So I decided to make my own best 100 list, but it didn’t work. I stalled at sixteen. Then I looked again at some of those favorites that I hadn’t read for a while, and the number dropped to fourteen. Then I remembered another long un-read classic and the number went up to fifteen.
The small number is partly because I am picky, and partly because I can’t remember every book I’ve ever read. Nevertheless, the ones I remember deserve a shout-out, and I guarantee they are an eclectic group. They do have one unifying characteristic — they all sing.
That they sing is the only real criterion for greatness in my universe. This means finding the precise balance between workaday language and the kind of overblown language that is too precious to live. That point of balance depends in part on the story being told. Hemingway, Roberts, and Le Guin, three authors from the list, are quite different from one another but each strikes the precisely right note for the story he or she is telling.
Here is the list. Six of the entries have been covered already in previous posts. I have keyed most of them with a link at the bottom of this post so you can check them out. The remaining nine will show up as individual posts over the next couple of months.
These are a mixture of novels, novellas, compilations of linked short stories, and series of novels. Some are the best or most accessible books that stand for a writers whole body of work. One represents a brilliant writer whose career was cut short before he wrote a single SF or fantasy novel.
Works that hit the sweet spot.
Nine I haven’t yet written about.
The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway
Pavane Keith Roberts
A Wizard of Earthsea Ursula LeGuin
The Road to Corlay Richard Cowper
Lensman Series E. E. Smith
Jack of Shadows Roger Zelazny
The Trial of Calista Blake Edgar Pangborn
The Traveler in Black John Brunner
Highland Laddie Gone Sharyn McCrumb
Six I have written about
Hunter, Come Home Richard McKenna
Richard McKenna had one novel in his short career, The Sand Pebbles, a best seller but not science fiction. He also wrote a number of short science fiction pieces including this one.
A Prince of the Captivity John Buchan
John Buchan is most famous for his novel The 39 Steps. My selection is a less well known work.
The Riddle of the Sands Erskine Childers
Erskine Childers wrote this, the first modern spy novel.
A Christmas Carol, et al Charles Dickens
Altogether, Charles Dickens wrote five Christmas novels.
The Three Stages of … Robert A. Heinlein
No link here. Check Wednesday’s post.