From the messy desk of Paul Levine...
Over on Facebook, all the literary types are compiling their Top Ten book lists.
When you get tagged, you have to spend hours compiling your list (then sweating while you re-think it) or be frowned on by your friends.
Let's start by admitting the silliness of the task. I probably don't remember the best book I ever read. On the other hand, some people are asking for the "most influential" books or the ones that "stayed with you." By definition, I suppose, that means you remember the damn thing.
I limited my list to fiction. And just like a television script that is supposed to run 53 minutes, I trimmed and trimmed and came up with an even dozen.
There are well-know authors on my best books list. Updike, Steinbeck, Wolfe (Tom, not Thomas).
And one virtual unknown, if that's possible when you've had an Oprah selection and New York Times bestseller. (Yes, it is possible).
Two choices on my list are intensely personal. They're the books that directly led to me writing "To Speak for the Dead."
Without their influence, I never would have become a writer. No, I'd still be billing legal clients at enormous rates and eating rare tenderloin and fresh stone crabs for lunch at the Banker's Club. Har!
So, thank you John D. MacDonald and Carl Hiaasen.
Here's one geographical coincidence on my list. Four authors -- MacDonald, O'Dell, John Updike, and Martin Cruz Smith -- were all born and raised in Pennsylvania. A fifth PA author, James A. Michener, was a "finalist."
My dozen favorites are listed here on my personal blog.