is as funny as Gogol. To me he’s the Chaplin of world literature.


(Stanton) #13

Half of Moby Dick (in fact every second chapter) reads like a documentary on whale fishing. This was sometimes interesting of course, but also too often boring for me.

How would the novel be consisting of only the chapters which tell the story?


(scherpschutter) #14

[quote=“Stanton, post:13, topic:2953”]Half of Moby Dick (in fact every second chapter) reads like a documentary on whale fishing. This was sometimes interesting of course, but also too often boring for me.

How would the novel be consisting of only the chapters which tell the story?[/quote]

Interesting question. I could imagine that such a version was published in the past, but then again, some of these non-fiction things are interesting, so you would have to make a choice. And there’s the fact that the novel is one of the great classic American novels, possibly too ‘sacred’ to be tampered with. I guess we just have to accept it for what it is: often boring, sometimes exciting, occasionally brilliant.

And let’s not forget that most of these 19th century ‘great novels’ have parts that seem less inspired. Dostoievski inevitably offers a few excruciatingly sentimental chapters, Dickens can be terribly boring at times, Tolstoy ditto.


(scherpschutter) #15

By the way: I made a mistake in my list, the Ross MacDonald novel is called THE CHILL (without big):


(Stanton) #16

[quote=“scherpschutter, post:14, topic:2953”]Interesting question. I could imagine that such a version was published in the past, but then again, some of these non-fiction things are interesting, so you would have to make a choice. And there’s the fact that the novel is one of the great classic American novels, possibly too ‘sacred’ to be tampered with. I guess we just have to accept it for what it is: often boring, sometimes exciting, occasionally brilliant.

And let’s not forget that most of these 19th century ‘great novels’ have parts that seem less inspired. Dostoievski inevitably offers a few excruciatingly sentimental chapters, Dickens can be terribly boring at times, Tolstoy ditto.[/quote]
Whatever, if I ever will read it again I would skip most of the not so necessary chapters

(only maybe to realize that the novel doesn’t work without them)


(scherpschutter) #17

[quote=“Stanton, post:16, topic:2953”]Whatever, if I ever will read it again I would skip most of the not so necessary chapters

(only maybe to realize that the novel doesn’t work without them)[/quote]

I never really tried to re-read it without those chapters, I have re-read some parts of the book though, but that’s not the same thing.
Could be that it doesn’t work without them.


(TheBigSmokedown) #18

Ditto.


(John Welles) #19

Interesting about Moby Dick - I personally found it unputadownable (I doubt that’s even a word) and read it in six days on holiday once, but I completely agree about Dead Souls: it is a magnificent work and one of my favourites. I’ll post my favourite books late today.


(John Welles) #20

25 books that I have enjoyed over all others, in no particular order:

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiel Hammett
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac
Moby Dick Herman Melville
Foundation by Issac Asimov
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Animal Farm by George Orwell
1984 by George Orwell
Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
L’Étranger by Albert Camus
The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
Family Happiness by Leo Tolstoy
Le sursis by Jean-Paul Sartre
Le Rouge et le Noir by Stendhal
Asya by Ivan Turgenev
Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa