Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Most Universally Liked/Admired U.S. Book


More than sixty years after its publication, TKAM is still 500 on Amazon and of the more than 2500 reviews, the majority are 5 star. It is very rare for people to agree so completely about a book that most of us read as teenagers. I read it again a few years ago and liked it even more.

What other books are almost universally admired? What books are people most passionate about? What book never gets the cold shoulder?

14 comments:

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, my answer to your first and third question would be Enid Blyton. Her children's books have lost none of their charm and they continue to delight both the young and the adult alike. Some months ago, I happened to sit next to an elderly gentleman in a suburban train and he was engrossed in reading from a tattered copy of Blyton's Famous Five, quite oblivious of his fellow commuters who were either nodding off or fidgeting with their Blackberrys. Her books are more universal than Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Richmal Crompton, Mark Twain, Roald Dahl and others.

Walker Martin said...

I've been thinking about this question and it is impossible to pick one because there have been so many great American novels. I've read all these more than once:

Sun Also Rises
Moby Dick
The Great Gadsby
Huckleberry Finn
The Sound and the Fury
Look Homeward Angel

Non American books? My favorite is Shakespeare's Plays and War and Peace is my favorite novel. But there are some odd books I've liked such as Under the Volcano by Malcome Lowry, wich I've read at least a half dozen times over the years.

And we can't forget genre fiction.
Mysteries I would pick Chandler, Hammett, and Ross Macdonald.

SF, I would pick novels written by Bester, Philip K. Dick, Silverberg.

So you see, your question has driven me quite crazy and now I want to reread some of the above.

Anonymous said...

I must admit it's been a long, long time since I read MOCKINGBIRD. I did reread HUCK FINN a couple of years ago and I've read THE SUN ALSO RISES several times.

Jeff M.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Catch-22

Jerry House said...

Perhaps not that well-known outsude the field, but everyone I know who has read Charles G. Finney's THE CIRCUS OF DR. LAO has loved it.

Jerry House said...

And all the other suggestions are great. Probably because she's been on my mind since yesterday, I'd add Agatha Christie to the list, perhaps ACKROYD or TEN LITTLE INDIANS,

pattinase (abbott) said...

These are all great suggestions. But I think none quite touch HTKAM for mass appeal. We would all acknowledge all of them as great but perhaps not beloved.

Deb said...

Auntie Deb with her bucket of cold water here: I'd be interested in knowing how admired TKAM is with African-American readers, since the black characters in the book are either surrogate parents (like Calpurnia, the housekeeper in the Finch home) or, like Tom Robinson, considered less as people and more as symbolic vehicles by which white people either prove or disprove their honor and integrity. I think Harper Lee's intentions in writing the book were good, but in order to admire the characters in the book, you have to accept the social system in which they live--and that is not always easy.

pattinase (abbott) said...

This is a very good point, Deb. And, like in THE HELP, the white people save the day.
Of course, if you consider the time period in which it was written....

Deb said...

Yes, which makes me far more tolerant of TKAM than of The Help.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The surprising thing was how little it was referred to in any discussion. Why couldn't a black woman who went away to college come back and write the stories of her mother's plight. That would have been so much better. Some African-American women did that by then after all.

George said...

I agree with Jerry, Agatha Christie's stock is certainly rising. That's a lot of weight to put on one book like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I find I prefer different books at different stages of my life. One book, even THE COMPLETE SHAKESPEARE, can't possibly satisfy every mood and taste.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - No doubt about it, TKAM is a classic story. Really classic.

Walker Martin said...

Yesterday, at the NYC Paperback show, I was talking to a friend who told me how he bought a first edition with dust jacket TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD for only $2.00 at a library sale. I believe it was signed also. He sold it to a collector for $12,000.