March 18, 2007

Vote for Your Top Ten Caribbean Novels

Vote for Caribbean NovelsFirst, give thanks to all those who submitted your choices to the “Top Ten Caribbean Novels” which closed on Friday, March 16, 2007 @ 4:30 pm. The voting begins today and will end on March 30, 2007 @ 4:30 pm.

I’ve posted the list of submissions here and they are listed alphabetically here. I could have organized the voting based on the actual choices in each category, but I decided that the most equitable method was to list any book that received two or more submissions.

Now I realize that some caveats need to be listed:

1. The submissions were limited (as far as I can tell) to readers of Allyuh, Caribbean Beat, BlogWorld, and my blog.

2. Although I have problems with book polls and surveys (I agree with Eliot’s thesis in “Tradition and the Individual Talent”), there were two reasons why I decided to run this series:

a. Intellectual curiosity

b. Create expanded readership for the blog

3. In the post, which was a response to a meme, I should have said that my choices were based on the direct influence that these books had on my own work. Those aside, I submitted the names of twelve books that were not included in that post.

4. I did not submit any of my work nor the work of my friends. We’re big people. We can take care of ourselves.

These are the final choices from the submissions. I am very interested in any comments about this process and especially about the books that made the final cut.

Coda (3/19/2007): You can now make up to 10 choices.

Please do not be intimidated by the list or if you haven't read all 12. Vote for what YOU got!

Vote for Your Top Ten Caribbean Novels

A House for Mister Biswas by V.S. Naipaul.
Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
Brother Man by Roger Mais.
In the Castle of My Skin by George Lamming
Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
Miguel Street by VS Naipaul
Minty Alley by CLR James
The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart.
The Children of Sisyphus by Orlando Patterson
The Dragon Can't Dance By Earl Lovelace
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Free polls from



Nicolette Bethel said...


The poll seems to take one vote only. Do we simply pick our no.1? Or can we vote for 10?

Geoffrey Philp said...

Dear Nicolette,
I've fixed it. You now have 9 other votes. All the other votes have been transferred.

Stephen A. Bess said...

This is a nice list. This is incentive for me to read more novels written by Caribbean writers. I have less than ten under my belt so I couldn't participate in the voting. I can tell you that the novels and poems I've read (Including: Benjamin, My Son and Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas)have been a real treat.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Stephen,please vote and don't worry about a thing. Vote and be counted!

Unknown said...

I voted for Wide Sargasso Sea, but it was a struggle between that and Breath, Eyes, Memory and Miguel Street. I shame to say I only read six of them. I may have read Orlando Patterson but it was too long ago to remember. I also think I read the excerpt of Castle of my Skin as a schoolchild, the part where his mother is trying to give him his bath behind the fence -- is that from Castle? I need to read more of our classics, clearly.

In the end I went with the one that had the most organic impact on me. Also, I'm impressed when a writer can make it work in just a tiny book. Like Achebe and Things Fall Apart. I considered House for Mr. Biswas because I appreciate the genius of it but when I was reading it, it felt a little like torture, like it would never end and for me it's about "couldn't put it down" and not genius.
So, Wide Sargasso Sea it is.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Dear Marie-Elena,
Thank you for voting. if you only voted for one book, you have 9 more votes. In other words, you have up to 10 votes.


Frances-Anne said...

Hi Geoffrey
Not in the spiit of criticism but of sharing:
I wondered why I was feeling sluggish about participating and this is part of the response that came:
1) I resist the idea of "best" in this context (creation) as it reminds me of school in Trinidad "Good better best, never let it rest til we make our good better" that whole anglican ethic of competition and never being good enough, that pit us against each other to be judged by someone called "Cambridge". So I'm suspicious of this judging of "best", who is judging and by what standards?
2) as has been reflected above Caribbean literature though in its flowering right now, has not been widely read, so people's choices will be determined not by "best" or even "favorite" but by what was forced on them at school or if they were lucky university. Reducing choices for the most part to Naipaul, Rhys, Lovelace, and Lamming, and only in general one of each of these. Not representative.
It might be posible to explore other ways of generating dialogue, encouraging literacy and joy in our culture.
Just reflecting!I had another thought but cant remember what it was. I will post it when I do. Love and peace. FA

Geoffrey Philp said...

Dear Frances-Anne,
First, thank you for the comment.

Part of the whole "Best" "Top" wording has to do with choosing a subject for the post and it reminds me of a picture of a sign that my daughter took while she was in England. The sign said something like, "Quite possibly the best fish and chips in Leeds." Now it turns out, the fish and chips were good, but she's an adventurous woman. The point I'm making is in this big, world wide web in which we trying to attract attention a subject, a line such as, "Quite possibly some good books from the Caribbean" wouldn't be read.
A blog like mine is somewhere between sensationalism and scholarship because it seeks to popularize a marginal subject in the blogosphere: Caribbean literature.

An interesting sidebar to all this has been the confession by many people that they haven't read most of the books

What's important to me is the reading and discussion of the books.

Frances-Anne said...

yes but your ellimination process left only 12 to choose from, and its a bit depressing. plus finally i remembered my other thought (forgive the hormonal mind): the idea of a novel so does not do justice to caribbean writing since there is poetry and dub poetry and lyrics and riddims, and thinking, and writing about politics and economics and social thought. the "novel" leaves out most of the most interesting and important writing from the caribbean so its not inclusive.
in desperation and because i care
frances anne

Frances-Anne said...

and essays, childrens' writing, and plays.
peace, f

Geoffrey Philp said...

Frances-Anne, the submission process was open to everyone and I listed all the books that were submitted. I did not solicit from a handful of intellectuals and I included links to other sites that had lists of Caribbean novels.
For the logistics of voting and posting, all the books that received two or more votes have been included in the voting process.

In the comments readers can say why or why not they voted, if they think this is a bad idea and I will include the comment.It's a part of the discussion.

Yes, the discussion of the novel leaves out some of the most important and vibrant writing that's happening in the Caribbean, but this post actually began with a meme that Marlon had posted about novels and then it took off from there.

Would I try something like this with Caribbean poetry? Hmmmmmmm

Frances-Anne said...

it's cool, i'm just saying. :)
its great, fantabulous that you're doing this.
0, and short stories, forget them.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Thank you, Frances-Anne.
And I hope the readers will check out the great work that you are doing in film.

One Love,

Anonymous said...

Despite all the options, I only voted for one book - A House for Mr Biswas. (Unfortunately?)no other book by a Caribbean author has come close measuring up to the impact of this book on me. Perhaps it was a function of the stage of my life and state of mind at the time; maybe I was just waiting to be amazed by a book, any well written book, that could somehow make me react the way I did to "House." Perhaps it was just the power of the book


perhaps it just has to do with the fact that I haven't read most of the books on the list.
*record scratches*

Geoffrey Philp said...


House is a powerful,well-written book.

One of the reasoms to do a list like this is to highlight the options and even if one faces a monster like Biswas because I, too, confess it was rough, but I'd finished Bleak House & Ulysses, so House didn't phase me.

And I guess I could finish it because I had a teacher, Dennis Scott, who was well-read and passionate about literature. As I have read and taught over the years, I've realized that manny people approach reading the way the middle to 3/4 section of House--painful. But the central question of Biswas, how to forge an authentic life makes it a classic because many of us are still asking that question. This is the main reason why I think many are voting for it because House is a very human novel written by a great novelist.

Give thanks and come back again.