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Ron Rash's Top Ten List

As the Book Review Editor at the News & Observer of Raleigh, I had the great good fortune to work with Fred Chappell and Robert Morgan after they had already established themselves as leading Appalachian writers who were masters of almost every literary form, including short stories, poetry and the novel.

So it was with special pleasure that I witnessed one of their worthy successors emerge in 1994 when Ron Rash debuted with The Night The New Jesus Fell to Earth and Other Stories from Cliffside, North Carolina.

Ron has delivered on that promise in the years since, gracing us with a cornucopia of top-notch work, including the poetry collections  (short stories), Eureka Mill (1998), Among the Believers (2000),        Raising the Dead (2002) and Waking (2011); the story collections Casualties (2000), Chemistry and Other Stories (2007) and Burning Bright (2010)  as well as the novels One Foot in Eden (2002),   Saints at the River (2004), The World Made Straight (2006), Serena (2008) and The Cove (2012).

Ron, who grew up in Boiling Springs, North Carolina (it’s on the Bend River in Cleveland County), says he decided to become a writer before he even knew how to read:

“It was a warm summer evening and my grandfather, still dressed in his work clothes, was smoking a Camel cigarette as he lingered at the kitchen table after a hard day’s work. When I handed my grandfather the red and blue book (“The Cat and the Hat”) and asked him to read to me, he did not offer any excuse, not even the most obvious one. Instead, he laid the open book on the table before us, peering over my shoulder as he turned the pages with his work-and-nicotine-stained fingers, and I heard the story of a talking cat and his high, blue-striped hat.

“What he had done was make up a story to fit the pictures that lay on the pages before us. Not surprisingly, I quickly realized that the story he was reading was very different from the one my mother had read from the same book.

“The effectiveness of my grandfather’s performance was verified by my begging him to read “The Cat and the Hat” again the following Sunday. His story was different this time. The cat got into more trouble, and out of it less easily. At every opportunity in the following weeks, I ambushed my grandfather so I might hear what new events might occur in this cat’s ever-changing life. How could I not grow up believing words were magical? How could I not want to be a writer?”

It’s an honor to add Ron to the Top Ten community.

Read the Poetry Foundation’s bio of Ron.

Watch Ron read from The Cove.

Watch a brief video profile of Ron.

 

Ron Rash’s Top Ten List

1. Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1606).

2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1600).

3. The Iliad by Homer (ninth century b.c.e.?).

4. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).

5. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866).

6. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936).

7. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).

8. The stories of Flannery O’Connor (1925–64).

9. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929).

10. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy (1979).

New List

Cathleen Schine

1. Emma by Jane Austen (1816).
2. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (1855–91).
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869).
4. Phineas Finn: The Irish Member by Anthony Trollope (1869).
5. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (1864–65).
6. Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym (1977).
7. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884).
8. The stories of  Alice Munro (1931– ).
9. The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (1943–48).
10. Pictures from an Institution by Randall Jarrell (1954).

Classic List

George Saunders

1. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842).
2. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884).
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869).
4. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (1759–67).
5. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1600).
6. The stories of Isaac Babel (1894–1940).
7. The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).
8. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969).
9. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (1953).
10. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957).