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Peeking at authors' bookshelves

When trying to expand a personal library or find a few books for the winter months, lists help narrow down the endless possibilities. But, as Lev Grossman points out in an article for TIME, there are inherent problems with creating “a best of” list. “Literature is the realm of the ineffable and the unquantifiable; lists are the realm of menus and laundry and rotisserie baseball,” he writes. Grossman actually calls literary lists “an obscenity” but even he could not resist J. Peder Zane’s book, The Top 10.

Zane asked 125 prominent authors, from Douglas Coupland to Norman Mailer, for their personal top 10 lists of favourite books. Zane’s book includes the individual lists as well as the ultimate top 10, made up of the most frequently mentioned works from the authors’ lists combined. While The Top 10 will not help narrow down the choices for reading, Quillblog agrees with Grossman that the results are bound to be interesting.

Curious about the final count? Here’s the top, top 10 list:

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
9. The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov
10. Middlemarch by George Eliot