Tonawanda News

April 9, 2014

DUVALL: Making a list, checking it twice

By Eric DuVall
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Maybe I was thinking about David Letterman’s impending retirement. Or maybe it was because my brother posted it to Facebook. I spent a couple hours the other day crafting two top 10 lists, of my favorite books and movies. 

There’s something satisfying — and slightly maddening — about making lists like this. It feels good to have an official opinion about such things. I’ve read lots of books, seen lots of movies. The best have greatly improved my understanding of the world, and of art.

At first it seemed like a daunting task. What criteria should one use in deciding what makes something worthy of a place on an all-time favorite list? Is it personal preference? Critical appreciation? Should diversity in composition of the list itself be considered? Because I really like reading crime fiction but it seems silly to make a list of favorite books and have half of them from one niche genre.

I ran into a similar problem on the movie list: Somehow my favorite director, Martin Scorcese, didn’t make a single film that ranked on my list. How is that possible?

Now I understand why he had to wait 40 years for an Oscar.

Another oddity on the movie list: Though I generally enjoy them, I didn’t have a single movie about war on there. I rectified this — and another problem, every film was directed by a man — by adding “Hurt Locker,” directed by Kathryn Bigelow. 

I started with the movie list, which took about an hour to finish. I kept thinking of more films that were contenders. Then there was the ranking question. I knew my favorite movie of all time, “Chinatown,” but after that it got a little murky. I decided to make “Bull Durham” — my favorite sports movie of all time — No. 2 because it’s probably the movie I’ve watched the most over the years.

The book list came together more easily, to my surprise. That’s perhaps because I got a head start when a friend playing a hashtag game online recently prompted me to pick my three favorite books. Plus I own more books than movies, so I had a full bookshelf to look over as reminders. 

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the lists now that I’ve made them. I guess they’ll just sit on my phone, waiting for someone to ask me what my favorite book or movie is.

There will be future lists, I’m sure. I haven’t touched music — song or album. There are favorite sports players, of which I have many. Food, both dishes and restaurants. The possibilities are endless. Maybe eventually I’ll get to a point where I can rank a top 10 of my best lists of things.

Anyway, since I know you’re dying to know, here are the results:


1. “Chinatown”

2. “Bull Durham”

3. “History of the World Part I”

4. “Brokeback Mountain”

5. “Hurt Locker”

6. “Godfather Part II”

7. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”

8. “Silver Linings Playbook”

9. “Rear Window”

10. “LA Confidential”


1. “A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway

2. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

3. “The Catcher in the Rye” by JD Sallinger

4. “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole

5. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

6. “The Shipping News” by E. Annie Proulx

7. “Black and Blue” by Ian Rankin (which is really a stand-in for his Inspector Rebus series)

8. “Wish You Were Here” by Stewart O’Nan

9. “Mila 18” by Leon Uris

10. “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbaugh

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter, @EricRDuVall.