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 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 I haven’t read. Books like like Pride and Prejudice or Anna Karenina, for example, didn’t make the list. Also, all books on this list are standalones. This means that they are not a part of a series. Finally, I admit, I couldn’t just pick five. To begin, I want to give three notable mentions. With these three, I will explain my justification for why they didn’t make the top of the list. After, I will divulge the top five fiction books in my opinion. That being said, all of these books are worthy of a read or two.
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 affiliate. This means I will get a little kickback, but it doesn’t cost you any more money to buy.
Notable Mention #1
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This book is great. It almost made the list of top five fiction books in my opinion. In many online lists, this is definitely one of the top fiction books out there. 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. Furthermore, it brings to light scary injustices towards African Americans. It presents harsh realities of their past treatment, and perhaps even lends insight into how they are still treated today.
I taught this book while 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 of the United States. Outside of that context, however, it doesn’t really have a broader appeal, in my opinion. For this reason, and only for the reason, it doesn’t make the list for the top five fiction books.
Notable Mention #2
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
I 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. I love the research that goes into these books. Brown cleverly weaves in fiction with his non-fiction to a point where he really brings us into the location. We, as readers, get to digest lots of awesome historical information while not feeling like we are in class. I chose to go with Angels and Demons instead of The Da Vinci Code for two reasons. First and foremost, his ambigrams are ingenious. Ambigrams are words that can be read the same way both normally and upside down. Look at the examples below.
The second reason is that this book is often thought of as the prequel for The Da Vinci Code. Why then does this book not make the top 5? While Dan brown is a great author, he is also formulaic. HIs books are repetitive. The short chapters makes these books an easy read for a voracious reader, but the plot is very similar. After you’ve read one Dan Brown book, you have a general idea of how the others will play out.
Notable Mention #3
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This book deserves a notable mention because I love its concept. It talks about Guy Montag who lives in a dystopian society. This society bans books and the affluent control knowledge. In fact, Montag is a fireman who no longer puts out fires. Instead, he burns books that have still survived. In this society, books lead to uprisings and revolts because of the ideas contained within. This is why they must be destroyed. Nothing ever good comes from them. As a result, society is easily brainwashed by television and their need for constant gratification. Scary, am I right?
A few reasons prohibit it from breaching the top five however. First, I already have three other, better dystopian books, so there was no need to include a fourth. And, second, I found the ending to be rather flat. Things talked about in the beginning never really held any weight towards the end. It lacked a good set-up and pay-off. Finally, I wish this book had better movie adaptations. However, so far, they have all been awful, even the most recent remake of it as an HBO exclusive.
With the notable mentions out of the way, here are the top five fiction books. I will start with number five and go to number one.
Top 5 Fiction Books
#5 - Feed by M.T. Anderson
This 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. ‘Feeds’ have been implanted in most people. Essentially, think of a “Feed” as having the ability to access Google whenever and wherever you want. With just a simple thought, they can access information. What they access is saved in their preferences, and their likes soon enough “feed” their attentions. This is very similar to the targeted advertising of today based on our search history. However, not all people are implanted with this feed. For example, 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 to some. Therefore, it doesn’t make it further up on the list.
#4 - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Arguably 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. Grown inside bottles, the elite brainwashes humans to believe certain moral ‘truths.’ Recreational sex and drugs make everyone happy. But one man—Bernard Marx—desires to break free. This is a great novel for those who want more literary value than Feed can provide. However, it, too, presents a nightmarish vision of how things could be in the future.
#3 - One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
This might be one of the best books ever written. 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. Why? 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. However, as I searched for good books to read, it kept coming up over and over again. So I gave it another go, knowing 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. It 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. The theme of this book is that life repeats itself. It is cyclical in nature. This is also the reason why the story is structured the way that it is.
Marques is purposeful with his book. Individuals wanting a mythical experience should pick up this book. Only read this book, however, if you are going to dedicate yourself fully to it. 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
The Party talks in a propagandistic language known as Newspeak, which is designed to reduce redundancy in communication. At the same time, it also limits free thought. 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.”
It is super popular here in China and throughout the rest of the world. If you want an eerie sense of what the future is coming to, 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! An ex-colleague of mine introduced this book to me. She taught her students with it. I didn’t pick it up, however, until years later. And I am 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.
What did you think of this list? Are there other fiction 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.