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Top Ten [Paperback]

J Peder Zane

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Book Description

Dec 26 2006
J. Peder Zane asked 125 celebrated authors to choose ten books they loved. Did Alexander McCall Smith and Lee Smith have any in common? They are both partial to a famous adulteress. While Paul Auster and Melissa Bank don't agree on anything, they picked top ten Tolstoys, though different ones. Was it Douglas Coupland or A.M. Homes who chose Fight Club as their favourite? Zane includes essays by authors on favourite books, as well as an essay by Sven Birkerts trying to understand the top ten. Authors include: John Banville, Julian Barnes, Andrea Barrett, Peter Carey, Jim Crace, Michael Cunningham, Margaret Drabble, A.L. Kennedy, Stephen King, David Lodge, Norman Mailer, Claire Messud, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Jonathan Raban, Ian Rankin, Barry Unsworth and Tom Wolfe. With synopses of every book listed, "The Top Ten" is a guide to the classics, to some likely suspects and some thoroughly obscure titles, to books cherished by favourite writers and to years of pleasurable reading.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton; 1 edition (Dec 26 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393328406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393328400
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 21.3 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,005,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

J. PEDER ZANE is the book-review editor of the Raleigh News & Observer and the editor of Remarkable Reads (ISBN 978 0 393 32540 9). His syndicated column received the ASNE Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Top Jan. 28 2007
By Lhea J. Love - Published on
J. Peder Zane compiled 125 lists of top ten greatest books from British and American authors. Each author, from Sherman Alexie to Jennifer Weiner, ranked their 10 masterpieces in order. Each work received 10 points when ranked number 1 and thus 1 point when ranked number 10. The five works which received the greatest number of points are, (1) Anna Karenina, (2) Madame Bovary, (3) War and Peace, (4) Lolita, (5) The adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Madame Bovary actually appeared on more lists (26) than Anna Karenina (25) but Tolstoy's work was ranked higher on its lists 11 more points than Flaubert's.

The top five works by living authors are, (1) One Hundred Years of Solitude, (2) To Kill a Mockingbird, (3) Beloved, (4) The Catcher and the Rye and (5) Rabbit Angstrom. And there were a few authors who submitted lists who were fortunate to have their works mentioned on the top ten list of another artist. Michael Cunningham submitted his lists of favorites from Shakespeare's King Lear to the stories of Flannery O'Connor. Anita Shreve, author of The Pilot's Wife, placed Cunningham's The Hours in the number four spot. Stephen King includes Lord of the Flies and 1984 on his list, while David Foster Wallace and Jennifer Weiner both place King's The Stand as their second greatest book.

Shakespeare has the greatest number of works on the lists (11), yet Tolstoy collects the most points (327) off of 2 great works. Of the 125 lists there are 544 separate titles, 23 of which appeared as the greatest work on one authors list alone, not making any other list. The range of authors selected to submit top ten lists is varied and diverse including the late Bebe Moore Campbell, Sandra Cisneros, Pearle Cleage, Edwidge Danticat, Arthur Goldin, John Irving, Ha Jin, Sue Monk Kidd, Wally Lamb, Joyce Carol Oats, Ann Patchett and Robert Pinsky. While this survey of fiction does include a small sample of non-fiction and poetry, the central focus is the novel. All of the poets & non-fiction writers who were surveyed, have also published fiction works.

This book is a great guide for bloggers, who like myself, are searching for 100 great books to read this year.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed browsing this April 15 2007
By Ondre - Published on
This is a fun book to flip through. I'd argue that the least interesting thing about it is the actual Top Ten. That's not a surprising list, and considering the math used to get there any Top Ten list by any group of people (from a similar pool in terms of nationality and ethnicity) would look pretty similar.

What's fun about this is checking out the individual lists by individual authors. I was often surprised by some of the picks, and actually came away from it with a slightly altered opinion about some of the recommenders. I think it's more interesting to start at the bottom end - the books that only got one recommendation - and move forward from there.

Interesting. But it's not meant to be definitive. I think everyone involved knew that. Take it as a light, intelligent read, with some things you'll agree with and others that you'll shake your head at.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great fun for lovers of fiction. Feb. 5 2007
By fluffy, the human being. - Published on
i recently picked up a book titled "1001 books to read before you die," which is a fun enough book of its sort, but having found this book, I am much more delighted and impressed. this extremely entertaining book is not nearly as pretentious as other such books (no Gravity's Rainbow, thank heavens! no James Joyce in the all-time top ten, hooray! no Darkness at Noon, thank you). i spent all of yesterday going through it, listing things that i need to move up on my read-soon list. very down to earth and very much fun it was, indeed. thank you.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST OF THE BEST March 23 2007
By PageTurner - Published on
I stumbled across this wonderful book by accident--well, not quite by accident since as an inveterate list maker myself, I am intrigued by other list makers. But, for me, the lists are not what make this book so important. It's the 544 titles and the concise synopsis of each which help answer those infernal questions, "What should I read? What do I want to read? What am I in the mood to read?" Happily, among the inevitable tomes of Proust and George Eliot I found Stephen King, James M. Cain, Gail Parent and others to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. This book definitely should be owned by anyone who reads, wants to read or just wants to appear to read. It is great--buy it, you won't be sorry.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One man's best is another's not listed Aug. 22 2011
By Shalom Freedman - Published on
It is amusing to look through the lists of individual writers and see their favorite works, and see if they connect with the writer's own kind of writing. Two examples. Norman Mailer had the works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky on the top of his list, and one can see where his ambition to write the Great American Novel came from. Joyce Carol Oates whose love for the dark and the criminal pervades her work puts 'Crime and Punishment' on the top of her list and has a place for Kafka also.
So that is one interesting way of reading the work. And this when one might question the list of one- hundred and twenty- five noted authors also. As could be expected there are top writers with one's far lower down on the totempole. And there are many absences. I would have loved to have seen Philip Roth's favorites but he apparently did not respond.
As for the top of the top list I was surprised to see 'Anna Karenina' there. If one were to choose Tolstoy as one's greatest novelist one should certainly choose the far greater book 'War and Peace'. ( As I understand it by the way this was meant to be a list of Novels. Otherwise how explain the absence of the 'Book of Books' certainly the greatest book of all times.
I also was surprised that 'Don Quixote' was not in the top ten. If the question was asked of Literary Critics my suspicion is it would be the first.
In any case there is a lot of room in this work for pleasurable speculation and conjecture.
Very good and enjoyable if not taken too seriously.

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