his is the best of times and the worst of times for passionate readers. We are living in a Golden Age, as online retailers make millions of books just a click away. Never before have so many works been within such easy reach. But when anything is possible, choice becomes torture. What to pick? Where to start? This one? That one? How about this—and that? What will I like? What's worth my time?
To answer these questions, we turned to the experts, asking 125 top American and British authors to list their 10 favorite works of fiction of all time. The results were published in "The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books." Edited by J. Peder Zane, "The Top Ten" is the ultimate guide to the world's greatest books. As Norman Mailer, Annie Proulx, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Franzen, Claire Messud, Margaret Drabble, Michael Chabon, Peter Carey and others celebrate the books that have meant the most to them, you'll be reminded of books you love and introduced to works awaiting your discovery.
This Website is expanding the book. In addition to posting annotated versions of all 125 lists from "The Top Ten," we are gathering new lists from prominent authors. We are highlighting lists submitted by our readers — maybe even yours! And our blog will include updates on the world of classic books. Through it all we will help you answer that most pressing literary question: What should I read next?
The literary world was terribly saddened to learn this week that Louis Decimus Rubin Jr. has died. It is impossible to overstate his place in the world of Southern letters. As Anne Blythe reported in her marvelous Raleigh News & Observer obituary:
Your spouse and friends can assure you your novel soars. It is even sweeter when a publishing house tells you the same with a check – any size will do. Still, reviews matter; not just for sales, but the ego. They remain the sincerest form of validation.
Breaking News: Robert Morgan read our blog item, saw our shameless request for his Top Ten List, and complied. No threats were involved. Honest. We are delighted to add him to our little club, which, pace Groucho, is a pretty fine one. And boy were we relieved to see "Doctor Zhivago" on the list (see Bob's essay below.
So, without further ado:
Robert Morgan's Top Ten List
Did you feel the ground rumble in here Top Ten Land? It was the literary earthquake known as Ishmael Reed. A polymath man of letters who has described himself as a trickster, recycler and a practitioner of neo-hoodooism, he is an accomplished poet, essayist, playwright and novelist. Reed’s sharp wit and keen social conscience have made him one of America’s funniest and most disturbing satirists. He never shies away from controversy; few people have done as much to champion the work of others.
“In 1994 Jonathan Franzen gave away his TV set,” David Wolf writes in the Guardian. “It was becoming too much of a distraction. ‘I understand my life in the context of Raskolnikov and Quentin Compson, not David Letterman or Jerry Seinfeld,’ he wrote the following year. ‘But the life I understand by way of books feels increasingly lonely. It has little to do with the mediascape that constitutes so many other people's present.’ "