What is a masterpiece? Usually there’s a general critical (or at least cultural) consensus on what the ‘best’ novel is by any given author. Maybe it’s not explicitly called the ‘best’, but everyone recognizes it- it’s the book you’re assigned in high school and again in college, the one that people namedrop (title drop?) and the one you see on book lists. Which is really unfair because there are lots of under-appreciated books that deserve more love. And because I’m all about spreading the love ❤ here are my favorite books that I completely subjectively think are the best by some veddy important authors. Continue reading “The Real chef d’œuvre”
In the few months since I posted a list of my favorite authors (one of my first lists here, incidentally) I haven’t been able to stop thinking of those poor lost souls I didn’t include who rightfully deserved their place on said list.
So today I’m going to remedy some of that by focusing on the nonfiction authors and playwrights I omitted.
As a refresher, an author or playwright is objectively a favorite if they have multiple works, most of which I love/find amazing/enjoy.
So step right up, nonfictioners and theater people!
- E.B. White
So Charlotte’s Web is brilliant. Stuart Little is brilliant. The Trumpet of the Swan is even better because Boston and Swan Boats and the Public Garden. But E.B White wrote some really astonishingly good and beautiful essays and I stayed up reading them all night before Thanksgiving my freshman year of college after being introduced to them through English 115 [we read Death of a Pig in class (And to all those people who thought he was mocking the pig and its pain- He wrote fucking Charlotte’s Web! Context people- you really think E.B. White is a pig-hater?! Idiotic)]. Somehow I didn’t get turned on to this when I was made to read Once More to the Lake my senior year of high school. (Probably because the class, professor, and short story were all of lesser quality). So White’s farm tales feed my soul. The New York ones are also quite good.
- Joan Didion
At the moment I’m reading Play It As It Lays, which is lovely and bleak. Mom recommended it. She likes lovely and bleak (as do I). She’s also the reason Carson McCullers will be up on a coming installment of this list. But Play It As It Lays is fiction, you say. Shut up. Because she’s also on here for Slouching Toward Bethlehem and The Year of Magical Thinking. That last one. Ouch. Ooof. All of it in the feels. I read it shortly after Dad’s rock climbing accident. I sometimes wonder how much loving a book has to do with serendipitous alignment of mood, circumstance, another factors. I do sometimes just set a book aside because I know I’m not in the right mindset to properly get it. Which is another of the benefits of having favorite well-trusted authors. You can just say, “I’m feeling Steinbeck.” or “Wow, that Thomas Hardy just razed my soul, please find me a Jane Austen before I curl into the fetal position.” But anyway, Didion: points for naming her daughter Quintana. Pretty awesome.
- Antoine de St. Exupery
Okay, forget about The Little Prince for a minute. I know it’s hard. Because that book is a lot and because it’s the Expert that’s been shoved down everyone’s throats forever. I know the fox is wonderful. I know the rose is a callous, disillusioned, shallow bitch (Like all women, am I right?) (The answer is NO, misogynistic pigs). FORGET ABOUT IT AND GO READ HIS STORIES ABOUT FLYING. PLANES. Both fiction and nonfiction. Wind, Sand, and Stars. Night Flight. Flight to Arras. His journals of the war years. I want to include a quote to impress upon you that overwhelming beauty of his writing about planes and flight. But I can’t pick one. And the quotes, beautiful in and of themselves, are actually glorious when they’re all nested and twined together in a complete story. They’re not long but the amount of human feeling, profundity, and aspiration they encompass is like filling your lungs fully with air for the first time. And they’re so little talked about it kills me.
- Ernest Hemingway
Haha, yes okay maybe this is cheating a little bit. My favorite Hemingway is A Moveable Feast. *Swoon*. But Hemingway is known for his fiction. Which I also quite like (with exceptions). Like you’d think To Have and Have Not would be perfect given that I love the movie based on it (Bogie and Bacall, MORE SWOON). But it’s not, one of the few times the movie is head and shoulders above the book (don’t kill me). But hey, he has some good short stories. The Sun Also Rises is good. Except ew, bullfighting. The Old Man and the Sea is definitely good.
Let’s be honest: Hemingway is holding on by the ends of his nails. I’m even taking into account his love of extra-toed cats. Without that he probably wouldn’t be on here. (Also he was really attractive.) The thing is A Moveable Feast is one of my favorite favorite books. And that’s enough to make up for my more tepid admiration of some of his other works. They’re not as favorite-y as they could be, but A Moveable Feast is here to make up the difference.
- Peter Mayle
I love Peter Mayle. I love reading about Provence and Provençal culture. It makes me happy. And his anecdotes are truly amusing. A Year in Provence, Encore Provence, and Toujours Provence. But I’m not very fond of Peter Mayle’s fiction. But the anecdotes about the mistral? Parisian gastronomic delights? Truffle gangsterdom and swindles? His crazy neighbor (like the French version of a hillbilly?). Such excellent summer reading. Or, you know, also good for chasing away winter blues. Always is good too. An important point here being that I’m a bit of a francophile (if you haven’t noticed) so if you’re indifferent to the French (or if, like my Pop Pop, you’ve avoided and disliked them ever since you met some rude ones while in the navy) I don’t know that these will be up your alley.
Okay, I lied! This is long enough- I’m saving playwrights for a separate write up. There are four of them. Debate who they are in your heads until then.