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

    David Mitchell

    1. The Duel by Anton Chekhov (1891).
    2.1984by George Orwell (1948).
    3.Heart of Darknessby Joseph Conrad (1899).
    4.Sense and Sensibilityby Jane Austen (1811).
    5.The Master and Margaritaby Mikhail Bulgakov (1966).
    6.As I Lay Dyingby William Faulkner (1930).
    7.Tom Jonesby Henry Fielding (1749).
    8.Labyrinthsby Jorge Luis Borges (1964).
    9.W, or The Memory of Childhoodby Georges Perec (1975).
    10.The Makioka Sistersby Junichiro Tanizaki (1943–48).
    Wild Card:Lolly Willowesby Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926).


    Classic List

    Top Ten African-American Works

    1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952). 
    2. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987). 
    3. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977). 
    4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937). 
    5. Native Son by Richard Wright (1945). 
    6. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959). 
    7. Another Country by James Baldwin (1962). 
    8. Cane by Jean Toomer (1923). 
    9. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid (1990). 
    10. Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown (1965). 


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