Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

What Is Your Favorite Book of All Time?

One of the reasons I decided to become a literary agent is that books affect me more than any other artistic medium. I love movies, I love television, I love music... but nothing really moves me like a great book.

So this is a simple but extremely difficult You Tell Me: what is your favorite book of all time?

You have to pick one. No lists, no caveats, no subcategories, just one book: your favorite book of all time, by whatever criteria you choose.

Mine: MOBY DICK, the longest book I've ever read three times. I love the expansiveness, the plot, the characters, the way Melville uses the whale to delve into other topics... it has it all.

What's yours??






113 comments:

Christopher M. Park said...

Actually, this is an easy one for me: ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card. I love the characters, the story, and the twists. The writing is simple yet compelling, the pacing is great, and it is jam-packed with amazing ideas. No other book has affected me quite like the end of that book does, when Ender finds out what he has done.

Chris

Brian said...

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Anonymous said...

I prefer my books in epic chunks, so I'm going to list my favorite series rather than favorite books since I find it hard to become really invested in the length of a single "mere" book.

So: The HYPERION/ENDYMION dual dualogy by Dan Simmons ties with A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by George R. R. Martin (the first three SOIAF books at least, since the 4th was lame).

Lauren said...

THE SOUND AND THE FURY, by William Faulkner.

The four different voices, the symbolism, the stream-of-consciousness, the wisteria, the nutty mom, the mausoleum of all hope and desire, and of course my literary boyfriend Quentin Compson. I've read it seven times, and I'm sure that number will grow.

Marva said...

The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. Gave me 2500 pages to love. Hmm. Time to start over from the top. I suppose this is sort of cheating since it's a multi-book series. However, it reads through as one continuous storyline.

Anonymous said...

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE by J.K. Rowling. But, if I had to be stuck on a desert island with only one book for the rest of my life, I would pick something that starts with "The Complete Collection of..." :D

Lisa said...

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

Bernita said...

Stalky & Co by Rudyard Kipling.

Eric said...

The Great Gatsby

Calenhíril said...

Right now, it's anything by Carol Berg or Jim Butcher. But my enduring favorite, the one that's been read so many times that the cover is falling off and repaired with tape, lent to countless people, and always remembered when I think of a perfect book: The Forever King, by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy. It's a retelling of the Arthurian legend, but that's too simple. Politics, modern and ancient times, pure emotion, some of the best phrasing I've ever come across. I think it was the first book to show me what a twist in the story really was.

Scott said...

No caveats, lists or categories? Man, you're making this hard.

Fine.

I guess since I have to read it once a year or I go nuts (and have read it twice in the last eight months), and because the various editions, translations, and critical expoundings-upon take up nearly half a shelf in one of my bookcases, I guess I have to say BEOWULF.

It's no easy choice, and it all depends, but you're not allowing any "depending," so there you [coughweefreemencough] have it...

Anonymous said...

On a deserted island with one book... THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL or possibly the compete works of Shakespeare

Katie said...

Squeaking by the competition... PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Jane Austen.

LD said...

Watership Down by Richard Adams.

SurfGrape said...

THE DOOMSDAY BOOK by Connie Willis.

Now, fess up all you bran fans. How many of you are logging in multiple times under multiple names so you can vote for more than one book?

Eric said...

Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance With Death by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Liz said...

Wow, just one? Then it would have to be THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances H. Burnett. The one book from my childhood that I've read as an adult and it still moves me to tears.

Annalee said...

I'm supposed to pick one?

That's cold, man. That's just cold.

Well THE GREAT GATSBY's already been given props, so I'll go with THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS. But only because Isobel Allende's ZORRO is only half as good in English, so I only rec it to Spanish-speakers. And I'm not voting for the Complete Works of Shakespeare because he wrote plays, not novels, and everyone else seems to be talking about novels.

That wasn't multiple votes, though. Honest. THR MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS is my call.

Nick said...

Catch 22.

It took him so long to write, but you can see why. Barely a misplaced word. Fantastic!

brian_ohio said...

The Time Traveler's Wife

The Anti-Wife said...

Miss Piggy's Guide to Life

David de Beer said...

Stranger in a strange land - Robert Heinlein; simply for the wonder and way it changed my thinking at the time.
Great fun, great writing, maybe a moral or so. Nuff said.

the word verifications on blogger aren't gettign shorter are they?

Dan Leo said...

Jeeziz, Nathan, except for your pick I'm noticing a conspicuous paucity of "the acknowledged classics" here so far, with the only pre-20th Century choices being Austen, Kipling, and some obscure scribe named Shakespeare. So I'm tempted to name "The Hunter" by Richard Stark, as that is the first-ever Parker novel, but I'd better go with Proust, the whole of "In Search of Lost Time", even though I'm only midway through the fifth volume, as that is the one work I know would keep me amused for twenty years on a deserted island.

Anonymous said...

ON STRANGER TIDES, by Tim Powers

Stephen Parrish said...

The Education of Little Tree, by Forest Carter.

Marti said...

Gone with the Wind

Scott said...

I already voted, but I just have to say this:

One advantage we writers have over the public at large (PAL) is that, if we ever really did get stuck on the proverbial desert island with only one book, we'd eventually build a library of our own stuff. Even if we didn't have anything to write on or with (and all we need is a supply of stuff that can be carved and something to carve it with), we'd make up the stories in our heads.

We're probably the last people PALs would want to be stuck on an island with. They'd be looking for a way to get off the island and we'd enjoy the peace and quiet so we could spend all of our time developing our stories.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

Anonymous said...

THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, by Edith Wharton.

Anonymous said...

Wow, some of these choices... I am stunned.

Okay, so dispensing with all the usual disclaimers I'll choose:

MIDDLEMARCH, by George Eliot

Anne-Marie said...

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.

RED STICK WRITER said...

A classic tale of good and evil by a great storyteller: The Stand, Stephen King.

Laurel Amberdine said...

Ooh, cool question.

THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN by Gene Wolfe.

Like Marva, I'm cheating a little, since it's a 5-book series.

dan said...

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie.

Wooot!

Jaye Wells said...

FAHRENHEIT 451.

Even s I typed that I was cringing because five other books were jostling for position in my mind.

cyn said...

island of the blue dolphin by scott o'dell

Maniel said...

Vol de nuit (Night Flight) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

AmyB said...

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (Harper Lee.)

original bran fan said...

THE ARTIST'S WAY by Julia Cameron.

So far, that seems to be the only non-fiction on the list.

Fatimah said...

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Stephanie Zvan said...

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. Political scheming, identity politics, well-drawn characters, an intelligent treatment of class differences, and perfectly handled sex scenes to boot. What's not to love?

David L. McAfee said...

I...just...can't...pick...one!

Ask for my ten favorite someday, then maybe I will have somethign to add to the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Master and Margarita by Bulgakov.

You wanna talk about butter?

Anonymous said...

The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton.

Liz

Anonymous said...

Henry James, Portrait of a Lady

Mary Paddock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DrieserFan said...

"An Americsn Tragedy" by Theodore Drieser

Mary Paddock said...

Just one? Egad. Reaches into overflowing bag of favorites with eyes closed and plucks out--

"Prayer for Ow . . .

No. Not that one. Reaches in again.

"Of Mic--"

No. That's not it. Reaches in again, rummages longer this time.
Comes up with--

"Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury

Yes. That's it. The book that made me want to be a writer.

ello said...

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Has the most romantic love letter in all of history.

Miri said...

You're mean. That's like picking one potato chip.

But I have to say The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine. Beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Twill said...

Thanks, Annalee!

(Since you said THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, I get to do something else. Besides, his rewrite in NUMBER OF THE BEAST ruined MISTRESS for me.)

BECKA COOPER (2006) by Tamora Pierce. Because it's the most recent book I've read that is almost perfect and hasn't won any awards. Genre = YA fantasy police procedural.

Everything else I've read that was that good either is a classic or has a Hugo / Nebula / Newberry or something.

A Paperback Writer said...

Well. Shakespeare is my favorite author, and I'm steeped to the ears in "classic" literature (Sorry, Nathan, but Moby Dick is on my least favorite book list -- ugh), but my favorite of all is The Lord of the Rings. hands down.

Nathan Bransford said...

I'm very excited to see so many Curtis Brown books on the list:

ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
THE CHOCOLATE WAR by Robert Cormier
THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton
AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
THE TWO PRINCESSES OF BAMARRE by Gail Carson Levine

Go Curtis Brown, go!

Brenna said...

This year, my very favorite is THE LITTLE FRIEND, by Donna Tartt. I love so many books, but this is the one I've been reading again and again.

ian said...

WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (yes, it's a graphic novel). This single book made me want to write more than anything else I've read in my life.

Ian

alternatefish said...

Lolita, by Nabokov.

It's the first book I finished and then started again within the hour.

dma715 said...

Since I can't decide which collection of Harlan Ellison's work to choose, I'll go with Slaughterhouse Five. I'd save The Lord of the Rings Trilogy for that desert island.

Starstruck said...

Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin.

Don said...

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene.

Anonymous said...

One? I can't pick one. That's mean.

*goes away for a while to pick favorites*

*comes back perplexed*

I can only get it to three...sorry...

ILLUSTRATED MAN by Ray Bradbury

ANTHEM by Ayn Rand

MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather

Zen of Writing said...

My favorite book of all time *used* to be Bangkok 8 by John Burdett, but then I read The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas.

Fickle, I know.

Anonymous said...

East of Eden by John Steibeck.

Anonymous said...

...I mean Steinbeck, of course. Sorry, I am sober.

Dave said...

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

L.C.McCabe said...

Aztec by Gary Jennings.

It has by far the most sex and violence in it than any other book I have ever read, other than the Bible. However it only spans one man's lifetime and not hundreds of generations of people.

I accidentally picked up Aztec as an impulse buy for a Christmas present for my mother because I knew she liked fat historical novels. I had no idea what I was giving her.

She gave it back to me the following year, and I was shocked what I had given my sainted mother.

It is an amazing piece of literature, and there is nothing superfluous in the entire novel. Every apparent anecdote has some greater purpose later in the book.

Be forewarned, the first human sacrifice appears at about page 12.

You'll learn words in the Nahuatl language as well, especially terms for genitalia. You pick it up through context and repetition.

Truly an amazing novel.

The sequels, eh, not so much.

Linda

j h woodyatt said...

At the moment, I can't decide between CATCH-22 and NEUROMANCER.

Spartezda said...

The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold.

The glorious world-building, detailed characters (including the incredibly awesome gods!), stylish action, and plot with flair. Not to mention the most visceral, satisfying depiction of faith I've ever read.

Anonymous said...

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, but his Angle of Repose came in a close second.

reality said...

The Winter of our Discontent...John Stienbeck.

Determinist said...

Have to go with "Dune" by Frank Herbert. It's deep, layered, can take a lot of re-readings without getting stale.

Have to say, I love seeing the list that came out of this question - thanks for asking. I've bookmarked the page and will be using it as a reference for books to take a look at. Thanks all!

David de Beer said...

this is an interesting post! almost 70 comments, and how many similarities are there between books chosen?
gives a whole new meaning to that "it's a personal taste" thingy.

lafreya said...

CANE by Jean Toomer

It was lauded as a masterpiece of the Harlem Renaissance, the equal of Richard Wright’s Native Son and Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man. the writing is breathtaking. A heady mix of poetry, essays and short stories.

The book was given to me by my white high school English teacher who saw that as her only African American student I was struggling to relate to the curriculum of all white novelists she was forced to teach in class.
It is because of her wonderful gift that I became a writer. I think about her every day when I sit down to work on my novel. I still have the paperback she gave me. It is worn,yellow and among my most prized possessions.

Lafreya

Therese Walsh said...

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Gorgeous, unique literature that affected me deeply.

Katherine Hyde said...

ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy. The whole universe is in this book, or at least every nuance of human nature. I've read it twice in Russian and several times in English. It's time to read it again.

Nichole said...

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.

Mig said...

Have to toss a coin:

The Age of Innocence by Wharton (heads)

or

Les Miserables by Hugo (tails)

Tails wins

alternatefish said...

re: Anna Karenina.

This book made me throw my first novel in a draw to rot. I'd just finished the first draft of my first properly-sized novel (I was 15) and then I read Anna Karenina for the first time and I realized I couldn't write worth beans. That book is amazing.

So I put the manuscript in a drawer, got very depressed and tried to write something Brilliant for a year or so. Didn't work. I then realized that I am not actually going to be able to write as well as Tolstoy, so I got over myself and have been happily writing to this day.

True story.

Andrea said...

Oh without a doubt I'd have to say SPEAK, MEMORY by Nabokov.

Nancy said...

One book? Your crazy? I will go with The Stand by Stephen King.

Sam said...

The Once and Future King by TH White

Anonymous said...

"Warchild" by Karin Lowachee

Jay Montville said...

Well, if you're going to be mean about it ...

The Changeover, by Margaret Mahy.

There are a LOT of other books I could list here - I don't believe in "favorite" when it comes to books - but rules are rules, and Nathan is a big meanie. sigh

Len said...

Can't be done. There are dozens all pawing away at me at different levels of my consciousness at any given time. It's like asking, "Which was your favorite breath of air?"

Carole said...

"The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett.

Julie said...

The Lord of the Rings

Dr. Dume said...

I have to put my vote in for 'Titus Groan' by Mervyn Peake. First of the Gormenghast trilogy, although he died before completing the third. That was put together from his notes, and plumbed new depths of weirdness!

I still think the first book, Titus Groan, was the best of them. A wonderful world of darkness and despair. Lovely.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I was pleased to see someone mention WATCHMEN . . . but I think I'd still have to go with THE GRAPES OF WRATH. It works on so many levels. And I can't believe I just said that.

Brian

Maya Reynolds said...

"The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand.

Beth: I have probably started "Atlas Shrugged" fifteen times in the last ten years, but I've never finished it. I *think* it's because the philosophy I embraced in "The Fountainhead" is too harsh for my social work soul in "Atlas Shrugged."

It's about time I tried again--especially since you mentioned it.

Anonymous said...

That's easy: 1984 by George Orwell. Lately, though, I'm not sure whether to love it or be creeped out by its accuracy.

Jason Pollock said...

Lord of Emperors, by Guy Gavriel Kay.

There's no evil, just different views.

witchofbreithla said...

It would have to be Gone with the Wind. I've read it at least once a year every year since I was 11 years old.

Jim Zoetewey said...

It's hard to say, but at this moment, I'll say Michael Bishop's "Brittle Innings."

Jen said...

Ooh, easy one for me.

Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde. LOVE that book.

S.F. said...

Another vote for MOCKINGBIRD...

Derek said...

Easy.

HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD, by Haruki Murakami

Chisem said...

The Watchers by Dean Koontz. A great love story.

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Can't possibly choose, but last year's favourite was SHIRLEY by Charlotte Bronte.

It was fun to see Kipling's STALKY AND CO." on the list... I read it a few months ago but had never hard of it before then. The ending was surprisingly heart-wrenching.

Fiona said...

TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller.

Anonymous said...

The Lieutenants by W.E.B. Griffin

terry said...

Red Storm Rising
by Tom Clancey

Happy Days said...

If I HAVE to pick one, I'll say The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols, because it was my introduction to magical realism in modern literature.

Kasha said...

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

It was the first book that destroyed me.

Anonymous said...

THE BOOK THIEF by Zusak

Henry Baum said...

Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates

Laura Ware said...

ONE book?

I agree with everyone who says you are cruel...

It would have to be the Bible if I had to pick one book. It's the one I refer to the most and to me the most important book out there.

Crankynick said...

Young Men in Spats by P.G Wodehouse.

No-one else lifts my mood like Wodehouse, and there is no better stylist in the English language.

Anonymous said...

THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET, by Lawrence Durrell.... followed closely by Sartre's NAUSEA, and Cocteau's HOLY TERRORS.

Erin said...

All the King's Men
Robert Penn Warren

Niteowl said...

"The Colour of Magic" by Terry Pratchett

grahamEID said...

THE SEA AND THE SUMMER, by George Turner. Published in 1987 it was one of the first novels tackling the issue of global warming. Set in Melbourne, Australia it tells of people trying to survive in rundown housing towers surrounded by water. Turner tells a ripping yarn about the coruption of the main character and his brother by those who control the dwindling resources. If only George Bush and our fool of a Prime Minister had read it when it was published.

Sean Lindsay said...

If I Did It by Orenthal James Simpson.

Haven't read it, I'm basing my choice on the fact that it exists.

Beth said...

Just one?

OK. My choice is not necessarily the one I've read the most times (that would be KATHERINE by Anya Seton and GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell and anything by Mary Stewart) but it is my most enduring favorite book, because it never grows old and because I discover new depths every time I read it and because it truly is one of the greatest works of literature in the 20th century and also because it introduced me to a place that lives quite outside of time and creation--

J.R.R. Tolkien's THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

J.P. Martin said...

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson.

One day I will find somebody else that loves it as much as I do!

Related Posts with Thumbnails