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My 50 Favorite Fiction Books

There are a number of lists of best books, including:

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.

James Clavell

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)

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

Erika Holzer

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.

  1. 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.

Victor Hugo

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 Hernani.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Margaret Mitchell

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.

  1. Gone With the Wind  by Margaret Mitchell - as great as the movie is, the book is even better.

Chaim Potok

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

Ayn Rand

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, and others).

  1. 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.

  2. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand - although philosophical, as are all Rand's novels, this one is more psychological.

  3. We the Living by Ayn Rand - the least explicitly philosophical of Rand's novels, it is considered by some to be her best read.

  4. 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.

  1. 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 phrase.

  2. 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 movie.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

Leon Uris

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.



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