Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I've Loved But Never Reviewed

Top Ten Tuesday is the weekly meme hosted by the gals at THE BROKE AND THE BOOKISH. Each week, there's a new topic about which to post our Top Ten choices. This week it's, Top Ten Books We Loved But Have Never Reviewed - for whatever reason.


1) PARNASSUS ON WHEELS (1917) by Christopher Morley

Morley's wonderful novel is a slow-paced ode to the love of books. It is also a gentle love story as an itinerant and very opinionated book seller named Roger, (selling books out of a wagon - his Parnassus - pulled along by a horse named Peg) and a plump middle-aged spinster named Helen, meet, talk about books and unexpectedly fall in love. I adored this book the first time I read it. I still adore it.

2) THE HAUNTED BOOKSHOP (1919) by Christopher Morley

A kind of sequel to PARNASSUS ON WHEELS, but a separate novel on its own as well. This continues the story of book sellers Roger and Helen (now married and settled in Brooklyn just after WWI). They have given up selling books from a wagon and are now established in their own used books store, PARNASSUS AT HOME.

The story concerns Helen and Roger, two young lovers, mysterious doings, German saboteurs, and a daring race to the rescue. All within the framework of the perfectly realized bookstore of our dreams.

3) THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY (1908) by G.K. Chesterton

An intriguing spy 'fantasy' spun as a spy thriller and what writer Kingsley Amis calls, "...the most thrilling book I have ever read."

The paradoxical plot concerns 'the existence of a secret society of revolutionaries sworn to destroy the world.' Each of the seven members of Central Anarchist Council call themselves by the names of the days of the week and the man who was Thursday is not the young poet he appears to be, but a Scotland Yard detective. Who are the others?

Though a bit dated in tone, the gist of the story and the extravaganza of irony at its core, still surprise and resonate. A book that is great fun to read for the deviousness of the writer's mind.

4) BRIDESHEAD REVISITED (1944) by Evelyn Waugh

Supposedly an autobiographical novel based on certain events in Waugh's life, though how much of that is truth is open to question. Regardless, this is one of my favorite books and whether or not you've seen the brilliant BBC Granada Television (starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews) adaptation done in the 1980's, the book stands ready to be read and appreciated on its own.

The full title of the book is BRIDESHEAD REVISITED The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder - so that gives you an instant idea of the tone. One of the most intriguing  things for me, is how the ancient and wondrous house, Brideshead, is made into a separate character occasionally overshadowing the relationships of the humans who inhabit it. The book is a work of art and Waugh's '...finest achievement.'

5) THE GREAT GATSBY (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

As many times as I've read this, I always manage to find something new within its pages. My third favorite book of all time and one of those books I seem to have discovered on my own because I simply don't remember reading it in school - though I think I must have.

The story of Gatsby, a deluded soul who turns himself inside out and reinvents himself all in the hopes of catching the golden ring never ceases to fascinate me.

6) ETHAN FROME (1911) by Edith Wharton

I know a lot of people find this short novel off-putting and maybe a bit silly. But I'm not one of them. I read this in high school ( I had a great English teacher) and loved it instantly. I've read it again and again over the years and each time the grim story of a stoic man who finds love too late to do anything much about it but  - literally - wreck his life and the life of the woman he loves, breaks my heart.

7) BRUNELLESCHI'S DOME (2000) How A Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King

"This book goes beyond Filippo Brunelleschi to provide a lively picture of medieval Florence, with politicians debating artistic issues, laborers climbing up to the job toting their lunches, and even a war or two taking place on the side...a story of both artistic and human dimensions." Parade.

If you love European history, the behind the scenes wear and tear of artistic achievement and the workings of genius, you will love this book as much as I do.

"The proposed dome [of the city's new cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore] was regarded far and wide  as all but impossible to build: not only would it be enormous, but its original and sacrosanct design shunned the flying buttresses that supported cathedrals all over Europe. The dome would literally need to be erected over thin air."

8) THE TERRITORIAL IMPERATIVE (1966) A Personal Inquiry Into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations by Robert Ardrey

One of the most influential books of my youth - it changed my life in the way it answered a lot of questions I'd puzzled about for years. The general nature of humans and animals clarified, the profound implications of behavior simplified. And it all made perfect sense, at least to me.

"Recommended with elation...it will be attacked as well as defended for it dares to go out on many an anthropological and biological limb." Clifton Fadiman

"One of the most exciting books about the nature of man that has ever been presented." Newsday

9) THE ATLAS OF ARCHEOLOGY (1998) by Mick Aston and Tim Taylor

One of those splendid, wide-reaching and beautifully designed DK books. All you've ever wanted to know about ancient archaeological sites gathered together in one easy to maneuver, easy to read volume. I love this thing.

10) THE HIDDEN LIFE OF DOGS (1993) by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Writer and anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' account of years of study and observation of dogs, wolves and dingoes. This is an eye-opening account of the nature of dogs revealed to someone who was paying attention. Some of Thomas' interpretations may be open to question, but I found this book oddly fascinating and revealing. It isn't possible to completely understand another species, but as far as it can be done, I believe that Thomas's attempt to know what it is that a dog truly wants, has been successful.


  1. The Man Who was Thursday is one of my favorite books. If you liked Chesterton, you might enjoy Charles William's "Descent Into Hell". It is another suernatural thriller. By the way, Pat, at Mille fiore Favoriti, recommended you blog to me!

  2. I haven't read any of those, though I think the first 3 would be right up my alley.

    I did almost buy a different Edith Wharton book today, The House of Mirth. I love the movie with Gillian Anderson, but not sure I would like the book.

  3. This was a very eclectic list, Yvette. I'll have to re-read "The Great Gatsby.
    "I loved "Brunelleschi's Dome" and the DK eyewitness books and travel books are always top notch!

  4. Betsy: Thanks so much for dropping by. I'm adding your recommendation to my TBR list. I've never heard of the author. Every day, something or someone new. :)

  5. Ryan: Try ETHAN FROME, you might like it. It's not a happy story, but it's so powerful. At least to me.

  6. Pat: I'm nothing if not an eclectic reader. It's my curse and my salvation. Ha!

    Call me crazy, but I think that BRUNELLESCHI'S DOME would make a great movie.

  7. What an interesting list! I've sortof reviewed The Haunted Bookshop (featured on my Vintage Mystery Sunday) and Parnassus on Wheels is on the TBR list. Just read The Man Who Was Thursday last year....so I've got a review for that one. The Great Gatsby and some Edith Wharton are on my TBR too.

    Here are the books that made my list:

  8. Bev: Thanks! I love THE HAUNTED BOOKSHOP and PARNASSUS ON WHEELS. Read them a few years ago and just fell in love with both books.

  9. An exceptional list of books! So many that I've yet to read....

  10. Deb: Thanks. I hope you'll get a chance to read one or two of them. :)

  11. I'm so intrigued by BRUNELLESCHI'S DOME and THE HAUNTED BOOKSTORE, although I guess I have to read book 1 first... Great list!

  12. Two Bibliomaniac: I think you'd like THE HAUNTED BOOKSHOP on its own. You can always go back and read the first.

    BRUNELLESCHI's DOME is wonderful and very accessible.

  13. These books all look so amazing and entice me no end, for all different reasons. I haven't read any of them, but many look like they could pull me right into their pages for days.

    You are an eclectic reader -- and one of the most well-read people I have ever known.

    I am going to write down several and look them up further online, tell an archaelogy student (a friend who retired and then went to school and took arahaelogy courses) about a few books, and an art buff about a few others.

    I haven't read anything by Morley, but those books look great, and I just found out he wrote a book with my name in the title. And I read a good review of it.

    Gosh, Yvette, this list and the prior several -- which I have to make lists of -- just are over-whelming. I feel like I'm stopping by a museum when I come here and I have to look at the exhibits -- all good.

    Now if I could stop sleeping, errands, tasks (housework is long lost) and just read for months, I might make a dent in these wonderful books.

    I just want a few days to explore these ten books online and read more about them.

    Thank you! My education continues.

  14. Hello Yvette:
    A most interesting selection. For us Evelyn Waugh will always be one of our all time favourite writers for wit, humour, excellent characterisation and, increasingly as time goes by, a valid insight into the social history of the 1920s and 1930s.

  15. Kathy: THANK YOU, m'dear, much appreciated. I'm not really all that well read, it's just that I've lived a long time and have many varied interests. Too many, probably. Jack of all trades, master of none. :)

    I know how you feel about checking out all the new recommendations - I feel exactly the same way when I see a list of books or even just one review that I like. Off I go to check things out. Very time consuming. The hours just fly by.
    MUCH TOO quickly!

    But it's a fun preoccupation. I'll never read everything I want to.

    So I'll just have to be satisfied with what I CAN read.

  16. Jane and Lance: Welcome back! Yes, I agree with your comments about Waugh. Over the years I've read several of his books though of course, my sieve of a memory has retained very little so I'm probably due for a good re-read at some point.

    My favorite though, is still BRIDESHEAD REVISITED. I remember that one best. :)

  17. Ooooh, new (to me) books to look for! I've read Brideshead Revisited and The Great Gatsby and liked them both.

    By the way, I was able to place an interlibrary loan request for Murder at Shots Hall, so I'm looking forward to reading it!

  18. Lauren: Don't forget to let me know what you think of MURDER AT SHOTS HALL. So glad you could find it at the library.:)

  19. Nice list, Yvette - especially since it starts off with three of my favorites. I love the two Morley books, which I think I first read as a teenager. I also really enjoyed "The Man Who Was Thursday" - I have a review coming up in a few weeks for that one. Overall, the list is a collection of great choices!

  20. Thanks, Les. Yes, the two Morley books are really special. :)

    I only read them for the first time a couple of years ago. I think it's time for a reread.


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