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.