Saturday, 28 August 2010

300th Blog Post - My Top Three Books of All Time

I've been asked one of *those* questions. You know the ones... As a book lover I dread this question, but, to celebrate my 300th blog post, I am going to make my best stab at it. I was asked about my most favourite book. When I complained about the restriction, I was told to name my top three. So here they are!

In third place...

Yes, that children's classic Watership Down by Richard Adams. Except I don't think it is your typical children's book. It spoke to me on so many levels - a quest story, a love letter to the British countryside, a treatise on fascism and extreme propaganda. The characters were vivid and well-drawn, from Hazel and Fiver who led the group, to Bigwig, who always seemed to be so contrary. As a child I was amused by the fact that one of the characters said 'Piss off!' The storytelling within storytelling worked for me as well - tales of El-Ahrairah and how he outwits Lord Frith. Just saying these iconic names makes me want to pick the book up again! Certainly it is a book that I have read more than ten times, and would turn to again and again out of comfort and enjoyment.

In second place...

I picked up Archangel by Sharon Shinn on a whim from the library when I was in my teens. And I have never, before or since, been SO entranced by prose. I think Shinn has the most amazing talent to bring magic alive - and her passion for music imbues every word of her novels. Archangel is the first in a trilogy of three, and all of them are well worth reading. Archangel tells the story of Gabriel, who is to wed the Edori slave Rachel - the trials and tribulations as they learn to love each other are beautifully written, and the idea of lovers destined to be together was presented in a unique manner. To me, stunning.

In first place...

So here it is. My most favourite novel of all time. It is not the best written; it is not the most literary; and it is definitely not genre. It is this:

The Sunne in Splendour is a sprawling epic of a novel. It is over 900 pages of exploring characters from our own history. It takes the controversial Richard III and overturns what we might think of the person who Shakespeare vilified and who was said to murder his own nephews. This novel is a sympathetic portrayal of a man who was loyal to his country and who wanted the best for his family. Historical personages spring to life from the pages; bitter betrayals and love stories are detailed by engaging prose. I just love this book and endeavour to read it every couple of years or so. Sharon Penman is a supremely talented author, managing to breathe life into a long-dead era. Her research is superlative and I admire the dedication taken with every single one of her novels. This is by far my favourite and, indeed, my favourite book of my whole life.

Now I open the floor to you. It is tough - but tell me your top three books, and why. Invite me to read those books that you deem, in your opinion, to be the best you have read. They needn't be the best written, just those that resonated beyond all others with you. I'd love to hear!


  1. Watership Down is a great choice, I still think of words like Harraka (sp). :) Probably because I read it as a teenager.

    Top three is a hard one, so off the top of my head and with the ability to change any second:

    1. Lord of the Rings
    2. A Game of Thrones
    3. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

  2. In no particular order:

    1. Alan Garner, The Owl Service
    2. Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast (the entire trilogy, really, but that was the first one I read, so it got to be the big life-changing, coming-home moment)
    3. Antonia Forest, End of Term (all of Forests books that I've read, but this one in particular for the same reasons as I picked Gormenghast above)

    That was easier than I thought it would be!

  3. Wow, top 3 is tough, I could easily list my top 10 (among them would be Archangel - I still love Shinn's writing after randomly discovering that book).

    My #1 pick isn't too hard: The Stand by Steven King.

    After that it get's dicey. Probably:
    #2 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
    #3 The Briar King by Greg Keyes

    Though I could easily put in The Silver Chair, Imzadi, The Last Command, Russian Spring...

  4. Gosh.

    Just the three?

    In no particular order, then:

    The Scar by China Mieville
    Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
    The Terror by Dan Simmons

    All relatively recent releases, and all genre. Which is odd, given what a snoot I seem to have become known as. But there's a sense of normalcy to even the best literary fiction that means it can't quite ignite the sense of awe, of wonderment, of discovery, that these books do in me.

    (How not to love that my word verification to comment tonight is "rantsio"!)

  5. LOL!

    I had no idea that a novel that I proposed to you for your historical fiction theme, The Sunne in Splendour, was your favorite of all time! For the record, I adore Sharon Kay Penman, and The Sunne in Splendour is a fantastic novel.

    For my Top 3 of all time:

    1. Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders. The Black Beauty tale but for dogs. If you don't get teary eyed, you are not human!
    2. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. My favorite bar none for the Narnia series. I think I read that book every time I visited Grandma.
    3. Liveship trilogy by Robin Hobb. I know it is a trilogy, but I love it.
    If we are not counting trilogies, then Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart would be mine nomination for #3. Hilarious, brilliant and a fine piece of storytelling of a China that never was.


  6. Tough call. But I narrowed it down to these three, but they're subject to change depending on my mood lol

    1. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey. I know I keep coming back to this, but I just love this book to pieces.
    2. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. when I was 14 I read this book over two breathless days one holiday and I get the same feeling every time I re-read it.
    3. Green Rider by Kristen Britain. One of my faves, that I keep coming back to.

    And if we're including non-English language books lol my #3 would be de Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe by Johan Fabricius. My dad used to read this to me when I was little and I've re-read it myself numerous times. The story of the three boys, who were ship's boys in the 17th century and their adventures just enthralled me :)

  7. This is SO tough. My no. 1 favourite book is easy, but the top three? There are so many to choose from. Today my three favourites are:

    1) The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    2) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
    3) The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

    Of course I'm missing out lots of books such as those by Steven Erikson, GRRM, Janny Wurtz, Katherine Kerr, Stephen Donaldson and Dan Simmons. And also Muriel Barbary, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami and Shusaku Endo. OK, I feel better now.

    I love historical books and especially anything about Richard III. I can't believe I haven't read The Sunne in Splendour, but I'm definitely going to check it out soon.

  8. Ooo, this is difficult. So I think I'll go with the 3 that had the biggest positive impression on me

    1) Lord of the Rings - say what you like about it's faults, this is an epic work of the imagination that just blew me away

    2) The Lion, With & The Wardrobe - It's easier now I am older to criticise this book, and there are some bits that are cringeworthy, but this is the book that ignited my love of fantasy

    3) This is difficult - do I go for an old-loved book such as Watership Down or Weirdstone of Brisingamen, or do I go for a novel that I've read & loved since becoming a writer and hence have become more critical such as City of Ruin? I think in the end I'll go for Lies of Locke Lamorra. A brilliant modern fantasy.

  9. Grats on 300 posts. I'd join in, but if I mention the Count of Monte Cristo one more time I think my girlfriend will deck me wit-*THUD*


  10. 300 posts! Congratulations!

    Top three? Tricky. I'm afraid my three books are going to be terribly predictable, but here goes:

    1. 'Salem's Lot, by Stephen King.
    2. Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest.
    3. Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes.

    Now, if you made this a list of your top 300 books, then that would be much easier :)

  11. Congrats and that is a hard hard question.

    In first place - The Green Mile by Stephen King. I read this book whilst living in America during the summer of 1996, I think it was, and it originally came out in 100 page little chunks, like the Dickens books of old, released in novelettes. And I loved it. Seeing it again come out in paperback I then had to buy another copy, and like the weird character in Conspiracy Theory placed by Mel Gibson, whenever I see a copy that is slightly different I want to buy it. The story is shocking, haunting, horrible, touching, beautiful and disturbing. It covers the entire emotional spectrum and at its core it is a story about humanity at its best and very worst. A wonderful story and, for once, the film was almost as good. I defy anyone reading this or seeing the film not to get emotional.

    By a whisker into second, Legend by David Gemmell. He started at the end, with an old character, someone who had been there and done it all, fought in countless battles and lived to tell the stories but at a very high cost. It was the total opposite of every story about a stableboy growing to become a hero, it's a stark and amazing story and is probably still my favourite fantasy book ever, more so than Lord of the Rings.

    Very hard to name one, but probably Dune by Frank Herbert. It was so different to any other sci fi I had read before, and it has stuck with me a lot longer than any other sci-fi series, and people are still exploring it today, with new prequel books and the bits in-between, fantastic stuff.

  12. Anthony Boonstra29 August 2010 at 12:07

    Top three? Hmmm. Tough question. I'm going to go with the ones that had the most impact on my reading habits over the last 20 years.

    1) The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. DIck. Not his best novel but the first one I ever read by him. Found in a used bookstore when I was 17. Started a life long love affair with pink lasers and vast active living intelligence systems.

    2) Neuromancer by William Gibson. First, and IMHO, the best cyperpunk novel ever. Probably wins the record for most re-reads by me of any book. I just recently purchased the trilogy in German as an incentive to improve my German.

    3) The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. A remarkable book, rich, non-linear narrative, a mixture of poetry and prose. Can't think of an author where I enjoyed the text itself as much, where I found myself rereading scenes over and over.

    Congratulations on the 300th post!

  13. I've never read the "Sunne in Splendour," but I have been fascinated with Richard III ever since reading Josephine Tey's "Daughter of Time," and I mostly enjoy Sharon Key Penman (although I can't read too many of her books in a row before I get irritated), so I'll have to try that sometime. Oddly enough, I didn't care overly much for "Watership Down" when I read it, but maybe I should give it another try sometime.

    Top Three? Hmm ...

    1. "Till We Have Faces," by CS Lewis. Probably his least-known fiction work, and his greatest.

    2. "Gaudy Night," by Dorothy L Sayers. So much more than just a cozy mystery.

    3. "Taran Wanderer," by Lloyd Alexander. I love the story of Taran's journey from boy to man, and the lessons he learned along the way.

  14. The only book I know on that list is Watership Down, which happens to be pretty high on my list of favourite books too. I read it for the first time when I was 12, I believe, and loved the movie to death. Not so fond of the TV show that was based on it a few years back, though. It was watered down a lot compared to the source material.

  15. Congrats on the 300th post!

    Watership Down is deservedly a contender on your list. I only read it for the first last year myself and it was very good.

    My personal top three, subject to change at any moment:
    - A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin
    - The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
    - The Price of Spring, Daniel Abraham

    Enjoy your vacation!

  16. My personal top three:
    1) Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny--This book packs an incredible amount into what is by today's standards a relatively short length. It's always resonated with me.
    2) Shockwave Rider, John Brunner.
    3) The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein.

  17. Congratulations on your 300th blogpost. Good work... keep it up!!!

    Just three? Hmmmmmm OK, in no particular order:

    1. Perfume by Patrick Süskind
    2. The Last Whales by Lloyd Abbey
    3. The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley

  18. 1. The Stand - Stephen King
    2. Swan Song - Robert R McCammon
    3. The Death of Grass - John Christopher

    The first 2 were easy to pick but the battle for third place was harder. Just goes to show that I like my post-apocalypse though!