Monday, September 17, 2007

The Top Ten

This book I picked up quick at the library and had I had more time to look at it I probably wouldn't have brought it home, but I skimmed through it quick and didn't really learn anything new, though I did have the foresight to actually write down the books in it that I do want to read.

The editor of the book asked a bunch of writers to give their top ten list of the best books of all time. Then they went through and gave a brief summary of each book and played some other games with the numbers, like top ten American, British, of the twentieth century, comic novels, etc.

I say I didn't really learn much because as an English major I had already read a number of these, or at least heard about them. I don't really like most fiction, especially contemporary fiction. I find that as our society has become more open and permissive authors who consider themselves to be "Artists" have to go lower and lower to shock and get the reaction they want.

I read for enjoyment, I do not need a "thought provoking" look at sin, guilt, immorality, drinking, abuse or any other justification for wallowing in the mire that these books generally give. For example, the book Lolita by Nabokov was on the best ten of all time list and I personally have no desire to know more about that book.

I know a lot of people like the true to life thing and find catharsis in those stories. I also know that people who have had trauma in their lives like to see others in their situations, but so much of modern fiction, especially those books which are considered "literature" is so much muck and reading them and perhaps writing them is so much justification for things that should not happen. Antiheroes, existential philosophy and just plain wrongness is praised, rationalized and examined in a way that makes me retreat to Sci-Fi and Fantasy and non-fiction where studies of morals and guilt can be done in a way that doesn't try to make consequences for wrong decisions seem unjust and the actions of an uncaring God.

I decided to avoid any book recommended by Oprah or any other public book club for that reason. I have read Beloved and I know that Toni Morrison is writing what is relevant to her and her background, but I need books that lift me up, not drag me down.

And, after all, I like to read for entertainment and learning. Perhaps I'm just shallow, but I don't feel a need for "soul-searing" examinations of life. I have the scriptures, I have my family, and I have real life dilemmas. But for those I can pray and find the answers through communication from a Source that no human written book can equal. These "great" books are second best when it comes to understanding myself and other people.

So I won't be writing about the hot, new book on Oprah or the newest self-help or any of that. But then, I warned any readers of this blog at the beginning that this is really just a way to get my brain working and not a recommended book list at all.

The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books. J. Peder Zane ed. W.W. Norton & Co. 2007

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