My 10 Favorite Novels of All Time

August 17th, 2010 by Bob Bly

The other day one of my subscribers asked me, “Bob, do you read novels?” The answer, of course, is yes.

Here are my 10 favorite novels (the list includes a play widely published in book form and a “nonfiction novel”):

1–Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.
2–A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.
3–Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
4–The Shootist by Glen Swarthout.
5–Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny.
6–To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
7–In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.
8–South of Broad by Pat Conroy.
9–The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
10. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

What’s your favorite novel?

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33 responses about “My 10 Favorite Novels of All Time”

  1. Wendy Sullivan said:

    I would say Lolita, Lamb (Christopher Moore) and Anna Karenina. I try to read Atlas every couple of years, but those endless orations unnerve me.

    Great list!

    Wendy

  2. Mark McClure said:

    Replay by Ken Grimwood

    A time-travel classic.
    What if you could live your life over
    Again? And again? And again?

    Think of all those copywriting gigs you could ‘rewrite’- knowing what’s to unfold. The main characters are not copywriters (!) but the novel’s attraction is that almost anyone reading it will see the terrifying potential of a precognitively-arranged life.

  3. Jon Maas said:

    My favorites are “Lost Empires” by J.B. Priestley & “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh. Honorable mention to “The Age Of Innocence” and “The Buccaneers” by Edith Wharton. And of course, every word written by P.G. Wodehouse.

    As far as contemporary literature, “Handling Sin” by Michael Malone is absolute howl and a genuine masterpiece.

  4. Bill Perry said:

    “Daddy” by Loup Durand

    and

    “The Vampire Lestat” by Anne Rice

  5. Melody said:

    “To Kill a Mockingbird” is my favorite novel and my favorite movie.

    In second and third place…”1984″ and the Twilight saga. There, someone had to say it. :-)

  6. S.P. Gass said:

    My favorite novel so far is Deep Six by Clive Cussler. In terms of classics, it’s hard to beat the first three chapters of White Fang by Jack London.

  7. Jim said:

    I too like Pat Conroy–but (imho) Beach Music and Prince of Tides are much better books than South of Broad…

  8. Richard said:

    The Unconsoled by Ishiguro
    The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
    Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
    The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever
    I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabil
    The Shipping News Annie Proulx

  9. Ryan McGrath said:

    My tastes are mostly for literature, or genre fiction…

    Here are couple of my favorites not on Bob’s list:

    Tunnel in the Sky – RA Heinlein (SF)
    A Deepness in the Sky – Vernor Vinge (hard SF)
    Red Harvest – Dashiell Hammett (hardboiled)
    Sharpe’s Eagle – Bernard Cornwell (historical)
    The Space Trilogy – CS Lewis (fantasy/SF)
    The Deep Blue Goodby – John MacDonald (mystery)
    A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens (lit)
    Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson (SF)

  10. dava said:

    I’ve tried to make a list like this before and can’t. There are just too many. A top 10 list for music is equally impossible to make. It’s fun reading your lists, though.

  11. Fern Dickey said:

    Here are my books, in no particular order:
    1. Catch 22, Joseph Heller
    2. King Rat, James Clavell
    3. The Cider House Rules, John Irving
    4. Sight Hound: A Novel, Pam Houston
    5. Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s, John Elder Robison
    6. If This Is a Man and The Truce, Primo Levi
    7. Dry: A Memoir, Augusten Burroughs
    8. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
    9. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
    10. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
    11. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
    12. A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
    13. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
    14. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

  12. kelja said:

    Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainence – Robert M. Pirsig

    Moby Dick – Hermann Melvill

  13. Annette said:

    Hi Bob,

    There are a few on your list that I’m unfamiliar with – new books to check out!

    The Great Gatsby is one of my absolute favorites.

    Also:
    American Gods – Neil Gaiman
    Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

    and as a kid I read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis at least a dozen times.

    Fun post!

  14. Brian Birnbaum said:

    I’ve not read 9 out of the 10 books listed. However, I did begin Atlas Shrugged but it really wasn’t my cup of tea.

    My favorite book, bar none, is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

    Escapism at it’s very finest.

    High on the list are also Colleen Mccullough ‘s Rome series. Absolutely love them, and pretty well any novel that details Ancient Rome.

    Brian

  15. Steve Rainwater said:

    Hi Bob,

    I read The Shootist in high school and it was always one of my favorites, but I don’t think I ever saw it on anyone else’s list. I still have the paperback.

    Someone just recommended A Prayer for Owen Meany to me and I’d actually never heard of it until he mentioned it. He’d just read it and said it was one of the best novels he’d read; so with your added high regard, I think it’ll be my next read.

    Not sure if I have a top 10 or a hands down favorite when it comes to novels, but high on my list are The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (and everything else by Dickens). I read Lord of the Rings last year for the first time. It definitely makes the list.

  16. Clay said:

    Great list!

    Lord of the Rings may be my favorite, but I also liked Ender’s Game, and devoured the Leatherstocking books by James Fennimore Cooper.

    However, there is a special place in my heart for A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. It was the book that, when I read it in 5th grade, convinced me I wanted to be a writer.

  17. Neil Arthur said:

    Robert Heinlein’s Methuselah’s Children, added to many of those mentioned. My copy is now loose-leaf from repeat readings.

  18. Stephanie Janard said:

    You listed some good ones, for sure…several on my top faves list, as well. Here’s a few more:

    Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
    Germinal by Zola
    The Stranger by Albert Camus
    Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
    Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
    …Flannery O’Connor’s short stories

    And for professional guidance, I haven’t gone wrong with your own books, Bob! Thanks for writing them.

  19. Stephanie Janard said:

    Gosh, I see someone mentioned an author I can’t believe I forgot to include in my own list…John Steinbeck! Truly one of the greatest writers of all time. And now that I think about it, I also left out Jack London and Jack Kerouac…what was I thinking??

  20. Carl said:

    Thanks for this list! It inspired me to do a lot of thinking about the novels (and poetry and plays) that truly influenced me both as a person and as a writer. Inspired me so much that I wrote my own blog post about it, which you can find at: http://carlthoren.com/books/my-favorite-novels/

    Here’s my list, organized by the time period in which I first read the book:

    Childhood:

    Where the Wild Things Are

    The Winnie the Pooh books

    Teens:

    Watership Down

    Dune (the 3-part series)

    Pickwick Papers

    College:

    The Sun Also Rises

    Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

    Hamlet (and pretty much all Shakespeare)

    Poetry by William Blake, Keats, Byron, Yeats, and T.S. Eliot

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    Joseph Conrad’s short stories (especially those narrated by “Marlow,” including Youth and Heart of Darkness)

    The Plague

    Post college/Adulthood:

    War and Peace

    Master and Margarita

    Catch-22

    The Importance of Being Earnest

    Arms and the Man

    A Confederacy of Dunces

  21. Henry Woods said:

    The Great Gatsby‘ (http://www.shmoop.com/great-gatsby/) is one of my favorite books, too. The story of the great American Dream has always fascinated me. Here is the story of Jay Gatsby, a man who gains wealth through dubious means, who is hopelessly in love, and wants to bring back the past into his present. Sound familiar? And to top all this, we have the backdrop of the `Roaring Twenties’. Many a times I feel this book is a historical fiction because it throws light on the times it was written in. Shmoop’s take on this very popular book gave me some new insights. Worth going through!

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