Last fall, as a way of proving a point about literature, one of my professors asked everyone in the class to make a list of our 10 favorite books of all time with one sentence for each book to explain why it made the list. We then had to share our lists in class and the point was that we would all have different lists but each would contain a theme that would bring us closer to the definition of "literature" that we've come to associate with people like Shakespeare. Unsurprisingly, the theme of my list was human suffering and rising above adversity. I've always loved these types of stories.
In no particular order, here is my list. You should definitely read them if you haven't already (but of course I'm biased).
1. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich
Erdrich crafts this story so that it is impossible not to feel compassion for Father Damien as you watch him at the end of his life struggling with the choice between telling the truth or protecting himself and the troublesome Sister Leopolda.
2. Bel Canto by Anne Patchett
This novel is tragic and funny at the same time; it brings together a cast of characters who only expected to be attending a dinner party and the terrorists who take it over who are wildly unprepared and unsure of themselves. The months of standoff that ensue demonstrate all the best and worst parts of humanity.
3. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
This book is blunt and tough but the pain of the characters sticks with you and forces you to think about what truly matters in life.
4. Incendiary by Chris Cleave
This book tears at your heartstrings and forces you to empathize with the narrator because of the power of the writing.
5. White Oleander by Janet Fitch
I love this as a story of struggle and survival but also as a beautiful portrayal of the not so beautiful parts of life. Astrid's journey is one we can all hope to never have to go through but it also shows us something of our own lives.
6. Atonement by Ian McEwan
This is the story of childhood innocence and the problems it can cause; it is a story which shows just how difficult if not impossible it is to make amends for your mistakes.
7. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The use of magical realism in the story of the Buendia family make it captivating to read and difficult to forget.
8. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This book pulls at your insides until there is nothing left and then asks you how you would rebuild yourself.
9. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The unconventional style of writing combined with the more universal story of a nerd's search for love and acceptance make this a book you will want to read again and again.
10. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Pecola Breedlove's self-loathing and fear are manifested in her desire for blue eyes, and her story causes the reader to think about what kind of world would make a child so young feel this way about herself.
Are any of these books on your list? Tell me your top 10 in the comments section below!