Friday, December 27, 2013

The Best of the Best

As the year ends, countless critics and journalists routinely formulate lists of the top ten this-or-that.

I have seldom followed this tradition, despite temptations to do so. This year, somehow, is different--except that, in compiling a list of the best books I have read, I do not limit myself to works published (or read) this year. (Such is the freedom of the blogger.) Rather I recall the reading I have done in the past few years, fiction and non-fiction, that has opened my eyes to new insights in memorable ways. One criterion for inclusion: an elegant prose style. 

I have looked at other fine books and many articles, but the following stand out; many were mentioned somewhere in this blog. They are not listed in any particular order.  I begin with two works of fiction.

1.  Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
2.  Tobias Woolf, Old School
3. Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory
4. Philip Ball, Universe of Stone (on the Gothic cathedral)
5. Robert Edsel, Saving Italy
6. Jonathan Spence, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci
7. James Finley, Merton's Palace of Nowhere
8. Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
9. Gay Talese, A Writer's Life
10.  Stephanie Saldana, The Bread of Angels

I wish everyone who reads this a wonderful new year of reading, enlightenment, and peace.

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