In one of my literature classes recently, as I was introducing the Arthurian legend, I mentioned T. H. White's The Once and Future King, writing it on the board and telling my students, "This is on my top-five list of favorite books ever. After a brief silence, one student piped up, Mrs. Posey, that's at least the eighth book you've mentioned so far this semester that's on your top five list.
They got me! Even if writers stopped writing, I'd never be able to complete even a top 100 list that would remain as the top favorites.
One of my favorite class assignments (there I go waxing hyperbolic again) asked the students to compose their own top ten book list and then share them. The variety of approaches was wonderful. One girl in the class with a long-term boyfriend, also quite a reader, compiled a list of good books for couples to read together. One young man asked if he had to limit the list to ten and came up with a favorite book from each year of school, starting with kindergarten.
In the newest edition of With Rigor for All, a professional publication by NCTE's past president Carol Jago, one of the most prolific readers I know, she has provided a number of good lists in the back--"10 Short Classics for Readers Short on Time," "10 Books for Girls Certain They Will Never Meet Prince Charming," even "10 Most Commonly Stolen Books from My Classroom Library." While I had ready many on her lists (some at her specific recommendation), I realize that now she's made my "to-read" list even longer.
If I were to try to list the books that I love most, those I wish I could get everyone to read, may of them are considered classics. Instead of giving myself a limit, I thought I might just see where the list takes me. Maybe others who read the blog will share your lists too.
T. H. White, The Once and Future King (I already told you. I know.)
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Richard Adams, Watership Down
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Yann Martel, The Life of Pi
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
Pearl Buck, The Good Earth
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
Alice Walker, The Color Purple
John Knowles, A Separate Peace
Ann Patchett, Bel Canto
John Irving, The Cider House Rules
Leon Uris, Trinity
Ken Follett, Pillars of the Earth
Daphne DuMaurier, Rebecca
This list is just off the top of my head. An hour from now, I'll think of something I can't believe I omitted. I didn't even begin to mention books from my earlier period of reading (Charlotte's Web, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Little Women, and such).
Listing is one of those exercising in remembering--and sharing. Top five? Top ten? I can't see how!