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The Book: The Top Ten

Barry Unsworth, R.I.P.

 

Barry Unsworth, a Top Ten contributor, has died of lung cancer. He was 81.

The New York Times reports: “Unsworth, considered one of the foremost historical novelists in English, was known for rich, densely textured fiction that conjured lost worlds — those of the Trojan War, medieval Europe and the Napoleonic age, among many others.

“Among his best known — he wrote 17 novels in all — are Stone Virgin (1986), set in Renaissance Venice; Losing Nelson (1999), about a modern-day writer obsessed with the great British admiral; The Songs of the Kings (2003), which retells the story of the Trojan War; and, most recently, The Quality of Mercy, published last year, which continues the narrative of [his Booker Prize-winning novel of the slave trade] Sacred Hunger.

 

“His other novels include two finalists for the Booker, Morality Play (1995), about a band of strolling actors in 14th-century Yorkshire; and Pascali’s Island (released in the United States in 1980 as “The Idol Hunter”), set in the early-20th-century Ottoman Empire.”

His last novel, Land of Marvels (2009), is about intrigue in Mesopotamia on the eve of World War I.

 

Read his obituary in the New York Times.

Read his obituary in the Guardian.

Listen to him discuss his last novel, The Quality of Mercy.

Watch him read from Land of Marvels.

 

Barry Unsworth’s Top Ten List

1. The Oresteia by Aeschylus (458 b.c.e.).

2. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (1860).

3. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853).

4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857).

5. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1868).

6. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni (1827).

7. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939).

8. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron (1967).

9. The stories of Eudora Welty (1909–2001).

10. Rites of Passage by William Golding (1980).

 

* Illustration from New York Review of Books

New List

Michael Chabon

1. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1964).
2.Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (1962).
3. Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini (1921).
4. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813).
6. Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe (1836–47).
7. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
8. Paradise Lost by John Milton (1667).
9. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (1985).
10. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (1953).

Classic List

Michael Cunningham

1. King Lear by William Shakespeare (1605).
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857).
3. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (1855–91).
4. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927).
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925).
6. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955).
7. Dubliners by James Joyce (1916).
8. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1930).
9. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898).
10. The stories of Flannery O’Connor (for their unerring narrative focus) (1925–64).

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