If, as the Oxford dictionary presents, one of the definitions of a canon is “the list of works considered to be permanently established as being of the highest quality,” then preparing such a list is a heady task for any bibliophile. And reading those lists of fellow bibliophiles is at least as interesting, if not more, than revealing one’s own.
Here’s a problem: around which perimeters can such a list be created? Those books from childhood which firmly established my love of reading? Then I would have to say B is For Betsy by Caroline Haywood, or my well worn copy of Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. And even before that, my mother was reading Beatrix Potter books to me, and The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.
Or, there are the books which ushered me into adulthood, such as Madame Bovary read at the tender age of 17 after a particularly heart rending break up, or Madeleine L’Engle’s The Love Letters.
There are books which shaped my whole political outlook, such as Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, or opened doors to me of fantastic other worlds such as Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84.
So, a list considered to be of the highest quality? All I can give you is a list of my most well-loved books, the books which I have carted from apartment to condo to townhouse to home, the books that I pick up and reread again and again. From the top of my head, here is my personal canon:
- The Bible
- Possession by A. S. Byatt
- The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
- Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
- Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis
- The Lord of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
- Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fydor Dostoevsky
- Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- The Day of The Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
- The Sorrow of Angels by Jon Kalman Stefansson
- Swimming to Elba by Sylvia Avallone
- Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Surely there are more, should I take the time to ponder more deeply, or scout my shelves more thoroughly. But thanks to Frances of Nonsuch Book, and Anthony of Times Flow Stemmed before her, I have compiled a list of my most beloved books. My canon, so to speak.
Do any of them resonate with you?