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"What if you asked 125 top writers to pick their favorite books? Which titles would come out on top?" Well, you might end up with The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, edited by J. Peder Zane, the book review editor of the Raleigh (North Carolina) News & Observer and published by W.W. Norton this year. The book gives the top ten lists of 125 notable writers, then collates it into a consensus list.

The Philadelphia Inquirer covered it in the article "Author, Author! Ten Times Over: Writers List Their Greatest Reads" (posted Feb. 15, 2007). The overall top ten list, it's said, is not terribly exceptional until you really start looking at it and realize what's not on it. Of course, it's hard to not leave something out when you're trying to pick the top ten of an entire history's worth of books. Somewhat fittingly, there's only one or two titles from the 20th century. Oddly, though, all but one of the rest are from the 19th century. Not surprisingly, all are either European or American. The Inquirer article gives the top ten titles, so I won't here.

Interesting. Of course, the main purpose of top ten lists is to cause debate and to spur others into revealing their own opinions. So there's the website http://www.toptenbooks.net/ which not only promotes the book but also gives you (yes, you) the opportunity to send in your own top ten list. Based on the few submissions I've seen, a lot of people haven't read much that was published before, oh, 1950 or so. I guess it's not really meant to be the best literature of the ages in this case, just what readers liked.

Speaking of what readers like: A couple of nights ago I had reason to recall reading Damon Runyon when I was younger. He was a journalist and fiction writer whose characters were colorful sorts set in New York during and after Prohibition. The writing style is just nutty and it really grew on me. His characters all seem to have nicknames instead of given names, like Nathan Detroit and Harry the Horse. That has inspired me to name some of my friends similarly when I want to talk about them to people who don't know them -- such as James the Writer and Dr. Dave (who is not the Dave I usually speak of, which is why he needs a monicker).

Anyway, the reason this comes up is this one of the LJers I read, bradhicks, is going on about Mr. Runyon in his LJ today, and he's saying very nice things about said Mr. Runyon, and will probably get a warm handshake and a drink bought for him when they finally meet, though Mr. Runyon doesn't drink much anymore himself. Myself, I will spend some time with Money From Home, which I have on my bookshelf for the last twenty-five years or so. (If only to try to get more in touch with the writing style I just tried to emulate in this paragraph).


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