Top Five Fiction Books

A while ago, I wrote a blog post about my top five non-fiction books. As an accompanying post to that, I wanted to write today about the top five fiction books that I have read personally.

To preface this list, I want to mention that this list was very difficult to put together for a few reasons. There are SOOOO many books out there, and I have not read them all (difficult to imagine, I know). Moreover, some VERY good books that keep appearing on must-read lists like Pride and Prejudice or Anna Karenina, for example, I haven’t read and therefore they didn’t make the list (spoiler alert). One more thing I want to mention is that all the books on this list are standalones, meaning they are not a part of a series. Finally, I couldn’t just pick five, so before I begin counting down the top five, I want to give three notable mentions. These are also books you should read, but for one reason or another, which I try to explain in my justification, do not make the top 5 overall books.

The books in the top five that I list here are books that:

  • Provide a great deal of value in one’s own growth and personal development
  • Have benefitted my writing career by expanding my vocabulary or fostering my writing craft
  • Provide a great deal of literary value
  • Help us understand society and the way things are

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dig into our notable mentions. 

 

Also, if you want to purchase any of these books, I have included a link to buy them on Amazon by clicking the picture of the book listed. (I should note that I am an Amazon 

Notable Mention #1

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a MockingbirdThis book is great. It almost made the list of top five fiction books in my opinion, and in many online lists that you see this definitely is one of the top fiction books that has ever been written. It is a great story about Jem and “Scout” Finch along with their lawyer father, Atticus Finch, whose name is immortalized in the literary world. The story pivots around the idea of racism and segregation in the south and brings to light some scary injustices that have been done to African Americans and harsh realities of how they were treated back then (and perhaps even treated today to some extent).

I have taught this book while teaching in the United States because I think it is so relevant to the culture there. And that is one of the reasons why it DOESN’T make the top five list here. To Kill a Mockingbird is great if you want to understand more of the racism and political structure that happened in the United States, but outside the context of that it doesn’t really have a broader appeal to those individuals who are living in other parts of the world. For this reason, and only for the reason, it doesn’t make the top five of my personal favorite books because the scope of its story isn’t as ubiquitous.

Notable Mention #2

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Angels and DemonsI could have easily put here The Da Vinci Code as well. Both books by Dan Brown are good, and both books feature the detective Robert Langdon as he tries to solve a mystery. What I really love about these books is how well researched they are and how cleverly Brown weaves in fiction with non-fiction in his stories. It is an easy way to digest and consume lots of awesome historical information while not feeling like you are learning history at the same time. I chose to go with Angels and Demons instead of The Da Vinci Code for two reasons. First and foremost, I love how ingenious he was with his ambigrams—words that can be read the same way both normally and upside down. Here are some examples of what I mean below.

illuminati ambigram
water ambigram

The second reason is that this book is often thought of as the prequel for The Da Vinci Code, although both could be read in any order. Why then does this book not make the top 5? Well, while this book is good and Dan Brown is a great author, I find his books to be a little repetitive. His chapters are short, which makes the pace of these books great and easily digestible for those with a voracious appetite, but the plot is very similar. After you’ve read one Dan Brown book, you kind of have an idea of how the other ones are going to play out and who the ‘bad guy’ is going to be at the end.

Notable Mention #3

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451I included this book in the notable mentions because I really like the concept of the book. It talks about Guy Montag who lives in a dystopian society where books are banned and knowledge is controlled by the affluent. In fact, Montag is a fireman who no longer puts out fires. Instead, he burns books that have still survived. In this society, books are filled with ideas and lies and lead to uprisings and revolts. Nothing ever good comes from books. In turn, this has made society not as intelligent and easily brainwashed with their television and their desire for constant gratification.

A few reasons prohibit it from breaching the top five however. First, I already have three other, and in my mind, better dystopian books about the state of the future on this list, so there was no need to include a fourth. And, second, I found the ending to  be rather flat and there are things that were talked about in the beginning that don’t come to surface or play a big role by the end of the book, so it lacks a good deal of set-up and pay-off to use some author lingo. Finally, I wish this book had better movie adaptations with it, but they have all been quite bad, even the most recent remake of it as an HBO exclusive. This book does deserve higher praise, but for now it will settle as a notable mention.

With the notable mentions out of the way, here are the top five fiction books, in descending order, starting with number five and going to number one.

Top 5 Fiction Books

#5 - Feed by M.T. Anderson

FeedThis dystopian novel reflects, in my mind, the not-too-distant future and reality that society will inevitably face. In this world, the Earth has colonized the moon, and it is the popular spot for many a spring breaks. Most have been implanted with a ‘feed’ in the back of their necks. Essentially, think of it as having the ability to access Google whenever you want. With just a simple thought, they can access information, but what they access is then saved in their preferences and their likes and soon enough the ‘feed’ or the steady stream of advertisements show them what they most desire, very similar to the targeted advertising of today. However, not all people are implanted with this feed and the main story’s character Titus falls in love with Violet, who doesn’t have the feed.

Rich with its own unique language and slang, Feed offers readers chilling truths about the dangers in advancement of technology and what it might mean for our earth as a whole. Due to the vulgarity of this book at times and this slang, it may make this novel inaccessible or not easily digestible to some and therefore it doesn’t make it further up on the list.

#4 - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New WorldArguably one of the greatest science fiction books of all time, Brave New World takes place nearly 600 years in the future, where the World Controllers have created the ‘ideal’ society. Humans are grown inside bottles, then brainwashed to believe certain moral ‘truths’. Recreational sex and drugs mean that everyone is a happy consumer. But one man—Bernard Marx—longs to break free. This is a great novel for those who want more literary value than Feed can provide, but presents a nightmarish vision of how things could be, to make us all reflect on life as we know it now. 

#3 - One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

This might be one of the best books ever written, and for that reason, I picked it up not so long ago, wanting to give it a read. Within the first fifty pages, I put it down. It was difficult to get through and there were so many names that I had to keep track of. Ugh, it was a nightmare. And many reviews you’ll see online for this book will say the exact same thing: that the names (being very identical) make this book a challenge. As I searched for good books to read, it kept coming up over and over again, though, so I decided to give it another go and this time understand what I was getting into.

The hard work was worth it.

If you can put yourself in the right state of mind, this book is so fantastic and has so much literary value it’s hard to put into this little segment here, but I’ll try. The story takes place in a remote town called Macando and pivots around the Buendiá Family. It talks about the rise and fall of this town, as well as the family, and offers a great lesson that history, and much of life, is often cyclical in nature. That is a motif of the story and one of the reasons why the author chooses to structure the story the way he does and also the names of the characters the way he does.

Everything that Marquez does is for a purpose, and so I would recommend this book for those individuals who want a mythical sort of experience because it will provide that, assuming you give it your full attention. It is an amazing book, but not an easy book to read. For this reason, and this reason alone, I put it as #3 and not #2 or #1 because outside the realm of magical realism or literary novels, this book might not appeal to the masses as much as the next two books.

#2 - 1984 by George Orwell

Written in 1949, this book is prescient and way before its time, like the other dystopian novels already included on this list. It follows a Londoner named Winston Smith who is a citizen of a future society under a totalitarian regime known as the Party, with the leader of this “Party” known as Big Brother.

The Party has created a propagandistic language known as Newspeak, which is designed to limit free thought and promote the Party’s doctrines. Its words include doublethink (belief in contradictory ideas simultaneously), which is reflected in the Party’s slogans: “War is peace,” “Freedom is slavery,” and “Ignorance is strength.”

With 67,373 ratings on the American Amazon store (as of writing this post), this chilling dystopia had made a deep impression on readers and has entered mainstream culture in a way achieved by very few books, and definitely much more than the other two novels which is why it is placed as the highest-rated dystopian novel here on this list.

It is super popular here in China and throughout the rest of the world and definitely deserves one of the top spots here in best books to read. If you want an eerie sense of what the future is coming to, or how it already may be in certain parts of the world, look no further than this book.

#1 - The Alchemist by Paulo Cuehlo

With 86,180 ratings on Amazon (as of writing this post) this book is amazing on so many levels! I was first introduced to this book by an ex-colleague of mine. She used it to teach her students, but it wasn’t until a year later where I picked it up myself and read it. Wow. Was I glad that I did. It fueled a desire and passion in me to pursue my dreams. And, quite literally, the book does this in its plot. Even the title is technically, “The Alchemist: A fable about following your dream.”

Santiago, the protagonist of the story, goes to a gypsy to get guidance on a recurring dream that he has and she persuades him to follow his dream, as it will lead to a buried treasure. Throughout this journey in pursuing his Personal Legend (which is finding this treasure), Santiago learns many valuable takeaways that we can apply to our own lives such as:

  • “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”
  • “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
  • “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

On top of that, Santiago learns to discern omens and falls in love with a woman of the desert named Fatima. During this scene, the author flexes his muscle as a writer and delivers one of the most amazing passages about love that I have ever read.

Because this book has so much value for the reader, because it is an easy and digestible read, and because the writing in it is absolutely superb with literary techniques and allusions that engage those who want more out of their book, this book is number 1. For anyone who is looking for a feel-good book that is chalked full of lessons, allusions, and literary magic, look no further than The Alchemist.

Conclusion

What did you think of this list? Are there books that rival these for the top spot or notable mentions that you have read? If you have favorite books of your own that you want to recommend, leave them in the comments below. I hope you can find some time this summer holiday to read these books. 

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