So this was something Nate and I were talking about yesterday, but yesterday was BIRTHDAY MADNESS, so you’re getting this a day later instead.
I bring you my TOP FIVE BOOKS!
The rules are:
1. They have to be fiction.
2. They can’t all be The Caine Mutiny.
So let’s do it. From fifth to first:
#5: The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
Choosing #5 was hardest, because there were three or four books that I could very easily see as my fifth favorite book of all time. But the winner ended up being The Ox-Bow Incident, mainly because it’s the book whose story has stuck with me the most out of the possible candidates. It speaks of the consequences of mob mentality and of abandoning established methods of seeking justice. Really good. Read it.
#4: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
I’m not a science fiction fan by any means, but I absolutely love Verne. And 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea just beats out Around the World In Eighty Days as my favorite of his stories. There’s just so much that happens and it’s written in that very characteristic “my writing style is rather dry LOL WAIT NO IT’S ALL AN ILLUSION YOU ARE ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT NOW AREN’T YOU” style that Verne has (at least in my opinion). I also really like stories about ships and the sea for some reason.
#3: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Okay, does Lolita focus on a disturbing topic? Yes. But is it beautifully written? YES. I have never had my reading arrested so many times by passages that just hit me in the heart with how astoundingly beautiful they are. Nabokov does this thing where he hints at a metaphor offhandedly and then, like 100 pages later, brings it up again and fleshes it out in a way that builds in the consequences of everything that’s happened in those intermittent 100 pages. And he does it with such smoothness that you don’t even notice it until you’ve finished the passage and go “…oh.” and have to set the book down to give your heart time to stop palpitating.
#2: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Would I have liked this book as much if I had been “forced” to read it in high school? I don’t know. I actually had a choice – it was this or some other book that was not on my “these are the books I need to read” list – and I remember I was the only one in our 10th grade class that chose this. I like Fitzgerald’s style in general (This Side of Paradise is another one of my favorites of his), but I just have a thing for the way the characters in this story are written and developed. And his style is nice and simple, but not boring. “Simple” in the sense that there is an ease to which the story unfolds, despite the fact that it is unfolding to uneasiness the whole time. I just…I really like this book.
#1: The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
I don’t quite know how this book ended up on my “these are the books I need to read” list given how few people seem to know that this book even exists, but I’m glad it did. The sad part is that I can’t tell you exactly why I like this book so much. I just do. The characters, the writing style, the plot, the general mood it gives off – I just like it. I love it. It’s absolutely my favorite book. I think I first read it when I was in junior high and it has yet to be dethroned. Go read it, yo.
(Also, the copy I have has the best typeface.)
WELL TODAY SUCKED.
But let’s not talk about that. Let’s do a book review instead.
Let’s review The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Clark! Spoilers as usual.
Have I read this before: Yes! Summer of 2007.
Review: I like this book, man. It’s technically a western, which is about on par with fantasy in terms of being a genre that I’m not particularly fond of, but it’s a good book. It’s a story about a mob that goes out searching for a group of supposed cattle rustlers and murderers. There is a wide variety of opinions within the mob regarding the legality and moral implications of their plans (lynching the suspected rustlers/murderers once they’re found). Even though the book is written from the perspective of one of the drifters who kind of gets drawn into the mob, you really get a good sense of these different perspectives, especially the perspective of Davies, the man who is most strongly opposed to the lynchings. Despite a decent amount of opposition once they find the three rustling/murdering suspects, the mob ends up lynching them. Once they return to town, they find out that the suspects were telling the truth—they neither rustled any cattle nor murdered anyone.
Favorite part: It’s pretty bad to say this is my favorite part, but I really enjoyed the struggle of Davies as he discusses his guilt with Art (one of the drifters) after they return to town from the lynching.
“There wasn’t proof,” I [Art] said angrily. “You don’t get all set for a hanging and stop for some little feeling you have.”
“You might,” he [Davies] said, “when you’re hanging on a feeling too.”
So I’ve seen about seven of my Facebook friends post something along the lines of “what book should I read next?” as their little status update thingy. Even though maybe two people from Facebook check out this blog on a semi-regular basis, I’m posting here my top 10 favorite/most highly recommended books with little itty bitty one-sentence synopses. I know I’ve done this a couple times before, but the list keeps changing ever-so-slightly and hell, it’s always good to have book recommendations close at hand, right?
10. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
One-sentence synopsis: Vladimir and Estragon wait…and wait…and wait…
9. Watership Down by Richard Adams
One-sentence synopsis: a colony of rabbits set out in search of a new warren and face many perils on their journey.
8. On The Beach by Nevil Shute
One-sentence synopsis: In a post-WWIII world, we get a glimpse into the slow suffering of those living in Australia as they wait for the atmospheric winds to bring the nuclear fallout down from the north.
7. The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Clark
One-sentence synopsis: A group of justice-seeking townspeople (and two drifters) set out to find and punish three men presumed to be cattle rustlers and murderers.
6. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
One-sentence synopsis: Wealthy (and badass) Londoner Phileas Fogg wagers that he can travel around the world in 80 days.
5. Watchmen by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons
One-sentence synopsis: In this graphic novel, an ex-super hero is murdered, his fellow ex-super heroes speculate about his death, and we are privy to an intricate tale of their past and present lives in an alternate 1980s time.
4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
One-sentence synopsis: through a confessional outpouring, we learn of lit professor Humbert Humbert’s romantic obsession with 12-year-old Lolita.
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
One-sentence synopsis: Nick Carraway becomes a neighbor to the wealthy, party-happy, mysterious Jay Gatsby and learns more about him and those he associates with through a series of social and private encounters.
2. Candide by Voltaire
One-sentence synopsis: A sheltered young man, influenced by his teacher, is convinced he lives in the best of all possible worlds (LEINBIZ REFERENCE ZOMG), even as he experiences all sorts of exciting disasters.
1. The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
One-sentence synopsis: US Navy Ensign Willie Keith finds himself on a WWII US minesweeper ship that has happened to fall under the command of an insane captain.
Now, don’t those sound good? Pick one, dear blog-follower, and read!