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And the Best Books Ever are…

The bestselling single book of all time is estimated to be Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote with 500 million copies sold. (Major religious and political texts not counted.)
But Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time with over 2 billion books sold.
And JK Rowling is the world’s highest-paid author at $1 billion.
Oh, and we shouldn’t forget Enheduanna, who started this madness. She is the first known author, born in 2285 BCE. People were reading her poetry before there was a Bible.

But when I try to choose a “best,” I think the best book is a very personal choice having nothing to do with copies sold, monies paid, or literary acclaim. It’s the book that did what great books are supposed to do. It changed me. I saw the world a bit clearer after reading Catch 22, understood people better after reading The Will To Power, and saw science fiction differently after reading Dhalgren. Not that I’m stuck with those viewpoints. I’m still reading.

What about your favorite book(s)? What ones had a significant impact on you?

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26 thoughts on “And the Best Books Ever are…

  1. MamaSquid says:

    Catch-22 is a joy to read and I’ve read more Nietzsche than I could fit in a favorite book list. Funny you mentioned two of my favorite authors. As a writer, no work had as much impact on my development as Catcher in the Rye. I was thirteen when I read it and it redefined my understanding of voice and character. It’s also probably why my work is littered with profanity! Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine is the masterpiece that snuck up on me. Everything Bradbury does is golden. The man somehow made a green wagon interesting.

    My favorite book? A young girl behaving assertively in a mad world – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But the one that speaks the most to my adult self is Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold. A space opera tale of trauma, redemption, and fraternal love, complete with a terrifying villain. It’s first and foremost a book about the healing power of love and loyalty. I will gush about it ad nauseam if I don’t stop now. Can’t wait to hear what other people love.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mike DiMatteo says:

    Welp – I was never a huge reader of literature…mostly sports books like Greatest Baseball Teams or Gamebreakers of the NFL (70’s stuff). Then, as a college student, I, on accident, picked up a book entitled Napoleon and the Awakening of Europe. 100+ pages. I’d never read a book like that before and I have no earthly reason to know why I did that day…but I did. I only understood about half of it…but was enthralled. After that, I became a voracious reader of history, philosophy and whatever else I could get my hands on related to history. I branched off from there and the rest is, well, history.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Illustrated books are another category of my “favorite” books. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, of course. And The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam. Even an illustrated copy of Kidnapped by Stevenson and an old Robin Hood. The older the better. Especially those with illustrations pasted into the book. I have two Rubaiyats. One with traditional illustrations by Hamzeh Abd-Ullah Kar.
    The other is illustrated in 1920’s style by Willy Pogany:
    https://www.first-folio.com/pictures/21348_6.JPG?v=1535066455

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Catcher in the Rye
    The Great Gatsby
    For Whom the Bell Tolls
    Green Hills of Africa
    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    In the Heart of the Heart of the Country – William H. Gass
    A River Runs Through It – Norman Maclean
    Mutiny on the Bounty Trilogy
    In A Time of Revolution – (a poetry collection from the 1960s)

    These are the ones that come to mind quickly, so they must be my favorites, the most memorable. I have read a lot of great books These are the ones that I read repeatedly and regularly.

    Liked by 4 people

        • mimispeike says:

          Good for you, Perry. I would have loved you, I’m sure.

          I was a rebel who pretended to go along, in god-fearing-conservative, small-town, late-fifties Florida. Until I got away from home. Then I exploded with anger and frustration.

          At that time, in home room each morning, every student, for a week, was required to read from the bible. Each morning I flipped the damn thing open and found the shortest passage that presented itself. At the end of my week, a classmate told me, “you read exactly the same thing every day.” I didn’t do it on purpose, I swear.

          I wish I had stood up and refused to go along. The possibility of doing that never occurred to me. I protested quietly. Like at mass (we were Catholic). The people stood. I remained seated. They kneeled. I remained seated. They mouthed the responses. I kept sullenly silent. And so on.

          My parents wondered (and expressed it to me) what had happened to their good little girl. I didn’t try to tell them because I knew they wouldn’t have understood it.

          All Huckleberry Finn types should stand together.

          In that time period – seventh-eighth-ninth grades – what book did I especially delight in, read cover to cover in about a day and a half? (It was summertime.) Gone With The Wind.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Mimi, we had rebels in our little school. I admired them. I wasn’t one of them.

            My mom died when I was 10. My dad drank and he worked long hours for little pay. We lived out in the country and we were poor. I didn’t have any rules at home – nothing to rebel against.

            In school I wasn’t an outcast, just ignored by the other kids. The lessons were easy and I was bored. I quietly did the school work and then thought up stories about my childhood teddy bear Tommy, King of the Island Kingdom of Tomicia. He would ask me to ride with him in his horse-drawn coach through the broad roads, and citizens would come out of their houses to wave and call out to him.

            When I wasn’t in school I was tramping in the woods, fishing and hunting for grouse, sleeping out maybe once a week in the summer. The first night I slept out alone, at age 11, a Canada Lynx screamed for an hour, first far away and then closer. It was terrifying and delicious. The nights it rained were as memorable as the nights when I watched the Milky Way turn a million stars in the sky. On a few days and nights I met bears. Gotta love those bears.

            The moms in the neighborhood pitied me I suppose, not having a mother of my own. But they were wary of me pulling their sons into my ways. When I came around the moms told their boys they had chores to do and no, they couldn’t go with me. I spent most of my summer and weekend days and nights alone. I decided that it suited me.

            High school was the same. As a football, basketball, and baseball player I would go home after a game, not invited to the parties of my teammates and their girls.

            The book I remember reading in junior high school was Moby Dick.

            Liked by 2 people

  5. Illustrated books is a very creative category. The Boris Vallejo Portfolio. And Charles M. Schultz’s Peanut’s Classics and Peanuts Treasury. I followed the comic strips in the daily newspapers, then bought each book long after. Gems of humorous philosophy about the human condition, they are.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Now there’s a book for our times: Slaughterhouse-Five. I remember something about “wars coming like glaciers,” because there’s an inevitability and sameness about them.

      I’ve always enjoyed the comics as commentary. Peanuts puts a gentle humor into its philosophy. Calvin & Hobbes whacks you with it.

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  6. ~As an elementary/junior high school student:
    Rusty’s Space Ship by Evelyn Sibley Lampman
    The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall and Erik Blegvad
    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
    Green Mansions by William Henry Hudson
    Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
    Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the LotR trilogy

    Each of those took me to places I hadn’t imagined and introduced me to ideas I didn’t know existed. I’ve read all of them multiple times.

    ~As a high school/college student:
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
    Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
    Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce convinced me I’d finally learned to read.

    ~As an adult reading only for my own enjoyment:
    Psychic Warrior by David Morehouse was the most eye-opening, mind-bending non-fiction I’d ever come across.
    But if I were allowed only one book I could recommend during my lifetime, it would be Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. Many write from the head, Fewer write from the heart. Roberts writes from the soul.

    I wouldn’t say any one of them is my all-time favorite. They each fill different needs, and each has made a difference in how I see things.

    Liked by 3 people

    • SUE, if you enjoyed Tolkien, the Harvard Lampoon version, “Bored Of The Rings,” is a must read.

      “Toes, I love hairy toes,” she moaned, forcing him down on the silvered carpet. Her tiny, pink toes caressed the luxuriant fur of his instep while Frito’s nose sought out the warmth of her precious elf-navel.

      “But I’m so small and hairy, and . . . and you’re so beautiful,” Frito whimpered, slipping clumsily out of his crossed garters.

      The elf-maiden said nothing, but only sighed deep in her throat and held him more firmly to her faunlike body. “There is one thing you must do for me first,” she whispered into one tufted ear.

      “Anything,” sobbed Frito, growing frantic with his need. “Anything!”

      She closed her eyes and then opened them to the ceiling. “The Ring,” she said. “I must have your Ring.”

      Frito’s whole body tensed. “Oh no,” he cried, “not that! Anything but . . . that.”

      Liked by 2 people

  7. mimispeike says:

    “What about your favorite book(s)? What ones had a significant impact on you?”

    I know you mean books that we would recommend to other readers. And I’ve read around half of the books mentioned above, and I did love them, and still have many of them on my bookshelves.

    But the books closest to my heart, collected over fifty years of book scavenging, now either pricey or impossible to replace, are my books on cinema and theater. (I was a major in costume design in art school. The collecting started there.)

    Just across from me is a shelf devoted to the subject. I have several books on classic operas, several more on Gilbert and Sullivan – I’m looking over, trying to read the spines without getting up – Images of Show Business . . . Hollywood: The Pioneers (early cinema) . . . I have much on so-called ‘Golden Age’ Cinema . . . The Art of Leon Bakst . . . London: The Glamour Years 1919-39 (many, many books on the style of the early twentieth century).

    Of my hoard, the book I prize most highly, I can’t give you a title at the moment, it is stored away, protected, too fragile to handle lightly, is an oversized volume published around 1880, images and bios of the foremost performers on Broadway of the day. Hmmm – a title begins to come to me. The title may be: The Theater of Today.

    I’ve seen a handful of the images on the web, but this book is packed with publicity shots from the top productions of the top stars. A few of these folks went on to appearances in film. Most you probably have never heard of.

    I’m seventy-five. At some point I have to consider moving into a care facility. I agonize over what books I will take with me. I’m sure they don’t let you take five-thousand books.

    I would take my show-biz books with me. And hope to park my history books with a friend I can call and ask: bring me my bios of Henry of Navarre. (Etc.) You’ll find them in the boxes labeled ‘Sixteenth Century.’

    For sure I’ll take Don Q and Tristram Shandy, and try to finish them before I kick the bucket.

    It does my heart good to look over from my computer and see my dozens of books on costume and style, better than you would find at most libraries.

    You can chase down this material these days on the web. Before the web, it took energy and persistence, and luck, to get your hands on this stuff. To me, that shelf of books is solid gold.

    In terms of fiction: Kidnapped and Treasure Island are two books I reread regularly. And I love the Horatio Hornblower series. I’ll look through my shelves and see what else I admire above all else.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. mimispeike says:

    GD, you and Sue both spur me to action, and I thank you for it. I rummaged upstairs through my fiction, looking for other favorites. I did not find them. I paused my search when I came across The Art and Craft of Fiction, which, the author explains, focuses on short stories–to discuss novels is more than he wishes to tackle.

    There are the usual do’s and don’ts, and fifteen shorties are included. I am reading them, some with extreme, some with lesser, delight. This is a valuable exercise, to dissect why some turn me on, some not. I have also discovered a psychological study of Jane Austen, another very enjoyable work.

    I own many books that I have never opened. I expect I have many favorites upstairs. I just don’t know it yet.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. mimispeike says:

    Off the top of my head.

    Tristram Shandy. A top favorite of mine, although I’m only a third of the way in. I love the approach, something like my own, though Sterne takes it a lot further. Tristram was the blockbuster best-seller of the early eighteenth century.

    Gulliver’s Travels! Did you know that the first edition sold out by the end of the first week?

    Tristram and Don Q are both huge books. I have had trouble reading for years. I have read in small bites. For years I’ve felt my degradation of eyesight (in my right eye, my good eye. I’ve had that lazy-eye condition since I was a child) was related to a tooth problem, but I was told by multiple doctors, eye specialists, dentists, that this was impossible.

    The tooth was under a cap, it was not easy to diagnose. Three-four years ago I demanded the tooth be pulled. Since then I find, to my joy, that my vision has improved. I’m reading with relative ease. Not like when I read for hours straight at fourteen, but a miracle improvement. I feel up to jumping back on Tristram and Don Q.

    Do not buy the pronouncements of genius specialists! Go with your gut feeling!

    Liked by 1 person

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