Lists, Reviews

So You Have Issues…? A Top Ten List

Don’t we all.

This week’s top ten list? Books that deal with tough issues (as hosted by The Broke and the Bookish).


I happen to like the cover from a design perspective, but I also included anxiety and neurosis as the number one issue on my list – almost anything written by Roth qualifies. Rycroft was a post-Freudian psychoanalyst who had a much more reasoned approach to the interpretations of dreams (which I appreciate, given I dream extensively most nights).

10. White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Abandonment and adversity.

9. The Stand by Stephen King. Survival, the flu, and the evil machinations of the government.

8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. Love and honesty.

7. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Nature and technology (and aliens). I’ve mentioned that one of my greatest fears (of the scary movie sort) is aliens. I’ve also mentioned my fear of flying. Have you seen the previews for 7500? I won’t be seeing that.

6. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. Quite depressing, but gives voice to the forgotten and the mistreated.

5. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Unmet expectations. Can you bear living a life you don’t want?

4. The Cider House Rules by John Irving. Abortion and women’s rights – it’s been 40 years since Roe v. Wade and it is still an incredibly divisive issue (in the US, at any rate).

3. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. A close look at small town life (and the issues pertaining to a place where everyone knows everything), it’s like reading a novel by a cross between Stephen King and Harper Lee – in other words most excellent.

2. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. Suicide and the idea that you may never actually know why.

1. Letting Go by Philip Roth. Anxiety and Neurosis.

What issues do you enjoy reading about or, conversely, do not like reading about? I like reading about the issues above, but I don’t particularly enjoy books where infidelity and cheating are the primary issue (it doesn’t bother me as a secondary issue).

More importantly, doesn’t that cover look like it was created with a Spirograph? Please tell me someone else had a Spirograph when they were younger (and I’m not the only incredibly nerdy person who played with a geometric drawing toy that produces mathematical roulette curves).

Image found on the Sick Sad World Tumblr – original source unknown.

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  • booksaremyfavouriteandbest

    Ha! I had a spirograph (and never forgave my brother for misplacing one of the wheels). It was a ‘toy’ that brought me equal parts joy and frustration. About a year ago I bought a Spirograph on eBay, which amazingly had all but one wheel, the box and everything else still intact from the seventies. Needless to say, it’s mine and I haven’t let my kids near it! 😉

    • Rory

      It might be might favorite toy from childhood – clearly I was easy to please! Now I need to start looking for one on eBay, for me only of course…

  • marissa | Rae Gun Ramblings

    oh goodness jane eyer serious issues!
    My Top Ten

    • Rory

      Any excuse…plus, everyone’s lists were getting a bit intense.

  • Christine @ BookishlyB

    White Oleander made my list too!

    • Rory

      I LOVE that book, I really related to Astrid when I was younger, but didn’t want to end up like her…

  • annabelsmith

    I had a spirograph too. Awesome toy. Revolutionary Road – tick. Still haven’t read The Cider House Rules but if you want a good book about abortion (I know that’s an odd phrase) I love Richard Brautigan’s ‘The Abortion’. Also, Harper Lee meets Stephen King? What the hell? That sounds so crazy I have to read it immediately!

    I love books about mental health problems, as you can see from my last top ten:

    • Rory

      I really loved my Spirograph.

      The Stephen King part of that comparison has to do with the way he creates small New England towns. I don’t know if you’ve ever read ‘Salem’s Lot, Bag of Bones, or IT, but in those books he really makes the town a character as well – complete with flaws, histories, nervous ticks, etc. Peyton Place is very much like that, nothing too dark and sinister (and no clowns or vampires).

      • annabelsmith

        I haven’t read any of those, but I love the sound of what you’re describing.

    • booksaremyfavouriteandbest

      Annabel! Don’t delay! Drop everything and read The Cider House Rules!

      • annabelsmith

        You two are going to start ganging up on me on this!

        • Rory

          If that’s what it takes, then absolutely. Though I don’t know if that will work, I’m still working my way towards The Book Thief. Someday, when I’m ready for a good cry…

      • booksaremyfavouriteandbest

        Rory! Don’t delay! Drop everything and read The Book Thief! *…I still haven’t read Empire Falls…*

      • annabelsmith

        Okay, here’s the deal: Kate will read Empire Falls, I will read the Cider House Rules and Rory will read The Book Thief. This year. Promise?

        • Rory

          The Book Thief will be read this year – promise.

  • Kelly

    That’s a great list, some heavy stuff there. Virgin Suicides and White Oleander definitely stuck with me for a long time after reading. Never read any Roth but it’s on my to-do list.
    And of course I had a Spirograph!!!! 🙂

    • Rory

      It is making me a very happy person to know ’80’s kids everywhere remember the Spirograph.

  • Liesel

    Great list! I like lots of those ones! And yes, I had a spirograph! Totally loved playing with that when I was in grade school instead of paying attention like I was supposed to. 😀
    My TTT

    • Rory

      Spirographs need to make a comeback.

  • comehometobooks

    Interest list. I’ve only read one of them — JANE EYRE. I never thought of it as an “issue” novel, but I guess it qualifies, doesn’t it??

    Happy TTT!


    • comehometobooks

      By “interest” list, I meant “interesting” list 🙂

      • Rory

        I knew what you meant! 🙂

    • Rory

      I suppose if the issue you are looking at is the importance of honesty and commitment. At any rate, I enjoy sharing my favorite books, so it’s possible I skewed the list a little to be able to include it.

  • mynovelopinion

    Great List – I completely forgot about The Virgin Suicides I read it so long ago!

    • Rory

      I liked it because it wasn’t a wholly depressing book about suicide, a little bit yes, but mostly it just talked about the effects it had on those who (sort of) knew them…

  • Quinn

    Oh my gosh, I read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter when I was in high school and loved it. It was so sad, though.

    • Rory

      Very. I also love The Member of the Wedding.

  • picturemereading

    Love Jane Eyre obsessed LOL

    • Rory

      Really, I just look for any excuse. If I can find a way to include Jane Eyre – it’s going to happen.

  • rubybastille

    This list made me think of Flannery O’Conner’s stories, especially the one with the Bible-selling con artist who steals a woman’s prosthetic leg. She’s very good at making you admit that awful people exist and that there isn’t much you can do about it – but I prefer the kind of story where the woman can get revenge and get her leg back. 😉

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