Originating from trying to detail my top 10 books for a friend, Farrant’s Top 25 is my list of favourite books. These books have touched me in such a way that they will be forever remembered; not necessarily listed for technique or subject matter, or even because they left me feeling happy, these 25 pieces of literature are what I believe everyone should read in their lifetime.
As I am a forever altering human being I open this list to changes and it has changed more than once since inception, however, in feeling it remains the same.
- The only books that have ever given me anxiety, I was that engrossed. Christopher Tietjens, Sylvia Tietjens and Valentine Wannop are impossible to escape. This is one of the best depictions of war, and the monotony of it, I have ever read. Usually I steer away from fiction detailing war; Parade’s End has forced me to learn more. There is a love story too; it’s fairly fantastic, however, the prose describing love do not match the prose describing war:
“The beastliness of human nature is always pretty normal. We lie and betray and are wanting in imagination and deceive ourselves, always, at about the same rate. In peace and war! But, somewhere in that view there are enormous bodies of men….. If you got a still more extended range of view over this whole front you’d have still more enormous bodies of men. Seven to ten million… All moving towards places towards which they desperately don’t want to go. Desperately! Everyone of them is desperately afraid. But they go on. An immense blind will forces them in the effort to consummate the one decent action that humanity has to its credit in the whole record of history; the one we are engaged in. The effort is the one certain creditable fact in all their lives…. But the other lives of all those men are dirty, potty and discreditable little affairs…. Like yours… Like mine…”
- Masterfully constructed and well written; it has a shaky middle, but is one of the best dystopians I have ever encountered.
3. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
- This will give you a whole knew perspective on how you judge war crimes and how blame is distributed. More specifically how it is easier to blame someone, and condemn them, when you are completely detached from them.
4. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
- This does not need explaining, it should just be read.
5. Persuasion by Jane Austen
- My favourite romance ever written. Anne Elliott, unlike Austen’s younger protagonists, is wiser and more realistic; she is intelligent. Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne completes the novel
“I am half agony, half hope.”
- Beautiful in it’s simplicity and raw (but controlled) emotion.
- Even though Hadley Freeman, Hemingway’s first wife, is not characterised, she can be seen represented in Jake’s impotence. That really says nothing of the story, but if you read The Paris Wife you’ll see what I mean.
7. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- The ultimate of all sci-fi novels, a must read even if you hate sci-fi. You get from Ender’s Game a philosophical journey you never expect. Intellectual space travel at it’s best.
8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
- I spent the majority of this novel crying; over the characters, death, war and injustice. Ultimately it taught me about a culture I knew nothing of.
9. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
- Disturbing and passionate love, the opposite to Persuasion:
“I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.”
10. A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin
- Dragons, kick ass female characters, Tyrion, Starks, fire, Snow, magic, greenseer, the Iron Throne, politics, war, love, zombies.
11. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
- I cried; again. This is emotionally blistering.
12. The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
- More crying; it may be concerning I cry more at literature than real life, but I am choosing to ignore it.
13. Heroes and Villains by Angela Carter
- Feminist mastery.
14. One Day by David Nicholls
- A romance for people who hate romances.
15. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
- Ten people visit an island, none return alive. The genius lies not only in the mystery, but in the lack of a detective leading the story.
16. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- You need to live life for the journey not the conclusion, follow your dreams and make all you can of your life. Yes, this is sentimental, but the warm fuzzy kind that doesn’t make you want to hurt people; the Coldplay of literature.
17. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- One of the four Lost Generation novels on this list, Fitzgerald triumphs with the fall of Gatsby and the hedonistic lifestyle he promotes. You’ve probably already read this, but it is worth being here nonetheless.
- Written periodically by the narrator over time, we are told about a series of events through varying states of our narrators mood. He beings shell shocked, continues angry, moves into indifference and finally settles into acceptance. Due to his fluctuating moods we can never been totally sure of what happened and what the other characters where really like. Was Edward a good soldier? We never really know.
- Following the journey of discovery of Celie in the face of the constrictions of her gender and race, she learns to find and love herself.
20. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- I have probably seen the film version of this over 100 times, it is the reason I read the book. My middle name is Mary, I get called contrary, I am sure you can see where this is going. Well, actually you can’t because you have no idea what the book is about; further reason to read it. It is pretty short, it won’t take long.
21. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- I want to be part of the March family.
22. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
- One of the best protagonists I have ever read; Ignatius Jacques Reilly is a parasitic anti-hero. He lives with his mum, is obese, refuses to hold down a job, intelligent but delusional and disdains modernity.
23. The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde
24. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
- So.Fucking.Creepy. Never have I loved a début novel as much as this one!
25. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
- Possibly one of the most disturbing books I have ever read. It’s set in Scotland, where I am no convinced no sane people meet. There is one scene in a hospital involving a baby and some maggots and I struggled to read.
Just in case you hadn’t put two and two together, I’m Farrant.
What are your favourite books? Disagree with any of mine?