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My Top Ten Unforgettable Books

I've always been a keen reader and have so many books that I couldn't hope to read them all in my lifetime. I love being surrounded by them

By Definition Unforgettable Books Have an Enduring Quality

You remember them years later, and keep harking back to them in your mind.

My ten unforgettable books are not necessarily enjoyable, but they might give you ideas for presents.

These Books All Contained Something Which Moved Me

Several of the books are translations and a few are written in English by foreign authors--the stories spread across the world, and show what we already know: that good stories are found everywhere.

I used to think that reading a book in translation would detract from the quality and nuances of the language it was originally written in, but I have not found this to be the case with any of the translations of these books, and I must acknowledge that I have been very impressed with the powerful writing of the translators, with their obvious love of language.

Matthias Stomer (1600 - 1650): Young Man Reading by Candlelight

Matthias Stomer (1600 - 1650): Young Man Reading by Candlelight

Well, Here They Are:

My List of Unforgettable Books

    1. Snow by Orhan Pamuk
    2. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    3. Crime and Punishment by Dostoievsky
    4. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini
    5. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
    6. And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokov
    7. Tess of the D'Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
    8. Reach for the Sky by Paul Brickhill
    9. The Remains of the Day by Kashuo Ishiguro
    10. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T E Lawrence

Any Surprises?


Snow by Orhan Pamuk

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

1. Snow by Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006

A journalist arrives in the remote city of Kars on the Turkish border. Kars is a troubled place - there's a suicide epidemic among its young women, Islamists are poised to win the local elections, and the head of the intelligence service is viciously effective. When a growing blizzard cuts off the outside world, the stage is set for a terrible and desperate act . . . Orhan Pamuk's evokes the spiritual fragility of the non-Western world, its ambivalence about the godless West, and its fury.

Orhan Pamuk won the International IMPAC Award for My Name is Red, in 2003 and in 2004 Faber published the translation of his novel Snow, described as 'a novel of profound relevance to the present moment'. .

I have two First Editions of 'Snow', one of which is signed by Orhan Pamuk.

You can find more detail about this writer, and the book, on my web page "Snow" - by Orhan Pamuk, and about the birth of modern Turkey and Ataturk it's founder on Ataturk, Founder of Modern Turkey

2. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Shocking and controversial when it was first published in 1939, Steinbeck's Pulitzer prize-winning epic remains his undisputed masterpiece. Set against the background of dust bowl Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, it tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel West in search of the promised land. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human, yet majestic in its scale and moral vision; an eloquent tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit.

The Grapes of Wrath

3. Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky

One of the greatest Russian Classics with a moral dilemma--I just loved Crime and Punishment.

Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St Petersburg and commits a random murder without remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, a Napoleon: acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law.

But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov is pursued by the growing voice of his conscience and finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck. Only Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute, can offer the chance of redemption.

Dostoyevsky's style was a bit like Dickens--great attention to detailed characterisation, and a fine observation of life in Russia in the mid 19th Century, leading the reader to consider the moral question of how blameworthy the protaganist actually was.


4. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

An intensely disturbing, beautifully crafted story giving a real insight into the suffering of women in Afghanistan. Khaled Husseini weaves a masterful story around the intertwined lives of two women brought together in adversity by marriage to a vicious brute of a man.

This book has left an indelible effect on my mind.

You can read more about the book and the author on my web page A Thousand Splendid Suns - by Khaled Hosseini

4. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

5. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Published in 1837, Oliver Twist is the story of an orphan, Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens' tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters; the villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and a prostitute Nancy who is kind to Oliver, but is ultimately murdered. Combining elements of Gothic Romance and popular melodrama, in Oliver Twist Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.

I read this at school, and of course have since seen the film and the Musical. I had a very old leather-bound copy with a set of other leather-bound Dickens books.

If you are interested in antiquarian books, you'd like this illustrated version, published in about 1850

If you are interested in antiquarian books, you'd like this illustrated version, published in about 1850

6. And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov

Another Russian classic, Sholokhov's book And Quiet Flows the Don showed the destruction of the Cossacks and the birth of a new society, with the suffering of the Russian people after the Russian Revolution. The book is poetic and has the wonderful detail and depth of characterisation that made this book one of my favourites.

7.Tess of the D'Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy

When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her 'cousin' Alec brings about her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future. With its sensitive depiction of the wronged Tess and powerful criticism of social convention, Tess of the D'Urbervilles is one of the most moving and poetic of Hardy's novels.

I particularly enjoyed the humorously painful but very memorable scenes with Tess's alcoholic father at the beginning of the book.


8. The Remains of the Day by Kashuo Ishiguru

The novel's narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler. He tries to give his narrow existence form and meaning through the self-effacing, almost mystical practice of his profession. In a career that spans the second world war, Stevens is oblivious of the real life that goes on around him--oblivious, for instance, of the fact that his aristocrat employer is a Nazi sympathizer. Still, there are even larger matters at stake in this heartbreaking, beautifully crafted novel--namely, Stevens' own ability to allow some bit of life-affirming love into his tightly repressed existence.

The Remains of the Day was a pleasure to read--I wanted it to go on and on.

It was made into a film with Anthony Hopkins, Hugh Grant & Emma Thompson and Christopher Reeve

9. Reach for the Sky: The Story of Douglas Bader D.S.O., D.F.C. by Paul Brickhill

In 1931, at the age of 21, Douglas Bader was the golden boy of the RAF. Excelling in everything he did he represented the Royal Air Force in aerobatics displays, played rugby for Harlequins, and was tipped to be the next England fly half. But one afternoon in December all his ambitions came to an abrupt end when he crashed his plane doing a particularly difficult and illegal aerobatic trick. His injuries were so bad that both his legs were amputated. Douglas Bader did not fly again until the outbreak of the Second World War, when his undoubted skill in the air was enough to convince a desperate air force to give him his own squadron. Flying Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain he led his squadron, keeping them all going with his unstoppable banter. Shot down in occupied France, his German captors had to confiscate his tin legs in order to stop him trying to escape.

Reach for the Sky is simply inspirational.

Bader faced disability, leadership and capture, with the same charm, charisma and determination that inspired everyone around him.

Sometimes when I feel I can't do something, I think about the achievements of this unstoppable man, and it gives me the courage and strength to try harder.

10. Seven Pillars of Wisdom byT E Lawrence

Although 'continually and bitterly ashamed' that the Arabs had risen in revolt against the Turks as a result of fraudulent British promises of self-rule, Lawrence led them in a triumphant campaign which revolutionized the art of war.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom recreates epic events with extraordinary vividness.

In the words of E. M. Forster:

'Round this tent-pole of a military chronicle, T. E. has hung an unexampled fabric of portraits, descriptions, philosophies, emotions, adventures, dreams'.

Another beautifully written book, which gripped me from beginning to end.

How Do You Choose What Book to Read Next? Take The Poll Below

Compare yourself with others (even though incomparable in your own right).

Some people only read what they are required by their school or college to read and others don't read books at all.

I doubt whether this would be you because reluctant readers would be unlikely to be reading this web page!

top-ten-unforgettable-books

Do You Agree With My Selection of Top 10 Unforgettable Books (Or Did You Find Them Entirely Forgettable)?--What Are Your Top Ten Unforgettable Books?

Myreda Johnson from Ohio USA on August 26, 2014:

A very interesting lens that taught me about several interesting books of which I was unaware.

Digory LM on April 08, 2014:

Very worthy list. I'd like to do my version of this lens.

Susie05 on November 14, 2013:

Thanks for the list of unforgettable books! I can't wait to read some of them!!

Barbara Walton from France on November 10, 2013:

The books that you have chosen that I've read I love. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is on my 'to read' shelf now so I'm looking forward to that. The rest of your list I'll be ordering asap. Thanks so much for these great read ideas.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 26, 2013:

@Paul Ward: Poor old Tess!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 26, 2013:

@chi kung: Yes, they can be good to read, and put you in a peaceful frame of mind

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 26, 2013:

@MaggiePowell: Me too - I've had to stop myself buying more books, and still people give them to me and I can't refuse!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 26, 2013:

@Gypzeerose: That is so satisfying - to know my suggestions will be taken up!

burntchestnut on June 26, 2013:

I've read Oliver Twist in school (and saw the movie later) and know the story of Grapes of Wrath. I might read Tess of the D'Urbevilles some day, but the others don't interest me. I know I need to expand my reading subjects, but I lean toward cozy mysteries and certain romances.

Rose Jones on June 26, 2013:

I have a new reading list now. I want to read all of the books you suggested - pinned to my board "Books Worth Reading."

MaggiePowell on June 25, 2013:

I read anything and everything with words... the stacks around the house are high, but I manage to get through them. LOVE books.

chi kung on June 13, 2013:

I have read a lot of books at uni - nowadays I choose topics that are connected to spirituality

blessedmomto7 on June 11, 2013:

My husband and I were just talking about the Grapes of Wrath and I don't remember ever reading it. I have it on my list of books to read this summer! I might work through your list if I have more time!

Barbara Walton from France on June 10, 2013:

I've read some of these, heard of others but many are new - a great reading list already sorted for me!

Paul from Liverpool, England on December 14, 2012:

Excellent selection, bar Tess!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 21, 2012:

@OhMe: I hope it influences your opinion to read some of them, if you haven't already

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 21, 2012:

@Michey LM: I did try to read Dr. Zhivago but gave up before the end!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 21, 2012:

@Linda BookLady: I'm so glad you found them all worth reading!

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on October 21, 2012:

You've named some fantastic books! Some I've read... others I put on my TBR list. Thanks for the recommendations!

Michey LM on October 21, 2012:

very good selection... I will probably add one more:"Doctor Zhivago" by Boris Pasternak, but I am 100% agree with your choices.

Sharon Bellissimo from Toronto, Canada on October 21, 2012:

Great selection, with a few I must read! Thanks.

Heather B on October 21, 2012:

I got about halfway through Tess but I found it too depressing. I'll try some of the others!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on October 21, 2012:

Beautifully created page of your top 10 unforgettable books

Sanja94 on May 26, 2012:

I'm so happy to see that you put "And Quiet Flows the Don" and "Crime and Punishment" on your list. Great lens, thanks.

Senora M on November 18, 2010:

I haven't heard of most of these books. Thanks for all of the reviews!

Lisa Auch from Scotland on November 05, 2010:

What wonderful books, and i could feel your enjoyment through your mini reviews! this was lovely to read

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