Marion’s Sixteen All-Time Favorite Novels (Part One)

by | Nov 26, 2023 | Book Reviews, Marion's Favorite Books, Marion's Favorites, Marion's Reading Life Blog, Wisdom From Kammbia Column | 0 comments

The number 16 symbolizes trust, intuition, balance, and leaning into your own wisdom. In addition, it’s a number that isn’t commonly seen on all-time lists, but I thought it was the right choice for my list of favorite novels.

It’s getting close to the time of year when people share their favorite books of year online and on social media.  Instead of sharing my favorite books of the year, I want to update my favorite all-time novels list.  Since 2011, I’ve posted over 400 reviews on my blog, and I’ve also shared them on Instagram and Goodreads. I have thought deeply about these books and split the list into two posts of eight novels, each in alphabetical order. These novels have captivated me intellectually, emotionally, and as entertainment covering fantasy, post apocalyptic, historical and literary fiction. Here’s my first eight:

Alburquerque by Rudolfo Anaya: I lived in Albuquerque for five years from March 1998 to September 2003 and reading Anaya’s novel brought back a lot of memories and why I will always have a special place for the Duke City. Anaya told the story of a boxer named Abran Gonzalez that found out his mother was a wealthy Anglo artist and sent him on a path to find out his real identity. Anaya brought to light the Duke City’s politics and telling a compelling coming of age tale. Alburquerque (the original spelling from the Spanish) was an excellent story and deserved to be mentioned alongside Bless Me Ultima as one of Anaya’s best novels.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler: A book that simultaneously challenged my assumptions and captured my heart. When a novel accomplishes that with me as a reader, it occupies a special place and heightens the ability of storytelling. It is one of the few books I have thought about regularly since it was published in 1993. Butler’s story of a teenager trying to make her way out of post apocalyptic Los Angeles that feels so real that it could have been released now. The novel has a stark but hopeful vision of humanity I agree with and that resonated with me. Parable of the Sower is a must read for serious readers regardless of your fictional tastes.

The Wooden Sea by Jonathan Carroll: The Wooden Sea is the story of a small town police chief, Frannie McCabe of Crane’s View, New York.  Chief McCabe has a three-legged dog that drops dead in front of him, and the event takes him on a life-altering ride throughout the novel, unveiling the true meaning of love and sacrifice. Carroll is one of my favorite authors and this story has touched me more than the other five novels I have read of his work. This novel expands the limits of fantasy fiction to a level worthy being considered among the best works of literary fiction.  This shows that fantasy fiction can relate to everyday life and the realms of the imaginative.

Face of an Angel by Denise Chavez: Chavez told the story of Soveida Dosamantes, a waitress at El Farol Restaurant in the fictional New Mexican town of Agua Oscura. Soveida shared her life growing up in Agua Oscura, revealing family history and secrets, struggling with her Catholic beliefs, and finding purpose as a waitress. As someone who lived in New Mexico for nearly a decade, I connected with Soveida’s story and I heard Denise Chavez read from the novel when it was published in 1994. Face of an Angel read more like a fictional memoir than a novel. And one character provided this truth: “Most stories are sad when you get to telling them, but anyway, what is life but stories?”  Indeed. Face of an Angel should be one of the most important coming-of-age stories in contemporary American fiction.

The Little Country by Charles de Lint: If I had to choose one author above all others, it would be Charles de Lint. His novels have served as a great inspiration for my own writings. The Little Country is the best de Lint novel I have read, propelling him to becoming one of the fantasy genre’s best writers. It tells the story of Janey Little, a musician from Cornwall, England and the discovery of a manuscript left by her grandfather’s best friend, William Dunthorn. Dunthorn requested that Janey’s grandfather, Tom, never publish the manuscript titled The Little Country and always keep it with him. Well, Janey finds the manuscript in the home’s attic she shares with her grandfather and reads it. The story takes off from there and unveils a philosophical depth that I had not read in fantasy. If I could only suggest one novel, this would be it, as it holds up remarkably well upon rereading.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: I just mentioned that The Little Country by Charles de Lint is my all-time favorite novel. Invisible Man is the most important novel I have ever read in my life. No other novel has left a deeper impact on me as a black man in America. Ellison tells the story of his unnamed protagonist as he navigates life in the early 20th century. The main theme of the novel, as I see it, is the struggle of feeling invisible and being able to be true to oneself. Invisible Man is one of American Literature’s greatest works and has left an indelible mark on contemporary American fiction.

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck: Sometimes a novel can provide unexpected insights into cross-cultural relations. Go, Went Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck serves as proof of my previous sentence. Erpenbeck tells the story of a retired German professor, Richard, who has settled into a comfortable retirement.  However, he comes across a hunger strike by African refugees in Berlin’s main square, Alexanderplatz. Richard becomes curious about these men and learns why these Africans staged this hunger strike. Life has a way of shaking your foundation, and Erpenbeck shows a fictional example of that truth. I firmly believe that people of different racial and ethnic lines are much more interconnected than divided. Go, Went, Gone uses storytelling to convey this belief two-fold.

Erasure by Percival Everett: There is always a novel that comes out of left field and demands to be included on anyone’s all-time favorite novel’s list. Erasure by Percival Everett is the novel that for me. I read this novel in 2022 after seeing many posts on social media about his work.  He was unknown to me until that point. I was late to the Everett party, but I’m glad to be a member of his literary bandwagon. Everett tells the story of the novelist, Thelonious “Monk” Ellison. His career has flat-lined, and many publishers rejected his latest novel.  Even though Ellison has written critically acclaimed novels in the past, his books are inaccessible and not urban enough for mainstream success.  Monk is furious when upon discovering the novel We’s Lives in Da Ghetto by Juanita Mae Jenkins, which achieves massive success and is praised for its authentic portrayal of African American urban life.  He writes his own version of urban fiction in protest about the success of the Jenkins novel. The novel takes off from there and Everett writes a scathing and deeply personal view of the American traditional publishing scene from an African American perspective and reveals a truth that hits home. Everett is bona fide storyteller and I kept nodding as I read this one.  I’m looking forward to reading all of his oeuvre and he has forced his way onto my favorite novelists list.

This concludes part one of the post. Thank you for reading and hope you look forward to reading part two.



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