Novels, Books or Literature?

It’s always interesting to me to read books that have been translated from their original language.  The amount of the original language that is kept varies.  Of course, most books will always be better in their original form, but I’ve learned to appreciate a good translator.   Alison Anderson did an excellent job translating A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse.   Though I do wish more of the original language was kept, the pace was very French, and I loved the way the chapters flowed.  Many were short and concise, almost like a series of short vignettes.  The narrator speaks seamlessly, each chapter end comes upon the reader like a breath before plunging into the next piece of the story.  A Novel Bookstore is about a Parisian bookstore that only stocks “good novels” and the reactions of the public to this store that dares to define what a good novel is.  It is also that they dare to exclude books that do not fit their criteria.  Well written and definitely a love story to literature, this book inspired to me to examine my own bookcases.

And here is where I admit that though I have a degree in English literature, I definitely lean more towards mysteries and serial fiction.  I can’t help it, I love to solve puzzles and read about people’s imaginative versions of other worlds.  So looking at my own shelves, I must ask this question: What is literature to me?  What defines a book as a literary novel?  Well written, beautifully composed, meaningful…this is pretty standard.  I came to the conclusion that not only did it need to fill those requirements, it also had to change the way I looked at the world.  I think that really great books open a window so that you can see clearer or perhaps get a glimpse of something you didn’t even dream of.

With this criteria in mind, here are my top 15 “Good Novels” in no particular order.
Amrita, Banana Yoshimoto
Animal Dreams, Barabara Kingsolver
Bleak House, Charles Dickens
The Complete Tales, Edgar Allen Poe (too good to leave out)
The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
In the Time of The Butterflies, Julia Alverez
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
Middlemarch, George Eliot
Pride and prejudice, Jane Austin
Swiss Family Robinson, Johann Wyss
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neal Hurston
Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
The Years, Virginia Woolf
If you’re looking for a great book shop in the Chapel Hill area, I suggest checking out Flyleaf Books.  They have wonderful taste and a great selection.  They will also order any book for you that they don’t have in stock.

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