The List of Books

We awarded points for each selection – 10 points for a first place pick, nine points for a second place pick, and so on. Then we totaled up all the points and ranked them accordingly. Here are all the books ordered by the number of points each earned. In the parentheses are the initials of the authors that selected them and the points earned. Click on their initials to see their list. 

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G. B. Edwards (1981). The delight of this novel, set in England’s Channel Islands, is the cranky voice of its eponymous narrator. Recalling his long life on the isolated island, the farmer/fisherman Le Page describes his world on a local scale: family squabbles, romances, deaths. But history on a grander scale intrudes through the German occupation during World War II. “What a big fool this world is,” Le Page declares in an account of human folly suffused with wisdom.

Total Points: 1 (RPri 1)

The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar. A lyrical tale about the desire to become one with the divine, this epic allegory by the twelfth-century Sufi mystic follows a group of birds who vow to find the legendary Simurgh bird. Their limitations and faults—the basis for rich parables—are revealed through their quest, which has long inspired readers to begin their own spiritual journeys.

Total Points: 1 (MSB 1)

The Fever by Wallace Shawn (1990). In this play, a narrator's visit to a beautiful country is marred by political struggles which force him to not only review the presumptions of a "liberal" existence in the face of harsh, murderous reality but also to question his own existence.

Total Points: 1 (TJ 1)

The Human Stain by Philip Roth (2000). Mentioning two students who never come to class, seventy-one-year-old professor Coleman Silk asks, “Do they exist or are they spooks?” The students are black, and Silk is soon engulfed in a racially charged campus controversy that may expose his secret life. The imbroglio also sparks Silk’s libido, and he begins an affair with one of Roth’s most finely drawn female characters, an illiterate janitor. An attack on political correctness, the novel also explores Roth’s signature theme: the quest for personal identity free from society’s labels and expectations.

Total Points: 1 (APat 1)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (1831). Hugo’s grand populist opera stars the cathedral and medieval Paris itself as much as the hunchbacked bell-ringer Quasimodo, whose unrequited love for the gypsy dancer Esmeralda ends very, very badly. The book is far more nineteenth century than fifteenth, brimming with melodrama, anticlericism, and Hugo’s characteristic outrage at social injustice. The novel’s huge popularity in France was instrumental in a neo-Gothic revival there, as well as the preservation of Notre Dame itself.

Total Points: 1 (MGait 1)

The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett (1908). This is the tale of two sisters, shy Constance, who never strays from her rural English home, and adventurous Sophia, who marries and moves to Paris. Through absorbing depictions of their ordinary lives, which includes a masterful depiction of English provincial life and mores, Bennett suggests how character shapes destiny and how every destiny is fascinating.

Total Points: 1 (MD 1)

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle (1997).

Beginning with his own spiritual crisis at age twenty-nine, Tolle describes how he achieved enlightenment by learning to live “present, fully, and intensely, in the Now.” Drawing on a variety of traditional teachings and techniques, Tolle urges readers to shed their attachments to the past, the future, and “the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death argues,” showing them how to tap into “consciousness in its pure state prior to identification with form.”

Total Points: 1 (CD 1)

The Prelude by William Wordsworth. Wordsworth wrote this poem three times, in 1799, 1805, and finally in 1850. The subject matter, his own life, was endlessly fascinating to him. Of greater interest today is Wordsworth’s theory of “spots of time,” moments or hours so illuminated by memory we revisit them throughout our lives. Wordsworth’s childhood ramblings through the English countryside, his education, walking tours of England and Scotland, and his witnessing of the Paris Rebellion are all captured here, yet this poem is less narrative than meditation by a poet determined to “have felt whate’er there is of power in sound.”

Total Points: 1 (AHas 1)

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit (1906). This hopeful and heartbreaking tale begins when the father of three children is taken away one night by the authorities. Their resourceful mother tells them they must leave London for the country, where they will “play at being poor for a while.” Their adventures on and off the railway lines near their new home are touched with melancholy, as they long for and wonder about their missing father.

Total Points: 1 (KA 1)

The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz (1934). Out of his childhood experiences in the Polish city of Drogobych, Schulz (who was also an artist and a Jew) fashioned this fantastical semiautobiographical short story collection in which his father becomes a bird, a year has thirteen months, and the very furniture is aquiver with kinesthetic metaphor and the sudden transformational power of dreams. The book is one of the few surviving works of Schulz, who was murdered by a Nazi officer in Drogobych in 1942.

Total Points: 1 (JBud 1)

The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy (1991). The Cold War meets the age of terror in this pulsing techno thriller. Hoping both to derail Israeli–Palestinian peace and darken U.S.–Soviet relations, terrorists smuggle a nuclear weapon into the United States. Only one man can save the day, Clancy’s series hero, Jack Ryan, a CIA agent racked by personal and professional problems. Clancy brandishes his encyclopedic knowledge of the military—including plans for building a hydrogen bomb—while capturing a hero filled with doubt.

Total Points: 1 (DFW 1)

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955). Since his debut in 1955, Tom Ripley has evolved into the ultimate bad boy sociopath. Here, in this first Ripley novel, we are introduced to suave Tom Ripley, a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan. A product of a broken home, branded a "sissy" by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy. Soon Ripley's fascination with Dickie's debonair lifestyle turns obsessive as he finds himself enraged by Dickie's ambivalent affections for Marge, a charming American dilettante. A dark reworking of Henry James's The Ambassadors, The Talented Mr. Ripleyprovides an unforgettable introduction to this smooth confidence man, whose talent for murder and self-invention is chronicled in four subsequent Ripley novels.

Total Points: 1 (CBollen 1)

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (1932). Retired gumshoe Nick Charles returns to Manhattan with his new heiress wife Nora, and their schnauzer Asta. The couple is quickly drawn into an investigation of a missing inventor and his murdered mistress. Hammett’s comic talents and infectious, rapid-fire dialogue take the lead in this stylish, cocktail-fueled yarn.

Total Points: 1 (ST 1)

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (2008). The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur. On the occasion of the president of China’s impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a series of letters to him describing his transformation and his experience as driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society. This darkly comic novel The White Tiger recalls The Death of Vishnu and Bangkok 8 in ambition and scope, with a mischief and personality all its own it is an amoral, irreverent, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary first novel.

Total Points: 1 (PShreve 1)

Ulverton by Adam Thorpe (1992). The fictional town of Ulverton—and the English language itself—are the central characters of this debut novel in which a dozen different voices detail three hundred years in the life of an English village. As he moves from the time of Cromwell to the 1980s in twelve rich chapters, Thorpe deploys language drawn from the period described. He also displays a mastery of literary form, inventing diary entries, sermons, drunken conversations, and film scripts to tell his story.

Total Points: 1 (EDon 1)

Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972). This imaginative epic chronicles the adventures of a band of English rabbits who possess their own language, history, and myth and who are searching for a new home after a human developer has destroyed their old one. Like the fables of Aesop, Watership Down is sneakily dark, full of drama and death and warnings about the fascist tendencies of the modern world, and explores moral ideas, including freedom and responsibility.

Total Points: 1 (DAD 1)

When I Grow Too Old to Dream, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein (1935). Hammerstein’s credits are a history of the American musical, including Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. He wrote this sweet love song, which has been recorded by everyone from Nelson Eddy to Nat King Cole to Doris Day, for the film The Night Is Too Young. The singer asks for a parting kiss, then adds, “And when I grow too old to dream / That kiss will live in my heart.”

Total Points: 1 (AT 1)