Most Common Themes in Literature

Have you ever tried teaching theme to a class of middle schoolers? Trust me, it requires patience and a LOT of examples.  One problem is that there's no widespread agreement on a basic list of "most common literary themes."  (Believe me: I've done a lot of research on this.)  I think one reason is that all but the most primitive tales have numerous themes that can be interpreted in numerous ways, so categorizing texts by theme isn't really possible.  For example, is Don Quixote "mostly" about Man vs. Himself (Quixote's inability to see his own failings), or Man vs. Society (society's inability to recognize his innate nobility), or Good vs. Evil (rescuring people in distress), or the Nature of Love (his chivalric love for Dulcinae)?  See what I mean? 

Over time I've managed to winnow down my nominees for "most common literary themes" to the following. I realize that this isn't an inclusive list, but it incorporates (I believe) the most prevalent themes in classic and popular literature.
    1. AKA: Courage, Duty, Loyalty, Patriotism, Heroism, Nobility/Honor, Crime Does Not Pay  
    2. EXPLANATION: Most stories exploring this theme feature good triumphing over evil, and all the better if "good" is is vastly outmatched by "evil" but triumphs anyway, a la David and Goliath, The Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter; though, sometimes, evil ends up triumphing over good (Night). 
    3. OVERLAP:  This category often overlaps with Love and Friendship (since the heroes risk their lives to preserve those they love), Man vs. Himself (since the heroes often struggle with themselves to find the courage to go on), Fate vs. Free Will (since often there is a prophecy or some other supernatural agency that has thrust heroism upon them), and Suffering and Redemption (since they often have to overcome their own demons in order to prevail).
    4. OTHER EXAMPLES: The Lord of the Rings, Tolkein; Le Morte d'Arthur, Malory; Ivanhoe, Scott; all stories with detectives or superheroes
    1. AKA: Survival, Quest for Immortality 
    2. EXPLANATION:  Includes all stories in which the main character finds himself pitted against weather/environment (To Build a Fire), animals (Moby Dick), or life/death (Frankenstein). Sometimes humans triumph over nature (Swiss Family Robinson); more commonly, nature triumphs over humans (Jurassic Park).  Rarely, man and nature learn to exist together in harmony (Jungle Book); more often, mankind risks destroying nature and themselves with untamed technology (most science fiction).
    3. OTHER EXAMPLES: The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway; Call of the Wild, London; Robinson Crusoe, Defoe; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson; The Picture of Dorian Grey, Wilde; Flowers for Algernon, Keyes
    1. AKA: Sacrifice, Love, Duty
    2. EXPLANATION: Includes pretty much all stories about love, in all its forms: romantic, platonic, godly, unrequited, familial, altruistic.  Usually, love triumphs over the barriers (natural, societal) placed in its way (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Taming of the Shrew) though, sometimes, love is unable to overmaster the odds set against it (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Romeo and Juliet, Ethan Frome). The one thing they almost all have in common is the overarching message that a life lived without love is a life half-lived.
    3. OVERLAP: Stories about obsessive love/jealousy (ex: Wuthering Heights) or improper love/jealousy (Sons and Lovers, Lolita) more properly belong under Man vs. Himself 
    4. OTHER EXAMPLES: All's Well That Ends Well, Shakespeare; Harry Potter, Rowlings; Fried Green Tomatoes, Flagg
    1. AKA:  Freedom vs. Authority, Individuality, Justice, Social Justice
    2. EXPLANATION:  My entirely unscientific survey of literature suggests that there are, alas, more examples of society conquering man (Catch 22, Farenheit 411, 1984) than examples of man conquering society (Moll Flanders, Tom Sawyer); though sometimes these two forces end in an uneasy draw (To Kill a Mockingbird).  A common subtext is that even society seems to triumph, the human spirit remains unconquered (Scarlett Letter, Uncle Tom's Cabin; Les Miserables).
    3. OTHER EXAMPLES: Cry, the Beloved Country, Paton; Heart of Darkness, Conrad; Invisible Man, Ellison; Native Son, Wright; Diary of Anne Frank, Frank; Animal Farm, Orwell; Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck
    1. AKA: Obsession, Greed, Pride, Hubris, Corruption
    2. EXPLANATION:  The usual subtext of these stories is that man carries within him the seeds of his own destruction, and the causes of self-destruction are indeed myriad: pride/vanity/selfishness (Hector in The Iliad, Rebecca Sharp in Vanity Fair), greed/ambition (Dr. Faustus, Richard III), obsession (Moby Dick), insanity (The Telltale Heart), desire for revenge (Othello, Count of Monte Cristo), jealousy (Wuthering Heights), cruelty (The Lord of the Flies), etc.  Sometimes, however, "Man vs. Himself" shows up as "You should never give up on your dream, no matter how hard the struggle," a particularly popular theme in teen fiction and movies about sports.
    3. OVERLAP: Stories about the ability of power/money to corrupt the human spirit overlap with Man vs. Society; though allowing themselves to be corrupted is a human failing, the instigating event is often a social inequality (political corruption, as in All the King's Men)
    4. OTHER EXAMPLES: Oedipus Rex, Sophocles, The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald.
    1. AKA: Truth, Faith, Fate. 
    2. EXPLANATION: These books explore whether man has the power to create his destiny, or whether his destiny is predetermined, whether by willful gods or fickle fate.  This theme is more common in pre-20th century literature, when believe was more widespread that the gods meddled in the everyday lives of men. However, the theme lives in on literature by worth authors (think magical realism) and in novels that feature reluctant heroes who are somehow "chosen" or "predestined" to save the world. 
    3. OTHER EXAMPLES: The Bible; Oedipus Rex, Sophocles; Macbeth/Hamlet, Shakespeare; Harry Potter, Rowlings; The Lord of the Rings, Tolkein.
    1. AKA: Triumph over Adversity, Self-Reliance, Perseverance
    2. EXPLANATION:  These stories typically feature characters who seek to overcome obstacles or redeem past mistakes through courage, sacrifice, remorse, or divine intervention.  Sometimes they succeed (A Christmas Carol, Dickens); sometimes, however, one lapse in judgment haunts them forever (Lord Jim, Conrad; Atonement, McEwan)
    3. OTHER EXAMPLES: The Bible; Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky;  Scarlett Letter, Hawthorne; Oliver Twist/David Copperfield, Dickens; Les Miserables, Hugo
HONORABLE MENTIONS (themes that pop up in literature frequently, but not as often as those noted above):
  1. Appearances can be deceiving.  EXAMPLES: Frankenstein, Shelly; The Phantom of the Opera, Leroux; The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hugo
  2. Innocence, once lost, can never be regained. EXAMPLES: Peter Pan, Barrie; The Outsiders, EF Hinton; Catcher in the Rye, Salinger
  3. Mankind's imperative to discover/explore (aka Man's ingenuity). EXAMPLES: Around the World in 80 Days, Verne; Journey to the Center of the Earth, Verne; Atlas Shrugged, Ann Rynd.
  4. The glory of battle/the horror of war.   EXAMPLES: Iliad, Homer; All's Quiet on the Western Front, Lemarq; A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway
  5. Never make a deal with the devil.  EXAMPLES: Dr. Faustus, Marlowe; The Monk, Lewis; The Devil and Daniel Webster, Longfellow 
  6. The American Dream represents both great promise and great temptations. EXAMPLES: Sister Carrie, Dreiser; The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald; The Magnificent Ambersons, Tarkington


55 Unfinished Works by Great Authors

It shouldn't be startling to learn that most great writers left behind unfinished works upon their deaths; what would be startling is if they didn't.  I've always supposed storytelling to be more of a vocation than a career: those called to it don't stop creating stories just because death is pending. 

All the recent articles about the impending publication of Nabakov's The Original of Laura started me wondering what other great authors' works have been left unfinished - whether due to death, writer's block, or disinterest.  Following is the list I have culled from about 40 different sources, all of which appeared reputable (but who really knows)?  Some, presumably, were abandoned for good reason: in some way, they did not live up to the author's standards or vision.  Others, however, tantalize, leaving us to forever wonder what the author might have made of them.

Perhaps when I have more time I'll post a companion list of authors who did not leave unfinished works, which is some ways even more intriguing.  (Did so prolific a writer as Emily Bronte really write nothing between 1846 and her death in 1848?)
  1. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica
  2. Austin, Jane. Sanditon; The Watsons
  3. Bronte, Charlotte. Ashworth; The Moores; The Story of Willie Ellin; Emma
  4. Byron, Lord George Gordon. Don Juan
  5. Camus, Albert. The First Man
  6. Capote, Truman. Answered Prayers
  7. Chandler, Raymond. Poodle Springs
  8. Chaucer, Geoffrey. Canterbury Tales. (Only 24 of the 124 Tales were finished)
  9. Coleridge, Samuel. Cristabel; Kubla Kahn
  10. Collins, Wilkie. Blind Love
  11. Dickens, Charles. The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  12. Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Netochka Nezvanova
  13. Dumas, Alexander. The Last Napoleon
  14. Ellison, Ralph. Juneteenth (aka Three Days Before the Shooting)
  15. Faulkner, William. Elmer
  16. Flaubert, Gustave. Bouvard and Pecuchet
  17. Fitzgerald, F. Scott.  The Last Tycoon
  18. Forster, E.M. Arctic Summer
  19. Frank, Anne. Diary of a Young Girl
  20. Greene, Graham. The Empty Chair
  21. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Dolliver Romance; Septimium Felton; The Ancestral Footstep; Dr. Grimshawe's Secret
  22. Hemingway, Ernest. The Garden of Eden
  23. Hugo, Victor. Les Jumeaux (prose); Dieu (poetry); La Fin de Satan (poetry)
  24. James, Henry. The Ivory Tower; The Sense of Place
  25. Joyce, James. Stephen Hero; Giocama Joyce
  26. Kafka, Franz. The Trial; The Castle; Amerika
  27. Kerouac, Jack. The Sea is My Brother
  28. Lewis, CS. The Dark Tower; The Man Born Blind
  29. Marlowe, Christopher.  Hero and Leander
  30. Melville, Herman. Billy Budd
  31. Nabakov, Vladimir.  The Original of Laura
  32. O'Brian, Patrick. (published as) The Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey
  33. Orwell, George. The Quick and the Dead; A Smoking-Room Story
  34. Plath, Sylvia. Double Exposure
  35. Poe, Edgar Allen. The Journal of Julius Rodman (serial prose)
  36. Salinger, J.D. (Too soon to know; executors of his estate have hinted that he may have left up to 15 unfinished works)
  37. Sayers, Dorothy.  Thrones, Dominations
  38. Shakespeare, William. Love's Labours Won (Controversial: may just have been an alternative title for The Taming of the Shrew)
  39. Spenser. The Fairie Queene
  40. Steinbeck, John. The Acts of King Arthur and His Nobel Knights (a retranslation of Le Morte d'Arthur)
  41. Stevenson, Robert Lewis.  Weir of Hermiston
  42. Styron, William. The Way of the Warrior
  43. Swift, Jonathan. The Legion Club
  44. Thucydides. The History of the Peloponnesian Wars
  45. Tolkien, J.R.R. The Silmarillion
  46. Tolstoy, Leo. The Light That Shines in Darkness
  47. Twain, Mark.  The Mysterious Stranger
  48. Thucydides.  The History of the Pelopennesian Wars
  49. Verne, Jules. Voyages D'Etudes
  50. Vonnegut, Kurt. Look at the Birdie (short stories)
  51. Wallace, David Foster. The Pale King
  52. Wharton, Edith.  The Buccaneers
  53. Wilde, Oscar. A Wife's Tragedy (drama)
  54. Wodehouse, P.G. Sunset at Blandings
  55. Wordsworth, William. The Recluse


Classic Adventure Stories

The biggest problem of doing this list was figuring out what to include and what to exclude.  If you broaden the category to "Action/Adventure" you could potentially include pretty much half the English language canon!  So I have limited myself to "adventure" and to the following criteria: (1) must be a classic, or at least widely known; (2) must include a journey; and (3) must include physical danger.  And if it also includes pirates, knights, cowboys, savages, really big monkeys, and/or deserted islands, so much the better!  (Note that I've also organized them by author rather than title, because so many authors have written numerous notable adventure novels.)
  1. Anonymous - The Epic of Gilgamesh
  2. Anonymous - The Song of Roland
  3. Anonymous - Beowulf
  4. Anonymous - Tales of Prester John
  5. Anonymous - The Arabian Knights
  6. Barrie, JM - Peter Pan
  7. Baum, Frank - The Wizard of Oz
  8. Buchan, John - The 39 Steps
  9. Burroughs, Edgar Rice - Tarzan of the Apes, John Carter of Mars
  10. Carroll, Lewis - Alice in Wonderland
  11. Cervantes - Don Quixote
  12. Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim
  13. Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans, The Deerslayer
  14. Cornwell, Bernard - Sharpe series, The Grail Quest series, the Saxon series
  15. Crichton, Michael - Jurrasic Park, The Great Train Robbery, Congo
  16. Cussler, Clive - Sahara, Raise the Titanic, Inca Gold
  17. Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, The King of Pirates
  18. Doyle, Arthur Conan - Lost World
  19. Dumas, Alexandre - Three Muskateers, Man in th Iron Mask, The Count of Monte Cristo
  20. Forester, CS - Horatio Hornblower series
  21. Fraser, George MacDonald - Flashman series
  22. George, Jean Craighead - My Side of the Mountain
  23. Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
  24. Haggard, H. Rider - King Solomon's Mines, She, Allen Quartermain
  25. Hilton, James - Lost Horizon
  26. Homer - Iliad, Odyssey
  27. Hope, Anthony - The Prisoner of Zenda
  28. Howard, Robert - Conan the Barbarian
  29. Kipling, Rudyard - The Man Who Would Be King, The Jungle Book, Captains Courageous, Kim
  30. L'Amour, Louis - Shane, How the West Was Won, Sackett
  31. London, Jack - The Call of the Wild, Sea Wolf, White Fang
  32. Ludlum, Robert - The Bourne Identity
  33. Malory, Sir Thomas - Le Morte d'Arthur
  34. McCully, Johnston - The Mark of Zorro (aka The Curse of Capistrano)
  35. McMurtry, Larry - Lonesome Dove
  36. Melville, Herman - Moby Dick
  37. Paulsen, Gary - Hatchet, Grizzly
  38. Reid, Thomas Mayne - The White Gauntlet, the Bush Boys
  39. Sabatini, Rafael - Captain Blood
  40. Salgari, Emilio - Pirates of Malaysia series, Black Corsair series, Pirates of Bermuda series
  41. Scott, Sir Walter - Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Pirate
  42. Stevenson, Robert Lewis - Treasure Island, Kidnapped
  43. Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels
  44. Tolkein, JRR - The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings
  45. Twain, Mark - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  46. Vergil - The Aeneid
  47. Verne, Jules - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Mysterious Island, Around the World in 80 Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth
  48. Wallace, Edgar - The African stories
  49. Wells, HG - The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau
  50. Wren, PC - Beau Geste
  51. Wyss, Johann David - Swiss Family Robinson


Best Movies That Were Adapted From Books

Want to read a good book but just don't have the energy? Cheat by watching one of these movies from the American Film Institute's list of Top100 films, all of which were adapted from books.  (NOTE: This list is based on AFI's most current list, which is updated every year, so a year from now this list may change slightly.)
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  2. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
  4. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  5. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clark
  6. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
  7. Treasure of the Sierra Madre, B. Traven
  8. Double Indemnity, James Cain
  9. A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams
  10. Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
  11. Godfather II, Mario Puzo
  12. Jaws, Peter Benchley
  13. Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris
  14. Shane, Louis L'Amour
  15. Ben-Hur, Lew Wallace
  16. Schindler's List, Thomas Keneally
  17. Wizard of Oz, Frank Baum
  18. The Graduate, Charles Webb
  19. Bridge Over the River Kwai, Pierre Boulle
  20. Rear Window, Cornell Woolrich
  21. Lord of the Rings Trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkein
  22. African Queen, C.S. Forrester
  23. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee
  24. Shawshank Redemption, Steven King
  25. In the Heat of the Night, John Ball
  26. All the President's Men, Bernstein & Woodward
  27. Sophie's Choice, William Styron
  28. French Connection, Robin Moore
  29. Blade Runner (based on Do Androids Really Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip Dick)


Books Read by our Book Club

The book club I belong to has been discussing a book a month since 2003, which adds up to a pretty impressive list of books!  Looking at the collated list, I see that we have a definite penchant for fiction and books with international settings/themes.  I feel so very fortunate to be able to discuss literature with a group of women so intelligent and inquisitive! 
  1. 1000 Splendid Suns (read 2008), Khaled Hosseini
  2. A Prayer for Owen Meany (read 2006), John Irving
  3. A Visit from the Goon Squad (read 2013), Jennifer Egan
  4. Ahab's Wife, Sena Naslund
  5. Alias Grace (read 2003), Margaret Atwood
  6. America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines (read 2013), Gail Collins
  7. Anil's Ghost* (read 2006), Michael Ondaatje
  8. Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral (read 2006), Dris Radish
  9. Arthur and George (read 2011), Julian Barnes
  10. Atonement (read 2005), Ian McEwan
  11. Ava's Man (read 2003), Rick Bragg
  12. Away (read 2008), Judy Bloom
  13. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (read 2004), Sijie Dai
  14. Behind the Beautiful Forevers (read 2013), Katherine Boo
  15. Bel Canto (read 2004), Ann Patchett
  16. The Bells (read 2012), Richard Harvell
  17. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk* (read 2013), Ben Fountain
  18. Birth of Venus (read 2006), Sara Dunant
  19. Blind Assasin (read 2004), Margaret Atwood
  20. Blindness, Jose Saramago
  21. Blue Diary (read 2003), Alice Hoffman
  22. The Bonesetter's Daughter (read 2003), Amy Tan
  23. The Book Thief (read 2012), Markus Zusak
  24. The Buccaneers (read 2007), Edith Wharton
  25. The Call (read 2013), Yannick Murphy
  26. Carter Beats the Devil* (read 2009), Gold
  27. The Color of Water (read 2005), James McBride
  28. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
  29. The Count of Monte Cristo (read 2003), Alexandre Dumas
  30. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (read 2005), Mark Haddon
  31. Cutting for Stone (read 2010), Abraham Verghese
  32. Dandelion Wine*, Bradbury
  33. Darcy's Utopia (read 2004), Fay Weldon
  34. The Death of Vishnu (read 2004), Manil Suri
  35. The Devil Wears Prada (read 2005), Laura Weisberger
  36. Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Jorge Amado
  37. Double Bind (read 2008), Bohjalian
  38. Education of Little Tree (read 2007), Forrest Carter
  39. The Elegance of the Hedgehog (read 2009), Barbery
  40. Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
  41. Flimsey Little Plastic Miracles (read 2013), Ron Currie Jr.
  42. The Franchise Affair (read 2012), Josephine Tey
  43. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe (read 2003), Fannie Flagg
  44. The Frozen Rabbi* (read 2012), Steve Stern
  45. Gap Creek (read 2003), Morgan
  46. Gate at the Stairs (read 2011), Lorrie Moore
  47. Giants of the Earth (read 2004), O.E. Rolvaag
  48. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (read 2010), Stieg Larrson
  49. The Girls from Ames (read 2010), Jeffrey Zaslow
  50. The God of Small Things, (read 2005) Arundthi Roy
  51. Gone Girl (read 2012), Gillian Flynn
  52. Great Good Thing (read 2004), Roderick Townley
  53. Greatest Man in Cedar Hole (read 2006), Stephanie Doyon
  54. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (read 2009), McCullers
  55. The Help (read 2011), Kathryn Stockett
  56. The History of Love (read 2006), Nicole Krauss
  57. Holidays on Ice (read 2003), David Sedaris
  58. Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (read 2011), Jamie Ford
  59. The House at Riverton (read 2011), Kate Morton
  60. How I Live Now (read 2007), Meg Rosoff
  61. The Hour I First Believed, Lamb
  62. The Human Factor (read 2009), Graham Greene
  63. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (read 2012), Michael Rogers
  64. Inheritance of Loss (read 2008), Desai
  65. Inn at Lake Devine (read 2004), Elinor Lipman
  66. Kite Runner, Khaled Husseini
  67. Known World, Edward Jones
  68. Lamb (read 2007), Christopher Moore
  69. Life of Pi (read 2005), Yann Martel
  70. The Light Between Oceans (read 2013), M.L. Stedman
  71. Little Bee (read 2013), Chris Cleave
  72. The Lord of Misrule* (read 2012), Jaimy Gordon
  73. Loving Frank (read 2012), Nancy Horan
  74. Memoirs of a Geisha (read 2007), Arthur Golden
  75. Minaret (read 2008), Leila Aboulela
  76. The Mirror (read 2009), Marlis Millhiser
  77. Mohawk (read 2008), Richard Russo
  78. Mrs. Dalloway (read 2004), Virginia Woolf
  79. Ms. Hemple Chronicles (read 2009), Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
  80. My Life on a Plate (read 2003), India Knight
  81. My Losing Season, Pat Conroy
  82. The Namesake (read 2013), Jhumpa Lahiri
  83. O Pioneers (read 2008), Willa Cather
  84. Olive Kitteridge (read 2010), Elizabeth Strout
  85. On Chesil Beach (read 2009), McEwan
  86. Our Man in Havana (read 2010), Graham Greene
  87. Out Stealing Horses (read 2010), Per Petterson
  88. Outlander (read 2005), Diana Gabaldon
  89. Parrot and Oliver in America (read 2011), Peter Carey
  90. Pilot's Wife (read 2004), Anita Shreve
  91. Poisonwood Bible (read 2008), Barbara Kingsolver
  92. Pope Joan (read 2007), Donna Cross
  93. Possession (read 2003), A.S. Byatt
  94. Rabbit Run, John Updike
  95. Reading Lolita in Tehran (read 2006), Azar Nafisi
  96. Red Tent (read 2003), Anita Diamant
  97. Riding on the Bus With My Sister (read 2005), Rachel Simon
  98. R.L.'s Dream* (read 2007), Walter Mosley
  99. The Round House* (read 2013), Louise Erdich
  100. Saving Fish From Drowning (read 2013), Amy Tan
  101. Seabiscuit (read 2004), Laura Hillenbrand
  102. Secret Life of Bees (read 2004), Sue Monk Kidd
  103. The Senator's Wife (read 2008), Sue Miller
  104. The Sense of an Ending (read 2012), Julian Barnes
  105. Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  106. Skeleton at the Feast (read 2010), Christopher Bohjalian
  107. Sister Carrie (read 2005), Theodore Dreiser
  108. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (read 2006), Lisa See
  109. Snow Child (read 2013), Eowyn Ivey
  110. Special Topics in Calamity Physics*, Marisha Pessl
  111. Spooner (read 2010), Pete Dexter
  112. State of Wonder (read 2012), Ann Patchett
  113. This Book Will Save Your Life, Holmes
  114. Three Cups of Tea, Rlin
  115. Three Junes, Julia Glass
  116. The Time Traveller's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
  117. To Kill a Mockingbird (read 2005), Harper Lee
  118. Trip to the Stars (read 2005), Christopher
  119. Vision of Emma Blau (read 2003), Ursula Hegi
  120. Water for Elephants (read 2008), Sara Gruen
  121. Watership Down (read 2009), Adams
  122. White Tiger* (read 2010), Aravind Adiga
  123. Wicked, Gregory Maguire
  124. Wolf Hall* (read 2011), Hilary Mantel
  125. Woman of Independent Means (read 2006), Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey
  126. Women of the Silk (read 2004), Gail Tsukiyama
  127. The World According to Garp (read 2011), John Irving
  128. World Below (read 2010), Sue Miller
  129. Year of Wonders (read 2005), Geraldine Brooks
  130. The Yiddish Policemen's Union* (read 2009), Michael Chabon


My 10 Favorite Books

Here they are, in no particular order: 
  1. Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury.  I make a point of reading this book every 1-2 years to remind myself that being alive is about so much more than living - and that magic is everywhere, if only you remember to look for it.
  2. Lord of the Rings Trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkein.  Everytime I read these amazing novels I discover some new universal truth.
  3. Into the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead, James Lee Burke.  Lush, evocative, lyrical, gritty, intimate, heartbreaking, nobel, disturbing, seductive, and mythic ... in short, just what you'd expect from a book with such a breathtaking title.
  4. Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers.  Superbly written mystery that just happens to include as a subplot one of the most exquisitely-rendered courtships in literature.
  5. The Three Muskateers, Alexander Dumas.  Swashing AND buckling, all in one deliciously exuberant read!
  6. Sherlock Holmes short stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. If you haven't read them in a while (or only ever read The Speckled Band in some anthology of short stories), read them again - astonishingly clever, hugely entertaining, and surprisingly timeless.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.  Amazes me that teachers have to MAKE kids read this - what an astonishing book about the enduring relevance of humanity, compassion, tolerance, courage and personal honor in our everyday lives.
  8. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.  It's probably petty of me to wish the world hadn't suddenly "discovered" this novel over the past decade ... for a while there I could pretend I had Mr. Darcy all to myself!
  9. Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott.  What can I say - I'm obviously a sucker for swashbuckling yarns! The scene where Ivanhoe arrives, battered and weary, just in time to save Rebecca's honor from the designs of the evil Brian de Bois-Guilbert still has the power to give me goosebumps!
  10. The Princess Bride, William Goldman.  The book has all the sweetness of the movie version but is 10 times as funny - honestly!