Diana Abu-Jaber's Top Ten List


Diana Abu-Jaber is the newest member of the Top Ten Family. She is a versatile writer of memoir, fiction and essays whose work focuses on the nexus and tension between identity and culture – a natural topic for Diana, the daughter of an Irish Catholic mother and Jordanian Muslim father.

Her first novel, Arabian Jazz, won the 1994 Oregon Book Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. It is set in a small, poor-white community in upstate New York that has become home to the transplanted Jordanian family of Matussem Ramoud: his grown daughters, Jemorah and Melvina; his sister Fatima; and her husband, Zaeed. The widower Matuseem loves American jazz, kitschy lawn ornaments, and, of course, his daughters. Fatima is obsessed with seeing her nieces married—Jemorah is nearly thirty! Supernurse Melvina is firmly committed to her work, but Jemorah is ambivalent about her identity and role. Is she Arab? Is she American? Should she marry and, if so, whom?

 Her other novels are OriginCrescent, which was awarded the 2004 PEN Center USA Award for Literary Fiction and the American Book Award, and, most recently, Birds of Paradise.

Diana is also a foodie, a passion she explores most directly in her award winning memoir, The Language of Baklava, which weaves together stories of being raised by a food-obsessed Jordanian father with tales (and recipes) of Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts and goat stew feasts under Bedouin tents in the desert.

Read a San Francisco Chronicle profile of Diana.

Read an interview with Diana that ranges from Michael Ondaatje to Jimmy Choo.

Visit Diana’s website.


Diana's list adds one new title to the Top Ten uiverse, The Book of Love, by Rumi. She joins Ha Jin and James Salter in her admirration for The Arabian Nights.


1. The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights (c. 1450). 

2. The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing by Rumi (1707-1273).

3. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72).

4. The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).

5. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (1916).

6. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927).

7. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1600).

8. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955).

9. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (1951).

10. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926). 

New List

Joyce Carol Oates

1. The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1872).
2. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847).
4. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
5. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
6. Independent People by Halldór Laxness (1934).
7. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936).
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
9. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934).
10. The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942).


Classic List

Charles Palliser


1. Adolphe by Benjamin Constant (1816).
2. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien (1939).
3. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824).
4. Anton Reiser by Karl Philipp Moritz (1785-90).
5. The Golovlyev Family by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin (1876).
6. The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton (1947).
7. The Tale of Genji by Shikibu Murasaki (c. 1001–1010 c.e.).
8. The Dukays by Lajos Zilahy. (1949)
9. Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane (1896).
10. The Maias by Eca de Queiroz (1888).


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