My brother and I just went through a few hundred of his books, looking for the one I wanted to borrow (Gulag Archipaligo, by Solzhenitsyn), which of course turned out to be at the very bottom of the last stack, and in the process we were talking about our favorite books. We both read well over 100 books each year, but for me there are certain books that always rise to the top of my favorites even after I have read hundreds of other books. Here are my top 5 fiction books right now.
1: Simple Prayers, by Michael Golding – This is a love story set on a small Mediterannean island, one of those modern novels that is so beautifully crafted that it feels like a timeless classic. Golding also wrote one other book, Benjamin’s Gift, which I plan to read as soon as I have a copy.
2: Magister Ludi/ The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse – This one’s a heavier, more snooty intellectual sort of book, but I love the idea of the glass bead game. When I read this book (which I do every few years) I always feel as if I could almost see how one would create such a game in real life. That’s one game I would happily devote many hours to mastering.
3: The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder – This is a set of connected stories about the lives that ended abruptly when a high bridge collapsed at San Luis Rey, commemorating their lives by telling their (fictional) stories. My favorite image from this book, which stuck with me even after I forgot which book it came from, was of the mother who wrote amazing, beautiful letters that were celebrated as literary gems in Europe, letters she wrote in a vain attempt at staying in touch with her worldly, sophisticate, stuck-up child.
4: Something Wicked This Way Comes, bt Ray Bradbury – I love how Stephen King crafts scary stories, but this one from Bradbury still is my favorite. The evil that arrives with the circus in this small quiet midwestern town is palpable, the sort of evil that might lurk unseen in a town near you.
5: Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett – A botched end-of-the-world in which an archangel and a fallen angel from Hell become acquainted over an accidental baby-swap that leaves an average ordinary couple raising the child that was meant to destroy the world, while the lovely Satanic couple picked to raise this antichrist child ends up with a perfectly ordinary child instead. My favorite bit in this book is the notion that round-abouts and the big loops that connect interstates and highways are Satanic prayer circles, amplifying the sins of all those cursing, road-rage inspired drivers that drive them.
I have read thousands of books by now, so of course my ‘favorite books’ list is a lot longer, but these are the ones that shake out on top right now for me. What are your 5 favorite books of all time, as they stand now?