Saturday, June 15, 2013


I previously blogged that I was struggling to narrow my favorite novels to a top ten list. I'm still working on the list, and instead of narrowing, it grows. So many to decide?

So here are five more picks for you to read or reread this summer, whether you're camping in the mountains or sunbathing by the pool. Just don't forget to reapply the sunscreen or bug repellent because you're certain to lose track of time.

ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy
This was required reading for a humanities class I took in college, but it was no chore. I read on breaks and lunch hours at work, I read sitting at the Laundromat, I read well into the night when I should have been sleeping. It's a tragedy, but what a rich story. The setting and characters come to life, rounding out a sad tale of a woman's descent into mental illness and obsession, driven by guilt. I haven't seen the newest film adaptation, but I can't imagine it being as complete as Tolstoy's book.

THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Required reading in high school, this book threw me into the lost generation. I read everything I could get by Fitzgerald. I devoured the biographies of both him and his wife Zelda (the quintessential flapper). I adored the film Midnight in Paris, in which Owen Wilson time-travels back to the Jazz Age and meets the Fitzgeralds. The best book, alas, was the first I read. Gatsby is a quick read, and not a word is wasted. The reader sees the excesses of 1925 society and the sad and extravagant efforts by the title character to reclaim the woman he loves. Again, no film can do this book justice, although Hollywood tries.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens
A classic and timeless tale of redemption, which I've already written about in an earlier post at Christmas. Last time I checked, this was a free Kindle download.

THE FLY ON THE WALL by Tony Hillerman
I've enjoyed all of Hillerman's books, but this one is a favorite. I rented it on audio for a business trip and became so engrossed I missed my exit! I was nearly late for a meeting because I had to turn around and backtrack. It's the story of a reporter who is like a fly on the wall--unnoticed but hearing and seeing all. Unfortunately he knows too much. This is an intrigue that begins with a murder in the Capitol. It's a bit of a departure for Hillerman because there's no Joe Leaphorn or Jim Chee in this book.

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett
I didn't expect to love this book. I'm a Southern white woman who lived through the Civil Rights period, but this setting was outside my experience. My family was blue-collar, and we barely made ends meet. There was no money for help. None of my friends could afford servants. Except for skin color, I identified more with the help than with the wealthy employers. Yet I did love this book. Its themes are universal, and Stockett captures the humanity that makes us good and pure of heart regardless of skin color. There is only one race--the human race. Everyone should read this book. (Hollywood did a very good job putting this one on screen, too.)

There you have ten of my favorite reads. But there are so many more! Runners up include Jack Dawes by Ken Follett, Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell, and Harvest by Tess Gerritsen. And many more.

Your turn. What books have captivated you? Changed you or profoundly affected you? Leave a comment.

Saturday, June 08, 2013


Have you ever been asked to name your favorite novels? What a difficult task! But I gave it lots of thought and started a list. I have five books named so far. These are either classics or contemporary fiction. I'll share the list with you as long as you understand it is a work in progress. Download these on your e-reader or buy or borrow them, but read them.

If you are a writer and you don't see your book listed, don't be offended. I love so many authors and so many books. It's really hard to pick just five. Or ten, for that matter. But here goes--the first five on my must-read list:

JURASSIC PARK by Michael Crichton
I read this book before there was a movie, a franchise, and sequels. It is one of the most compelling reads I've enjoyed. It has interesting characters, suspense, danger, and dinosaurs. The kid inside me loves the dinosaurs. If you saw the film and think you know Jurassic Park, you don't. Read the book. I didn't care for the sequel Lost World.

The "comedy of manners" continues to be a favorite of mine. It's a wonderful, delightful study in romance and human nature, set in the strict class-conscious society of England in the early 1800s. From a story structure standpoint, it's perfectly written. Not a word is wasted, and the pacing is spot on. Don't believe me? Open the book to the middle and there is the climax of the story. It's a masterpiece. (Close runner-up is EMMA)

LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry
I started reading this novel after watching the television mini series (very good, by the way, and true to the book) and couldn't put it down! What a wonderful saga. This book has everything: quirky characters, humor, adventure, drama, romance. The sequel was utterly disappointing to me. If you're interested, read the prequels, DEAD MAN'S WALK and COMANCHE MOON, then LONESOME DOVE. Skip the last book.

LAST OF THE BREED by Louis L'amour
Another page turner, I couldn't put this book down even to eat. A USAF pilot crash lands in the USSR during the Cold War and is imprisoned in Siberia. He escapes and must depend on his native American tracking skills to survive and get home. I'm so mad at L'amour for dying before he finished writing the sequel.

PEACHTREE ROAD by Anne Rivers Siddons
Amazing story about a talented but troubled young woman and her faithful friend and cousin, it's set in Atlanta during its growing years (1950s--1970s). Rich with pop culture, it's a pleasure to watch the drama unfold. Spoiler alert: The ending has been debated at book clubs for years. Was Shep's leap for joy a metaphor for finally getting on with his life, or was it suicide? Clever Anne Rivers Siddons leaves us guessing.

Stay tuned for the next five in my list of unforgettable novels I've loved.