Top Ten Tuesday: The reviews that might have been

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This week’s Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the top ten books you loved but never reviewed. Perhaps the books that were just too good for words. Or that you fell in love with before you started blogging. You can play along at The Broke and the Bookish. This week, I’m counting down to #1 David Letterman-style.

10. The Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.. This is probably the only one that fits into the category of books I read while I was blogging, but for some reason, didn’t review. I don’t know why I didn’t write about this book. Maybe I thought it wasn’t cool because there was actually a love story between chickens? Who knows.

9. Jacob Have I Loved, or Dicey’s Song, or Island of the Blue Dolphins, or any of the other pouty and melodramatic (but also Newberry award winning, because I was a book snob, even then) young adult fiction I read when the world was still ever so dark (but also exciting in its broodiness).

8. Almost any mystery by Agatha Christie. She is the gold standard by which I measure all other mysteries. By the time I graduated from high school, I had read every mystery she’d ever written and a few less mystery-like things she wrote under her pen name, Mary Westamacott. She is the master of the beautifully crafted and honed mystery, always completely perfect in its particular genre. Though I have to say, I have always hated Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot. People, this is not what Hercule Poirot looks like. I still have a perfect picture in my head of Hercule Poirot, and it does not look like Peter Ustinov.
7. Wolf Whistle, by Lewis Nordan. Here begins the Southern section of my list. Lewis Nordan is the South’s magical realist, and Wolf Whistle is his semi-autobiographical account of the murder of Emmett Till, which happened right down the road from where Nordan grew up. And also, it’s Algonquin Press, publisher of many great Southern authors.
6. Raney, by Clyde Edgerton. In the fiction class I took from Edgerton in college, he shared with us the gender-change trick of fiction. If you want to write about someone but don’t want them to recognize themselves, change their gender. And he revealed that this was how the novel Raney came to be, though I’m not sure who exactly the male Raney was, and am guessing he probably (wisely) didn’t tell us.

5. Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor. The Christ-haunted landscape. That’s all you have to say, really. Jesus as something scary that jumps at you out of the dark in the pitch black, Georgia woods. That’s Flannery O’Connor.

4. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m thinking as I write this list that I should go back and read these books and review them, because they’re just so damn good. This book is a masterwork in subtlety, the way Ishiguro creates this world that is just taken for granted by the narrator, but absolutely horrifying. It is seamless. There are no cracks. No moments when the subtle magic being woven by the narrator ever cracks. Amazing. And disturbing.
3. The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin. I actually do re-read this book pretty frequently. It’s short, but powerfully packed. Here’s a quote from Baldwin from Advice to Writers that says it all: 
When you’re writing, you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know. The whole language of writing for me is finding out what you don’t want to know, what you don’t want to find out. But something forces you to anyway.

2. How to Be Good, by Nick Hornby. This book helped me stay in a relationship with my now husband, because it was a voice speaking honestly about the incredible difficulties of sticking with someone and loving them.  Sometimes you just need to hear that you’re not the only one who thinks that way sometimes, and know that it’s also okay to laugh about it.

1. Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry. Believe it or not, I’ve never reviewed Jayber Crow, despite the fact that I mention the novel almost every other post. I don’t think I could write a review. This last one is in the category of too good for words to describe.

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