Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Debut Novels

I've decided to start intermittently participating in The Broke and the Bookish's weekly Top Ten Tuesday Meme. This week's topic is favorite debut novels. It required a lot of wiki-ing, because while there are many authors I enjoy, I haven't always liked their debut novels.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. This novel saved my sanity in high school, when my mother was forcing me to attend a fundamentalist megachurch three times a week and I was afraid I was losing my mind. There should really be an It Gets Better project for teenagers with parents who have crazy religious beliefs.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. Depressing as the subject matter of a teenager who commits suicide because she's lost all faith in humanity is, the novel is nevertheless a powerful reminder of the importance of even the smallest human interactions.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. The Bluest Eye completely changed the way I view race, feminism, media, and beauty. Pecola Breedlove is one of those characters you never forget, and I think of her every time I go to the toy store to buy a present for my cousins or my friend's children and see rack after rack of blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby dolls.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. One of my book lover's bragging rights involves having read House of Leaves over the course of three days on a beach trip. Once I started reading it, I couldn't stop until I'd finished all fiftyleven pages. It combined my love of language, postmodernism, poststructuralism, and specific literary themes (haunted houses, unreliable narrators) into a narrative soup that bears a frightening resemblance to my own headspace on a bad day. My copy is thoroughly underlined and annotated.

The Stranger by Albert Camus. I've read the stranger numerous times (in both French and English), and each time, I discover something new. I have it to thank for much of my formative experiences in learning and analyzing philosophy, though I don't consider myself a true existentialist.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Apart from the dystopian novels we all know I love, The Eyre Affair was my first foray into speculative fiction as well as the kick-off to my favorite series of novels. Interestingly, I've never read the regular Jane Eyre.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. I didn't read Persepolis until after I'd seen the movie, which was a very faithful adaptation. I nevertheless enjoyed the English version, even though I'm not generally a fan of coming-of-age novels. I'd really love to get my hands on a French copy, but they're hard to come by in the US.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I read this novel as part of an AP English course I took in high school, a companion to Milton's Paradise Lost (which I liked much less). It was one of the first times I'd read a novel featuring a layered, multi-perspective narrative (a form that was quite common in the eighteenth and nineteenth century that has since fallen out of vogue), and I really enjoyed it. I've since read several novels from that period, but Frankenstein remains my favorite. 

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I know I'm probably going to feminist hell for liking this book, but I could never get over how hilarious and true it was. Like Yossarian, I'm going to live forever. Even if it kills me.

Night by Elie Wiesel. It's more of a fictionalized memoir than a novel (much like Persepolis), but it was nevertheless very moving. It also gave me nightmares for months.

    Honorable Mention: The Book of Lost Things, which is John Connolly's first novel that wasn't a mystery. A wonderful re-imagining of fairy tales. 


    1. Great list! I loved Thirteen Reasons Why - such a powerful book.

      Reading Lark's Top 10

    2. I love these memes.

      I loved Persepolis. I can't remember if I watched the film first or read the books first. They kinda (very losely) reminded me of Art Spiegleman's Maus, but that's more likely due to the format of a graphic novel than to the content.

      You've mentioned House of Leaves to me before...at some point I need to read it when I find some time!