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

    Josephine Humphreys

    1. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
    2. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884).
    3. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy (1961).
    4. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (1984).
    5. Edisto by Padget Powell (1984).
    6. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853).
    7. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955).
    8. The stories of Flannery O’Connor (1925–64).
    9. Light in August by William Faulkner (1932).
    10. Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre (1938).


    Classic List

    Wally Lamb

    1. The Odyssey by Homer (ninth century b.c.e.?).
    2. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605, 1615).
    3. King Lear by William Shakespeare (1605).
    4. Tom Jones  by Henry Fielding (1749).
    5. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884).
    6. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (1900).
    7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925).
    8. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939).
    9. The stories of Flannery O’Connor (1925–64).
    10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967). 


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