My Ten Favorite Novels

Here’s a ist of my ten favorite novels, and why. It’s a pretty eclectic list, and I won’t pretend that they’re in any kind of order other than as they come to mind.

  1. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) – OK, this one is in order. Pride and Prejudice is without question my all-time favorite book. I read it every time I’m tired of reading anything else. I read it at least 2-3 times a year. Austen’s writing is clear, witty, and simply sparkles. Her characterizations are some of the best in the English language, and her plot, while a simple boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-gets-girl-in-the-end, is the standard by which all others are judged. No doubt the nearly perfect English novel.
  2. The Number of the Beast (Robert Heinlein) – Sometimes I just want to read an old-fashioned space opera with mad scientists, evil aliens, beautiful assistants, brave heroes, and lots of alternate realities. Heinlein takes that space opera, makes sure all the parts are there, and then turns it on its head. Stranger in a Strange Land might be his best novel, but this one is the most fun.
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien – I’m cheating here. It’s not possible to pick a favorite from Tolkien’s work, and I honestly enjoy reading any of it. From The Hobbit, to Smith of Wootton Major, to Roverandom. From prose to poetry to song. Tolkien’s work is vast, complex, and scholarly. You can find just about anything in it to suit any mood. It’s more than the movies could ever be.
  4. War in Heaven (Charles Williams) – Williams, a lesser-known contemporary of Tolkien (and and a member of the Inklings) is an excellent writer in his own right. War in Heaven is not considered to be his best novel, but it’s the one I like most. I’ts the story of a simple parish priest who gets caught up in a battle between good and evil over the fate of the Holy Grail.
  5. The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman) – Definitely my favorite Gaiman book. It’s associated in my mind with his book Coraline, possibly because they’re both written for younger readers. This is the story of a child who’s parents are killed, and is raised by ghosts in the graveyard. A well-written and enjoyable, if slightly odd, coming-of-age story.
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) – The classic story of love, betrayal, revenge and redemption. A bit slow in parts, but well worth the time and effort to read.
  7. The Fancy Dancer (Patricia Nell Warren) – Not as well known as her book The Front Runner, I like this one much better. Here, Warren examines the intersections of religion, culture and sexuality while telling the story of a young Roman Catholic priest and a Native American in contemporary Montana.
  8. The Father Brown mysteries (G.K. Chesterton) – Some of my favorite classic mysteries. There’s little if any violence, and Father Brown solves the mysteries using only his understanding of the human condition gained by years of work as a parish priest. It’s a whole other world from today.
  9. The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown) – The third in the author’s Robert Langdon series, this book relies much less on religious symbology than the earlier works (Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code). Using symbols visible in D.C. public spaces and monuments, Brown weaves a fascinating (and believable) story related to the founding or the American republic.
  10. Six of One (Rita Mae Brown) – If you ever need a laugh-out-loud read, this is the book. Set in the fictional town of Runnymede on the Maryland-Virginia state line, Six of One tells the story of the rivalries, lives and loves of the Hunsenmeir sisters and their friends. By far one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

So what are your favorite books? Let us know in the comments. No need to come up with a long list, just what you like.