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The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  232 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
You'll find the answer in The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books: the ultimate guide to the world's greatest books. As writers such as Norman Mailer, Annie Proulx, Stephen King, Jonathan Franzen, Claire Messud, Margaret Drabble, Michael Chabon and Peter Carey name the ten books that have meant the most to them, you'll be reminded of books you have always loved and ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton Company
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Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
I browsed through this book a few weeks back during a bookstore visit and put it back on the shelf; my quick assessment found it tediously monotonous, with all the writers picking the same few classics. I couldn’t pass it up for two dollars at a book sale, however. It did read with deadly repetition for the majority of the book: Macbeth…Macbeth…Macbeth…Middlemarch…Middlemarch…Middlemarch…War and Peace…War and Peace…War and Peace. It was the surprises, the little known favorites, that I found to ...more
Nov 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a really interesting and helpful book to gain some new book recommendations! I'm a sucker for lists, particularly book lists, so having a bunch of lists from various authors depicting their top 10 books was perfect for me.

The good thing about this book is that it provides a mini synopsis for every single book mentioned, even ones with only one single vote, so I was able to decide if I wanted to add them to my TBR list on my phone without having to individually search all the books I th
Sep 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
oddly laid out - bare bone lists with few expansions, a ranking points system and a mandate that kind of shoots itself in the foot: the cover claims the writers choose their favourite books but really, they're trying to choose the "greatest" books and appear weighty. I utterly respected the authors who had the balls to choose their actual favourites, like David Foster Wallace with his genre fiction list that was meant to screw with the whole system. But really, how many times can you read a list ...more
Amanda Patterson
Nov 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Interesting. Most writers will be curious to discover their favourite author's choices. It becomes boring quickly when you realise it's simply a book of random lists. The drawback is the lack of reason for the book's existence.
Susan Liston
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2017
I love reading about what other people read. (duh, here I am on Goodreads) And I love lists, so this was cool. There were quite a few books I'd never heard of....the last part of this book features a brief synopsis of every one mentioned, which was helpful in making a new To Read list of my own. One question...were all these authors really honest? Did they pick what they thought were the ten best books they've read or what are actually their ten favorites? There is often a big difference. Hard t ...more
Mugren Ohaly
Jul 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
The essays/book reviews are worthless fodder used to give the illusion that the book contains substance rather than just lists of authors' favorite books. Ignore them and go straight to the lists of your favorite authors.

Also, the first half of the book is the collection of lists and the second half is a list of all the books chosen in order of "best" to "worst".
Sep 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting look at what 125 different writers think are the top ten books they've ever read.

The lists are somewhat interesting but reading list after list gets boring very quickly. Even if you look up the lists made by your favorite writers they really aren't very helpful or useful. Even the "top top ten list" or the sub-lists don't really pack any punch. I guess that's to be expected with any huge list of lists---there's just so much information it becomes overwhelming and shrug-inducing.

Nov 04, 2012 rated it liked it
First I will have to cop to a certain proclivity for top ten lists and also for the tabulation of points based upon an item’s appearance on those lists to make other top ten lists. Then if you make those top tens the favorite books of 125 contemporary authors, you have me hooked. This is a nice book to pick through at your leisure over time, otherwise reading list after list could become rather maddening. After the author’s lists, a synopsis of each book appears in the order of its popularity fr ...more
I really like hearing about other peoples' favorite books, so the first half of The Top Ten, in which 125 authors list their top ten books, was enjoyable despite some drawbacks: all of the authors were American or British, I hadn't heard of most of them (though I'm planning to check some of them out based on their brief bios and their top ten selections), and almost none of the lists included commentary from the authors on why they'd selected those particular books.

The composite lists in the app
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What to read? That is the question. Given a finite life span and an almost infinite number of choices, how can we decide which books are truly worth our time? Harold Bloom's The Western Canon is one of the best sources. Bloom's book is very subjective but succeeds based on his enormous store of learning. Although Zane is not remotely in Bloom's league, he uses a quasi-scientific approach to come up with a pretty good list. He sent questionnaires to some of the top writers alive asking them to na ...more
Jul 16, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: everyone!
Recommended to Lynecia by: Leah J. Love
It took me quite a while to get through this book! Lists and lists of top ten books (from various authors, some of them favorites of mine) was both interesting and tedious. The second half of this book gave paragraph synopsis of all the books chosen--it's a treasure trove of literature! Lots of the chosen titles were unique, sometimes obscure works,mixed with old faithfuls such as "Anna Karenina" and "Pride and Prejudice"...This is a great reference book for those who want some new, interesting ...more
Oct 14, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a fun book that I found one day while browsing the library shelves. It is a list of writers' top ten book lists. It features writers like Michael Chabon, Stephen King, Jennifer Weiner, Ann Patchett and more. It was interesting to see their top picks. The only downside is that many of the lists contain the same classics. Once in a while though, there is an interesting and unique pick that will go on to your "to read" list. :-) If anything, getting a peak at a favorite author's list provid ...more
May 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, lists
Editor Zane asked 125 writers to select their top ten favorite books, yielding the expected (Anna Karenina got the most votes, followed by Madame Bovary) and the unexpected:

--David Foster Wallace really likes Stephen King's The Stand
--Annie Proulx calls the project "difficult, pointlesss, and wrong-headed, but submits 10 anyway, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Black Book
--Nobody picked Dracula
--544 books were selected, 23 of which earned a top slot but no other, including I, Claud
Chris Gager
Feb 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Got this one via special order from the local library and spent most of the evening checking it out. Lotsa good trivia. There are 544 "works" represented, including many books and authors(including the ones submitting lists) that I never heard of. Literature - what a vast and fertile land! I gave myself a score of 113/544. Probably not all that bad but I'll use the book to add more stuff to my too-read list! By the way, this book lists James Joyce as a British writer... what about Irish??? He ma ...more
Shonna Froebel
Nov 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
125 leading American and British authors were asked to provide "a list, ranked, in order, of what you consider the ten greatest works of fiction of all time--novels, story collections, plays, or poems." A few also picked some non-fiction works. The books were given points based on their ranking and an overall ranked list was created. The choices of each author are also given, book summaries are included and other short commentaries. I was fascinated and decided I must have my own copy, so have ...more
May 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
125 Writers including Peter Carey, Annie Proulx, Sandra Cisneros, and Michael Cunningham list their favorite books. Most of the lists are simply that--a listing of their favorite works, but there are descriptions of each work in the appendix, and scattered throughout, some of the authors have written appreciations of favorite books. The editor uses a strange system to rank the works in several categories, e.g., Top 10 Works of the 20th Century, Top 10 Works by Russian Authors, but overall it is ...more
Jul 14, 2012 rated it liked it
I love lists of greatest books, and this book has lots of lists. 125 authors list their personal top 10, which are compiled into the top top 10. Then all 544 books listed are briefly described. I’ve been reading too many bad or mediocre books lately, so I’m looking back to the greats for a sure thing. There are so many I still haven’t touched, and several I want to reread. Made for an enjoyable couple hours of dreaming about what to pick up next.
Jan 13, 2008 rated it liked it
On one hand, I really didn't recognize many of the writers compiling lists, and too often there wasn't a lot of personal reasoning behind their choices. On the other hand, who better to create a master list of great books to enjoy. The list at the end with general plot synopses (minus spoilers) is very useful for those who are trying to create a "to read" list of literature's great works.
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
I used this book to help seed my reading choices in the first year of my retirement. It was a great way to fill in the gaps in my classics education. The abstracts of all the books were really helpful. Ironically, the lists of each writer's top 10 picks were the least interesting aspect of the book for me.
Jul 26, 2007 rated it liked it
This book is great for picking out your next read. It is a compilation of authors' top ten books with brief explanations as to why they have chosen them. As a rule I try to read at least two classics a year and this is how I usually select which one to read next.
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
one of least fun list books ever made, just simply in the presentation, but one of the best ideas for a list book. because of this i found it very depressing. sure, theres a couple tidbits, but this shoulda been a goldmine.
Jun 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Picked this up somewhere and read it while I was home with food poisoning. Quick read, because of the large number of lists and the synopses of books on those lists. An interesting glimpse into some people's opinions of what makes a book great.
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
While I appreciate the exposure to lists of books I didn't know I wanted to read, I'm not sure I understand the point of this collection of lists. There are so many absences, and the question of what makes a book great just hovers around every list.
Sep 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Fun for browsing both for new ideas and to see if there is some alignment among some of my favored authors. Perfect for no attention span times, when I like magazines or poetry books. I can read a few and be done.
Dec 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own, ebooks
The lists introduced me to a number of books I might never have heard of otherwise. The essays included also provided an interesting digression from what would have otherwise been a very dry collection of lists.
Dianne Merridith
Jul 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books
It was very interesting to see what authors themselves believe are the best books. I got lots of ideas for future reading.
Jun 04, 2013 is currently reading it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 13, 2007 rated it liked it
I love list books, and this one was OK, but didn't seem to have a clear point (other than that there is a surprising amount of agreement about "best books" among writers).
Korie Beth Brown
I thought I was well-read; now I know that "well-read" is an impossibility! I've got a looong reading list to get through..... *happy sigh*..... what a great problem to have! Joy! Joy!
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It was fascinating to read author's lists of favorite books!
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