General Question

desiree333's avatar

What Is The Single Best Book You Have EVER Read?

Asked by desiree333 (3206points) June 30th, 2009

I need some ideas for some summer reading.

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73 Answers

augustlan's avatar

To Kill a Mockingbird, hands down.

hug_of_war's avatar

Lord of the Rings

desiree333's avatar

@augustlan I read that for my English class, and I think it was pretty good, but got too dry after awhile.
@hug of war I tried to read that, but it was when I was in like grade 4 so I don’t remember…

Darwin's avatar

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. It changed what I read completely from then on.

desiree333's avatar

I dont have a FAVOURITE, although I really enjoyed The Sphere, and the first book of the chronicles of narnia series, which the name escapes me. I haven’t read much legitimate books for my age, all the good books were ones I read when I was younger

Grisaille's avatar

The dictionary was f’n awesome during it’s first read-through.

Loses its charm after repeated readings. Seriously, once you ruin the surprise that “T” comes after “S”, you’re done.

Grisaille's avatar

@desiree333 “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”

Allie's avatar

@Darwin Ooh, awesome answer.

I was going to suggest Something Wicked This Way Comes, but there are so many great books.
Catch-22 is a good funny one.
I also really like The Odyssey.
Poe’s stories are great too.

desiree333's avatar

@Grisaille actually it was the 2nd book, something like the magicians nephew…? I remember now that I skipped the first because I saw the movie :P

Grisaille's avatar

@desiree333 Nevermind, then :P

AstroChuck's avatar

Last Chance To See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine is probably the best nonfiction book I’ve read.
Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is probably the best novel I’ve read.

Grisaille's avatar

Seriously, though… I’m having a hard time here! Best book I’ve EVER read? Man.

Darwin's avatar

@AllieSomething Wicked… is a very good book also, but I read The Illustrated Man first, and it was the first adult science fiction I had ever read. It impressed me mightily and affected my reading taste and writing style ever since.

YARNLADY's avatar

I’ve read literally thousands of books, and I can’t really pick one as being that outstanding. right now, the one that pops into my mind is Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein.

Grisaille's avatar

Am I allowed to pick a trilogy?

The Gaean Trilogy – John Varley was pretty fantastic. I could go off and say something like Ender’s Game or Golden Apples from the Sun… maybe even Tequila Mockingbird (har har)Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, from my recollection, were great… GAH

Too many.

desiree333's avatar

@Grisaille sure, go for it. I should have included some more details in the question and at least stated my opinion

Grisaille's avatar

Ringworld, too.

EDIT: And Dune. But these are hardly the best ever.

Jeruba's avatar

I couldn’t possibly answer this. Given time I might be able to name you a hundred or so of the thousand best books I’ve read. I’ve loved so many, admired so many, and been wonderstruck by so many, and the latest really magnificent book I’ve read always seems like the best at the time.

You can hardly go wrong, though, to pick one of these lists and just start reading.

desiree333's avatar

@Jeruba well.. why don’t you list a couple?

dalepetrie's avatar

As much as I appreciate the classics, and as much as I am NOT into most of today’s popular fiction, Stephen King’s “The Stand” is for me the most enjoyable read I’ve ever had, and I don’t care WHO laughs at me. I think given time it will become a classic. It so vividly imagines the finer details of the end of the world as we know it…there were just so many details, from how they got rid of the bodies, to how they got gasoline, to how the containment of the superbug was compromised and the military’s reaction…it was so well done. Enough so that even though the unedited version ends up at something like 1200+ pages, I’ve read it no less than 6 times.

Jeruba's avatar

First five “best” that come to mind:

Eliot, Silas Marner
Nabokov, Ada
Bronte, Wuthering Heights
Twain, Huckleberry Finn
Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

LC_Beta's avatar

I was a Lit major in school, so this question is very difficult to answer. However, I’d like to throw one out that I never heard mention of in a classroom:

Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart, is the one book that I find myself thinking of all the time, no matter how long it’s been since I last read it.

Grisaille's avatar


I seriously need to go to bed.

augustlan's avatar

@dalepetrie I thoroughly enjoy Stephen King.

shrubbery's avatar

If we’re allowed trilogies… I think I’d have to say Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy.
But I might also say “Lighthousekeeping” by Jeanette Winterson. It has stayed with me and impacted me ever since I first read it.

Jeruba's avatar

I used to be a huge Stephen King fan, too, and enjoyed reading his own account of what he was up to in his writing. I think Pet Sematary is his best novel because he gets into deeper themes at last while still telling a ripping good story. It was The Shining that scared me the most, though. And it might be “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” that turns out to be his most respected work.

His later work began to pall as he seemed to run out of material. After Misery I moved on.

augustlan's avatar

I really like King’s short stories.

dalepetrie's avatar

Yes, his short stories are great. I just remember the reaction of the “literary community” when he won a National Book Award, it was like, “how DARE they” nominate a contemporary author? A lot of people see the supernatural element in his works and discount him as anything great, but I think he’s as good as those who are taught in schools, time just hasn’t moved far enough to see him recognized for his contributions. The way he writes about childhood is so amazing….I remember being a teenager, reading stories he wrote about teenage characters and thinking, wow, I can’t believe how well he describes how it is.

arnbev959's avatar

Some books that come to mind:

On the Road – Kerouac

Walden; or Life in the Woods – Thoreau

A Boy’s Will / North of Boston – Frost

Adventures / Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes – A.C. Doyle

Anything by David Grayson Probably rather difficult to find. I stumbled upon a book by him at a library book sale last year, and then another at a used book store. But they were both old books, and I’m pretty sure he’s no longer in print. His books are sort of written for children, but he has a unique perspective that you won’t find anywhere else.

Journals of Lewis and Clark

The Stranger – Camus

Steppenwulf, Siddhartha – Hesse

Picture of Dorian Gray – Wilde

Anything by Loren Eiesley

Ishmael – Daniel Quinn

DarkScribe's avatar

Life and the Single Woman. Until I read that (at age thirteen) I thought that only guys got horny.

(You did ask about “single” books.)

nikipedia's avatar

If I really had to pick just one, it would be Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides. Blindness, Jose Saramago, would be a strong contender.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

The bible… by a landslide. But since I’m sure most people don’t want to hear that I suppose I’ll pick a secular book.. xD .. Hmmm… probably The Terror .. and I say that because you probably don’t want to hear about my favorite Mutts collection either.

aliisyourfriend's avatar

The first few that jump to mind are The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin [purely for the fact that I have read it more than a dozen times and enjoy it every time; I enjoyed it when I was a kid and I still like it now], The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, I could go on. It’s a really hard question for me.

If you insist that I pick just one I’d go with The Westing Game.

Sariperana's avatar

“Veronica Decides to Die” by Paulo Coehelo… he is the guy who wrote the Alchemist…
But like everyone else, there are many, many favourites!!

DeanV's avatar

Nobody suggested 1984 or Animal Farm yet? That’s up there for me. And Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. Or most of Chuck Palahniuk’s stuff is great.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

The John Varley Reader – 30 years of short fiction. Best book I’ve ever read, and I re-read it every couple of years. I highly recommend it for a summer read. Especially the story Persistence of Vision.

susanc's avatar

Birds Without Wings, Louis de Bernieres.
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame.
along with nikipedia: Blindness, Jose Saramago.
My Traitor’s Heart, Rian Malan.
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe.
The Golden Notebook, and The Four-Gated City, Doris Lessing.
The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
yes, the Philip Pullman trilogy
Independent People, Halldor Laxness
The Living, Annie Dillard

susanc's avatar

Oh, the SINGLE best book?

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout (I forgot)

juniper's avatar

East of Eden.

kenmc's avatar

My top 5 in no particular order:

On The Road by Jack Kerouac
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Ham On Rye by Charles Bukowski
Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
Slaughter-House 5 by Kurt Vonnegut

Gundark's avatar

@LC_Beta I love Earth Abides. I first heard it as a radio play, and then read the book later. Both were wonderful.

By odd coincidence, I heard another of my favorites as a radio play before I read it: Les Miserables.

I also enjoyed Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, They Call Me Asher Lev and The Chosen by Chaim Potok.

There are a number of books I’ve enjoyed so much that I’ve read them three, four, five, six or even seven times:

- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader —by far my favorite of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia, though I think it is better if you read it in the context of the series.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
– All of James Herriott’s books.
– The original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. The later books are not as good.
2001, A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke (and Stanley Kubrick).
The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
The Postman by David Brin

LC_Beta's avatar

@Gundark : I love encountering people who
know and love Earth Abides :) That book was one of the (many) reasons I moved to San Francisco. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a long drive without spending a good portion of my time thinking about it. Has it affected your life as well?

Gundark's avatar

I wouldn’t say it has affected my life or any major decisions, but despite how long ago I read it (25 years? 30?), I still think about it. Unlike a lot of more highly acclaimed books that I barely remember, specific scenes from the book come back to me from time to time. It was truly a gem of a book, which far too few people have encountered.

I’m going to have to dig up a copy and read it again. I have a bookstore gift certificate I need to use . . .


Ashalah's avatar

Anything by Douglas Coupland and anything by Augusten Burroughs.

augustlan's avatar

Ooh… Most anything by David Sedaris, too.

boffin's avatar

Baldacci’s “Wish You Well”

sdeutsch's avatar

I’m like @Jeruba – the latest great book I’ve read seems to outshine all the ones before, but I think this time it might actually be the best ever. I just read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, and it was truly amazing. I’m not sure anything else will ever quite live up to it!

I could name hundreds of others that come very very close, but A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle will always be my very favorite. I’ve read it dozens of times since I was little, and the magic of it always sweeps me away. I love it!

vegelizabeth's avatar

To kill a mockingbird was by far my absolute favorite !!!! the movie is great as well.
but i also like anything written by margaret peterson haddix !

DeanV's avatar

Thank god nobody has said Twilight…

vegelizabeth's avatar

hahahahah i know it !

augustlan's avatar

Grisaille did! I do believe he was kidding. I hope.

DeanV's avatar

Oh my. I just lost some respect for him…

You were kidding, right?

Allie's avatar

He was sleep deprived…. maybe?

Grisaille's avatar



DeanV's avatar


Grisaille's avatar

In all seriousness, though. I’ve been thinking of picking up the book/movie, just to poke fun at it, but I fear that I might actually enjoy it.

I’d never, ever forgive myself.

DeanV's avatar

Oh my. Well. I wouldn’t do it, not because I fear I would like it, but because people might actually try and talk about the book with me. High school students are huge fans of it, of course.

Well. Tell me how it goes.

Grisaille's avatar

Hey, both forms have gotten some pretty respectable reviews. Can’t knock something just because a bunch of rabid fangirls are obsessive over it; similarly, a bunch of sour-puss, angst-ridden teenage males shouldn’t deter me from what could possibly be a decent young-adult novel/movie.

Wait, what the fuck am I saying?


Jeruba's avatar

There just happens to be a great list of 50 titles in the current issue of Newsweek (cover date July 13, but I got it yesterday, July 1). It includes both fiction and nonfiction, recent and classic, with a capsule comment on each.

knitfroggy's avatar

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i’m ignoring the word ‘ever’, even though it’s in caps, so it’s kind of hard. every time i read a book i like, i think it’s the bestthingeverohmygod.

so right now, overqualified by joey comeau (he writes for asofterworld). it’s very short – 94 pages i think – and it’s just ‘cover letters’ for ‘resumes’, but they’re basically about his personal life, and he sounds batshit crazy in most of them, to be honest. i read the entire thing in an hour or so, so it’s probably not what you’re looking for if you want to waste time, but it’s an incredible book nonetheless. made me kind of reevaluate life, and lightbulbs, and credit card companies. my kind of book, eh

jamielynn2328's avatar

Tomcat in Love, by Tim O’Brien

desiree333's avatar

@Grisaille @dverhey Don’t knock the Twilight series if you have never even read them. They are actually really good books. If all these girls and teenagers are crazy over the series thats because theres a reason for it… they’re simply great books.

Also the reason theres such a huge Twilight hype and obsession with teenagers is mostly due to Robert Patisson (Edward Cullen), because hes friggin HOT.

Grisaille's avatar

You apparently didn’t read my posts on how I’d like to read them one day.

DeanV's avatar

It’s not that I don’t value the plotline of the book, it’s just that there’s absolutely no way that Twilight could be on the list of “best book ever read”. I have no real issue with the book, or the author, it’s just really not my style. I prefer other types of books.

I don’t think that theory is completely correct though. Twilight (the book) was still really popular before Twilight (the movie) came out.

Darwin's avatar

I did read Twilight. It definitely is not the “best book I have ever read.”

desiree333's avatar

I agree with you guys, Twilight is not the best book I have ever read. I haven’t really read any amazing “best” books yet.
@Grisaille sorry.

Grisaille's avatar

No need to apologize.


jenandcolin's avatar

Other than the classics and overall “must reads” (my personal favorite is Thoreau), “Geek Love” is an excellent book. One of my all time favorites.

SABOTEUR's avatar

I really enjoyed the Harry Potter series. Like the The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, it’s on my list of books to reread from time to time.

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