My 50 Favorite Fiction Books
There are a number of lists of best books,
My list makes no claim to be a list of the
best books of all time. They are personal favorites and include
everything from classics to light humour. And in order to make the list,
of course, I must have read it. So any books I haven't read don't count.
If I find an author I like, I tend to read more books by the same
author, so there will be several books by the same author in the list.
The books are listed alphabetically by author. The numbers are for
convenience and not a ranking.
Australian born Clavell was a noted novelist
as well as a Hollywood screenwriter and director. His film credits
include the screenplays for The Fly (1958), The Great Escape (1963) and
To Sir With Love (1966)
Shogun by James Clavell - a brilliant
novel set in medieval Japan about a British sea captain who is
captured and becomes influential in Japanese court circles. It is a
fascinating study of differing cultures. Although Clavell himself
was a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II, the novel shows an
affection and respect for Japanese culture and customs.
King Rat by James Clavell - inspired by
his own prisoner of war experiences, King Rat tells the story of the
struggle for survival in a Japanese prison camp. The story has some
similarities to the movie Stalag 17.
A member of Ayn Rand's inner circle, Holzer learned fiction writing
from Rand and published her first novel, Double Crossing, in 1984. A
lawyer by trade, she and her lawyer husband Henry Mark Holzer, worked
several pro bono humn rights cases involving defectors from Soviet Block
countries including the high profile Walter Plovchak case.
- Double Crossing by Erika Holzer - an intriguing story about two
brothers in the Soviet Union, one who is an agent of the Soviet
police, the other planning to escape from the Soviet Union.
The great French romanticist is best known
for his monumental works Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
His less well known works such as Ninety-Three, The Man Who Laughs and
Toilers of the Sea are also worth reading as are his plays, Ruy Blas and
Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo - perhaps
one of the best things I got out of Ayn Rand's writings was the
inspiration to read a number of writers I had not previously read,
particularly Hugo. Ninety-Three is a novel of the French Revolution
and my favorite of his novels.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo - I always
found this one to be a bit daunting but determined to read it after
the seeing the musical. The unabridged version is very long and has
a lot of tedious material that doesn't move the story along. But
some abridged versions don't do the novel justice.
The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo - an
interesting book that is on my reread list. I have read a few other
of Hugo's works including his plays Hernani and Ruy Blas, and the
novel Toilers of the Sea. I have not read his second most famous
book The Hunchback of Notre Dame yet.
She worked as a feature writer for a
newspaper and had written a number of minor unpublished works of fiction
before the release of her magnum opus, Gone With the Wind. Margaret
Mitchell died after being struck by a car in at the age of 49.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret
Mitchell - as great as the movie is, the book is even better.
A friend suggested I read Potok's The Chosen
and I found it fascinating and inspiring. I went on to read three more
of his novels. Three of the four are listed below among my favorites.
The Chosen by Chaim Potok - I first read
The Chosen when I developed an interest in Judaism and it remains
one of the very best books I've ever read. It is a powerful study of
the relationship between fathers and sons. And it is an interesting
insight into the life of intellectual families.
The Promise by Chaim Potok - the
brilliant sequel to The Chosen takes an interesting look at the
conflict between orthodoxy and apostasy in Jewish life as well as
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok - a
fascinating study of the mind of a genius. I've read one more of
Potok's books, Davita's Harp, but it didn't compare favorably to his
first three novels and I have not read any more of his works.
Undoubtedly the biggest influence in my life
philosophically, her novels portray heroic characters fighting fierce
battles against conformity, corruption, and collectivism. Her writings,
both fiction and non-fiction, got me interested in philosophy, politics,
classical music and the romanticist school of literature (Hugo, Ibsen,
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand - maybe my
favorite novel of all time, Atlas Shrugged is at the same time a
thrilling novel, as well as an interesting philosophical treatise.
Rand's most political novel.
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand - although
philosophical, as are all Rand's novels, this one is more
We the Living by Ayn Rand - the least
explicitly philosophical of Rand's novels, it is considered by some
to be her best read.
Anthem by Ayn Rand - a short novelette,
this distopian novel can be favorably compared to Orwell's Animal
Farm or Yevgeny Zamiatin's We.
Kay Nolte Smith
A member of Ayn Rand's inner circle in the
60s, Smith became a successful novelist in her own right after splitting
with Rand in the acrimonious Rand-Branden split of 1967. Her first
novel, The Watcher, won an Edgar Award as Best First Novel. It is not
among my favorites however. The ones below are.
A Tale of the Wind by Kay Nolte Smith -
this novel is homage to Smith's favorite author, Victor Hugo. Set in
Paris, it is the story of a brilliant actor who is a dwarf and his
ill-fated love for a beautiful woman. The novel is very Hugoesque in
its plot twists, larger than life characters and even turns of
Mindspell by Kay Nolte Smith -
a tense psychological thriller with science versus religion as its
theme. This is her one book that I would love to see turned into a
Elegy for a Soprano by Kay
Nolte Smith - a roman a clef about a tempestuous genius who is
murdered. The four people closest to her each confess to the murder,
but who really killed her and why?
Country of the Heart by Kay
Nolte Smith - it's been a long time since I read this book and I
really should read it again.
Uris is the author of numerous
novels about the Jewish people, including Exodus, QBVII and Mila 18. He
also wrote both fiction and non-fiction books about Ireland. Although I
have read five of Uris's novels, only two are included in my list. The
others are worthy reads but not among my favorites. They are the above
mentioned Exodus and QBVII as well as The Haj.
Mila 18 by Leon Uris - a novel
based on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in World War II. It is an
inspiring story of heroism against incredible odds.
Trinity by Leon Uris - a
fascinating story of the conflict in Ireland. If you ever wondered
what the troubles there were all about, the story gives you a lot of
background. And it's a darn good read.