Tuesday, November 11, 2014

125 Authors Pick the Top 10 Great Books of All Time

I am willing to bet that most heavy readers (say...50-100 books per year, something in that range) are fascinated by book lists.  Those lists can be about anything from the various year-end Top Tens, to highest paid authors, to most popular book club choices, you name it, we love them.

I'm that way, too, and there's a little book I picked up in 2007 called The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books that I still dip in and out of seven years after I first discovered it.  The lists are based on 125 author surveys edited by J. Peder Zane.  

What may be the most meaningful list in the entire book is the compilation of all books mentioned (there were 544 of them in total) so that an overall Top Ten could be produced.  

And, for the curious, here's that list - based on the number of mentions each book received and, more importantly, how high on the lists they were mentioned.  Thus, each first place vote earned a book ten points, each second place vote earned nine points, and so on:

1.  Anna Karenina (1877) - Leo Tolstoy (171 points)
2.  Madame Bovary (1857) - Gustave Flaubert (160 points)
3.  War and Peace (1869) - Leo Tolstoy (150 points)
4.  Lolita (1955) - Vladimir Nabokov (131 points)
5.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) - Mark Twain (126 points)
6.  Hamlet (1600) - William Shakespeare (111 points)
7.  The Great Gatsby (1925) - F. Scott Fitzgerald (110 points)
8.  In Search of Lost Time (1913-27) - Marcel Proust (107 points)
9.  The Stories of Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) - (105 points)
10.  Middlemarch ((1871-72) - George Eliot (100 points)

I'm not a bit surprised that I've only read five of the ten books listed since I haven't read much from the great Russian writers.  I hope you did better...


  1. I love lists like this. My own favorite book of all time is Anna Karenina, so maybe I am in good company here. I've read 8 of these 10 books, and if I were to make a list of my won top ten influential books, of these I would have well, #1, Anna, and Hamlet in there for sure.

  2. I've read everything but Proust. Glad to see Middlemarch made the top 10.

  3. I'm impressed, Cip, not the least that you consider Anna Karenina to be your favorite book.

  4. Susan, 9 0f 10 is something I find amazing. I read in and out of the great Russian writers but have not actually finished a lot of their stuff. I keeping saying I'm going to correct that, but hey, it took me about 30 years to finally make it all the way through Moby Dick despite similar good intentions.

  5. While I have read all of these books at least once, my own top ten would include The Brothers Karamazov and Moby Dick (I would drop Nabokov and Chekhov).

  6. Interesting, James. While I have read Moby Dick, I haven't read The Brothers Karamazov. What this whole exercise is proving to me is that I have a huge gap in my reading history when it comes to the Russian greats. One day, I have to take care of that. Just might be a project for next year.