Having already attempted to condense my favourite authors down to a Top 10 here and here, (and with more to come, no doubt), I thought I’d turn my attention to favourite individual tomes for anyone looking for something great to tuck into. The choices were endless, (as this list, too, may end up being), but for now here is the first part of an all time favouritest top ten of books EVER (as always, in no particular order).
‘Lolita,’ Vladimir Nabakov
There was a time when I was worried that my favourite book was about a man in love with a pre-pubescent girl, and my favourite film was ‘Leon’/”The Professional,’ about a pre-pubescent girl in love with a man. But they are both amazing pieces of art, so too bad, Freud. Nabakov, already featured in my Top 10 Authors selection, wrote one of the most linguistically gorgeous works on one of the most disturbing topics, and the clash of these two factors, (along with the dark humour, paranoia prevalent in so much of his fiction), are what drives this book forward, and into my Top 10. The ultimate unreliable narrator.
‘This Is Your Brain On Music,’ Daniel.J.Levitin
Science writing has made a big impact on me since finishing my French literature degree: it allows me to delve into all of the things I didn’t understand in science classes at school and, most importantly, to understand the world around me (and the people in it) a little better. This incredible book explains everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the biological, chemical and evolutionary way we experience that (more or less) uniquely human invention: music.
‘Life, The Universe And Everything‘ Douglas Adams
As a twelve-year-old, nothing made me laugh more than the first three ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ series, and none of them made me laugh more than the third of the original trilogy. (Things went off the rails with the fourth and fifth in the ‘increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s trilogy,’ or maybe I had just outgrown them). Blending ridiculous sci-fi, hilarious characters of both an over- and under-whelming nature, and explaining things you never even knew needed explaining, (from the ubiquitous ’42’ to the game of cricket), I laughed so hard at a scene involving the wonderfully named Slartibartfast that I may have done myself permanent injury.
‘Everything Is Illuminated,’ Jonathan Safran Foer
Where history, linguistics, family, travel, comedy and tragedy collide. Everything from the striking book cover, to the interwoven past and present stories add up to make this book that rare thing, (no matter what the publishers and press so often claim): a modern classic. Semi-autobiographical, based on the author’s experiences researching his Jewish ancestor’s experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland, I have never read a book which had me alternately laughing out loud and choking back tears with such consistent ferocity.
‘Winnie-The-Pooh/The House At Pooh Corner,‘ A.A.Milne
A two-for-one deal to end part one, as I can’t separate these children classics. If you only know the bear of little brain from the bland Disney remakes, treat yourself to the gorgeous, down-to-earth illustrations of E.H.Shepard in the 1920’s originals, featuring some of the most surreal, word-twisting, hilarious and touching literature you could ask for. The characters will be familiar, with their individual philosophies and world views, and their adventures may well have you looking at the world in a whole new way.
Fun trivia: the 1960 Latin translation, ‘Winnie Ille Pu,’ is the only Latin book ever to feature in the New York Times best seller list.
Also, it gives me a chance to end this blog with possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen: the Soviet-era Russian cartoon version, ‘Vinnie Pux,’ which manages to outdo the original: a better way to spend ten minutes I cannot imagine.
Look out for Part Two coming soon!