Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dum-da-da-dum: The Latta-Liss Top 100 books

After much fanfare, hoo-hah-ing, and throat clearing on the previous incarnations of my blog, I am now posting the list of our family's (Tony, Alison, Caitlin, Eli and I) top 100 books. Caitlin, Eli and I came up with the idea one time last fall when we were talking about top this-or-that book lists. Why not come up with a list of our own, we reasoned--a list of favorite books in the Latta-Liss household. After much discussion we came up with this complex criteria: anything goes.

In other words, nonfiction, fiction, childrens' books, plays, poetry, graphic novels. Desert island books? No, because who wants to list "How to survive on a desert island." Most important books? Books we'd want to re-read? No, and no. Just this: our favorite books. Books that changed our lives, maybe? Books that stick with us like popcorn hulls between teeth? Something like that. Details on the algorithm for ranking the books comes after the list. Keep in mind that the books at the top of the list are likely to be books that were read aloud to the kids, or that all of us read. It's interesting to read the list as a gauge of how the reading habits of individual family members influence others, as well as how they diverge.

1. The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman (101 pts.)
2. 100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (98 pts.)
3. Everything is Illuminated, Jonathon Safran Foer (68 pts.)
4. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card (65 pts.)
5. Moby Dick, Herman Melville (50)
6. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain (42)
7. Beloved, Toni Morrison (41)
8. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (41)
9. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner (38)
10. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (33)
11. A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin (33)
12. The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffeneger (31)
13. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer (29)
14. Midnight's Children, Salmon Rushdie (26)
15. Watchman, Alan Moore (25)
16. The Crucible, Arthur Miller (25)
17. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (25)
18. Life, the Universe, and Everything, Douglas Adams (25)
19. Library of Babel, Jorge Luis Borges (25)
20. Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, (25)
21. Goedel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstader (25)
22. Farewell to the Sea: A Novel of Cuba, Reinaldo Arenas (25)
23. Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon (25)
24. Ulysses, James Joyce, (24)
25. A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin (24)
26. The Once and Future King, T.H. White (23)
27. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley (23)
28. The Call of the Wild, Jack London (23)
29. Playboy of the Western World, J.M. Synge (23)
30. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (23)
31. Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez (23)
32. The Sot Weed Factor, John Barth (22)
33. Sailing Alone Around the Room, Billy Collins, (22)
34. My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George (22)
35. Ender's Shadow, Orson Scott Card (22)
36. Charlotte's Web, E.B. White, (22)
37. Canterbury Tales, Chaucer (22)
38. The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin (21)
39. So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish, Douglas Adams (21)
40. Shadow of the Giant, Orson Scott Card (20)
41. PrairyErth, William Least Heat Moon (20)
42. Evidence of Things Unseen, Marianne Wiggens (20)
43. Collected Poems, William Butler Yeats (19)
44. Alexandria Quartet, Laurence Durrell, (19)
45. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard (18)
46. A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin (18)
47. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (17)
48. The Giver, Lois Lowry (17)
49. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger (16)
50. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (16)
51. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Anges Nutter, Witch, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (15)
52. Bread and Wine, Ignazio Silone (15)
53. Sonny Elephant, Madge A. Bigham (14)
54. On the Road, Jack Keroac (14)
55. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams (14)
56. You Shall Know Our Velocity, Dave Eggars (13)
57. Xenocide, Orson Scott Card (13)
58. Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne (13)
59. Call It Sleep, Henry Roth (13)
60. A Home at the End of the World, Michael Cunningham (13)
61. Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech (12)
62. The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman (12)
63. Lord of the Flies, William Golding (12)
64. The Story of Ferdinand (the Bull), Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson (12)
65. East of Eden, John Steinbeck (12)
66. The Shipping News, Annie Proulx (11)
67. Outcast of Redwall, Brian Jacques (11)
68. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne (10)
69. Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris (10)
70. A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin (10)
71. Tacky the Penguin, Helen Lester and Lynn Munsinger (9)
72. Long After Midnight, Ray Bradbury (9)
73. Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller (9)
74. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (9)
75. In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, Bette Bao Lord and Marc Simont (8)
76. Dune, Frank Herbert (7)
77. Neverwhere: A Novel, Neil Gaiman (7)
78. Lives of a Cell, Lewis Thomas (7)
79. In the Night Kitchen, Maurice Sendak (7)
80. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, Randy Shilts (7)
81. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (7)
82. The Last Defender of Camelot, Roger Zelazny (6)
83. Catch-22, Joseph Heller (6)
84. A Short History of a Small Place, T. R. Pearson (6)
85. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak (5)
86. The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles (5)
87. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (5)
88. Middlemarch, George Elliot (5)
89. The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg (4)
90. The Magus, John Fowles (3)
91. Make Way for Ducklings, Robert McClosky (3)
92. Life of Pi, Yann Martel (1)

We left it up to math-whiz Tony to come up with a scoring system. Here's what he devised: knowing that there would be a fair amount of overlap, each of us submitted a list of 25 books. (Even so, the five of us ended up with only 92 books for our top 100.) Each person ranked their books, giving our #1 book 25 points, #2 24, etc., with our #25 book receiving 1 point. Then we were each allotted 50 points to distribute among our 25 books as we saw fit. This is where individual strategies came into play. Some of us loaded the decks at the tops of our lists to show our devotion to our favorites. Others selected books that they knew only they had read, but thought so highly of them that they gave them extra points to put them higher on the list. Others played fair, spreading the 50 points evenly throughout the list.

Alison spent a lot of time over Christmas break compiling the results. Thanks, Alison and Tony!


Speak(er) said...

What a great list. I feel as if I should start at the bottom and work my way up. I've only read 19 of the listed books.

slatta said...

So which ones have you read?

Speak(er) said...


I'm a big fan of books by the Inklings, but there's nothing of CS Lewis, Tolkien, or Charles Anderson. I've always thought it would be an interesting paper to write comparing the battles of WWI with the fight for Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings.

slatta said...

I had to google "Inklings," because I had no idea what that was!

CS Lewis might have made my list, although probably not anybody else's. And we all had a hard time getting into Tolkien, although most of us like his movies quite a lot. ;-) And I don't know Charles Anderson at all!

I think you should write that paper.

Patbrace said...

I read all the Inklings when I was in college, including Charles Williams ("Descent into Hell" "Lilith") whose books are darker than Tokien's and Lewis'. Surely the war had a massive impact on Tolkien's work, (the Ring = nuclear bomb), but I have been amazed recently, in my studies of the Anglo Saxons, at how much he borrowed from their language and culture.

I've read 26 of your books. Who is in love with Laurence Durell? I just read Justine and hated it, but am told one has to read all 4 books to really "get it".

slatta said...

The Laurence Durrell fan? That would be Tony. All 19 points came from him. I had to check Alison's spreadsheet, though, because I also liked the Alexandria Quartet very much. But that may have to do with the fact that I started reading the books, at Tony's recommendation, shortly after we started dating. One of the things that attracted me to Tony was the interesting books on his shelves.

Moms, make sure your sons understand that books can be a powerful girl magnet (for a certain kind of girl, I suppose).

slatta said...

If I'd thought of it I should have found a way to wriggle in Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins. I loved, loved, that book as a kid. I probably read it around the same time I read My Side of the Mountain. I loved those stories of learning how to survive in nature, using your wits alone.

I think that Gary Paulson must have come along a little late for me, but I bet I would have loved Hatchet and most of his other books. Just an afterthought.