Fifty books… Not too shabby! I am still a bit behind schedule, but am certain that I will get to one hundred. For the first time, I don’t have more books left to read than already read! I have kept my choices fairly diverse and have an average book length of 241 pages. My target is an average of 250 when the challenge is over. At the 25-book mark I ranked my top five books, and will now rank my top ten. Once again, this is a very subjective list and does not mean that I think Nikos Kazantzakis is a better or more important writer than William Shakespeare. These are simply the ten books I enjoyed the most over the past seven months, and think my readers might enjoy also.
THE TOP TEN (SO FAR)
#10: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre
The quintessential Cold War spy story, replacing the glitz and glamor of James Bond with the grit of the real world. Le Carre’s story of a washed up spy used as a pawn in power politics is surprisingly poignant. This book is absolutely a modern classic.
#9: Deliverance by James Dickey
This story of perseverance and determination in the face of unspeakable hardship is a beautiful piece of writing. It tells the story of four urban men on a canoe trip gone horribly wrong. Intense and engaging, frightening and vivid. One of the best psychological thrillers I have ever read.
#8: The War of the Roses Tetralogy by William Shakespeare
Consisting of Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3, and Richard III, the War of the Roses tetralogy is an outstanding example of Shakespeare’s dramatic prowess. All of the plays are very enjoyable, but Richard III is definitely the best. Read all four of them to get the entire story.
#7: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Kesey’s novel about the inner workings of an insane asylum is one of the most disturbing but inspiring books I have ever read. The book features anti-hero Randle Patrick McMurphy, one of the great modern literary figures. Read the book, watch the movie, and thank God for whatever dash of sanity you possess.
#6: Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
McCarthy is an author with a tremendous reputation in modern literature. I am happy to say that this book lived up to McCarthy’s fame. Telling the story of Cornelius Suttree and his band of homeless associates, Suttree is a darkly humorous look at humanity from the underside.
#5: Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut’s heartbreaking story of Howard Campbell is both humorous and depressing. Through subtle wit, Vonnegut reminds us that the person we present to the world is the person we are, whether we realize it or not. Read it and remember the value of sincerity in everyday life.
#4: Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
This book was the first one I read this year and remains one of my favorites. It follows Oleg Kostoglotov as he undergoes treatment for cancer in a Soviet hospital. At once an examination of the harsh nature of Soviet rule and a look at the frailty of all existence, this book is not easily forgotten.
#3: Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis
Described as Kazantzakis’ fictionalized autobiography, Greco is one of the most honest spiritual confessions I have ever read. The author presents his intellectual and spiritual development for all to see. His descriptions are beautiful and his philosophy is sincere. This is not a book to casually read. It is a book to savor.
#2: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Gibran’s slender volume about a fictional prophet preaching a final sermon before departing a village is more like poetry than simple prose. The philosophy espoused by the titular prophet is one of inclusion and love. We all would do well to take his words to heart.
And at last, the number one book from the first fifty…
#1: Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
I admit it, I have a minor obsession with Kazantzakis. Zorba presents the classic struggle between spirit and intellect, with the titular Zorba representing the wildness within us all. Stunning in its originality, this book will make you both laugh and cry out at the strictures society has placed on our individual spirits.
I hope you enjoyed the list! You can check out the list of all fifty here. If you don’t agree with my rankings, feel free to comment!