Friday, May 12, 2017

38 good books (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

A few days ago, Nathan Bransford issued a challenge to name the 100 best novels. His own list is at the link, and others who have participated are linked there, too.

I'm always intrigued by such lists, but hesitant to make my own. I have opinions, yes, but I get bogged down in questions such as: What does "best" even mean? And who am I to pick the best when there are major classics I've never even read? And won't my personal tastes and nostalgia skew the list? And wow, 100 books is a lot to come up with, and there is no way I could rank them within such a list.

So I have come up with a list that I call "38 good books." These are books I like, that I would recommend, that I think have merit. This list is affected by all the issues I raised in the preceding paragraph. All that said, here are some good novels, in alphabetical order because I can't rank them:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (Lewis Carroll) 
The Associates (John Jay Osborn, Jr.) 
The Bears' House (Marilyn Sachs) 
The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath) 
Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) 
The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger) 
The Centaur (John Updike) 
Charlotte's Web (EB White) 
A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess) 
David Copperfield (Charles Dickens) 
The Dharma Bums (Jack Kerouac) 
East of Eden (John Steinbeck) 
The Fog Comes on Little Pig Feet (Rosemary Wells) 
Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh) 
Heartburn (Nora Ephron) 
How to Eat Fried Worms (Thomas Rockwell) 
Invitation to a Beheading (Vladimir Nabokov) 
Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) 
Lord of the Flies (William Golding) 
The Lover's Dictionary (David Levithan) 
Main Street (Sinclair Lewis) 
The Member of the Wedding (Carson McCullers) 
National Velvet (Enid Bagnold) 
The Outsiders (SE Hinton) 
A Pocket Full of Seeds (Marilyn Sachs) 
Persuasion (Jane Austen) 
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) 
See You at Harry's (Jo Knowles) 
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You (Peter Cameron) 
Some Girls Are (Courtney Summers) 
Sophie's Choice (William Styron) 
Sweethearts (Sara Zarr) 
This Song Will Save Your Life (Leila Sales) 
The Truth About Mary Rose (Marilyn Sachs) 
The Unchosen (Nan Gilbert) 
Unwind (Neal Shusterman) 
Up the Down Staircase (Bel Kaufman) 
We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Shirley Jackson) 

I'd actually be shocked if anyone else has read all 38, but I suppose it's a glimpse into my reading tastes. I also allow for the possibility of change; some of these books have been on every list of favorites I've ever made and I expect they always will; others might fall out of favor over time, and new books can always join the list. It's a snapshot.


  1. Love your list, Jenn! I hear you on how difficult it is to even come up with a "BEST" list and/or to rank the books. I'm bookmarking this post so I can check out the ones I haven't read. If I even dared to make such a list, the one title that comes to mind first is To Kill a Mockingbird.

    1. That has made a lot of the lists, as you may imagine.
      I'm thinking of doing a list for nonfiction, which I actually read a lot of now, maybe even more than fiction.