My friend Deb mentioned a Time Magazine's list of the "100 Best Novels since 1923" on her blog, and then proceeded to make her own list, which had few, if any, of the Time's list books on it. No, in fact she specifically didn't add them, although she'd only read a very few of them (ditto for me) so it's not like she/I could have much of an opinion on the majority of them anyway. Of the seven I have read, two of them would make my top reading list - The Lord of the Rings trilogy and To Kill a Mockingbird. The others I read only because they were required reading in some class somewhere along my educational path.
Anyhoo, being such a bibliophile, I couldn't help but want to make my own list. And in a funny coincidence, the kind that the universe is fond of creating, my friend Shelly and I were just talking about this very thing last night before I read Deb's blog this evening. We had been bouncing ideas back and forth about our forthcoming participation in the Nanowrimo project, where one writes 50,000 words, a novel, in one month - that month being this November, which will be here in just 7 days, four hours, 36 minutes - gulp. The conversation followed us out to the parking lot where we continued to stand, jacketless, in the cold and dark, talking about "good literature." And that's when Shelly asked the question - What two books would you pick that changed your life? Or something like that. We discussed whether books change ones life or simply influence you or what.... and I knew right away that I couldn't possibly pick two books. Instead she mentioned one book, then I added one, then she threw out another, then I remembered still another, and so on through several dozen titles until we both realized that we needed to still go to the market and eventually go back home to face our respective families.
So, in no particular order except the order in which they spring from my brain, which isn't necessarily the order in which I'd rate my need for them on a deserted island or the degree to which they've influenced me, are my favorite titles. Some have been life-changing, spiritually inspiring, or creatively awe-inspiring. Others are simply a damn fine read or a hoot and a half that can chase away the bluest blues.
My Favorite 100 Works of Fiction
The Lord of the Rings by J. R.R. Tolkein. I already mentioned this one. My love for it has to do with my absolute fascination with Tolkien's ability to create an ENTIRE world, complete with languages, history, and topography. Not to mention hobbits.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This book proves that even if you only have one book inside you to write, you should write it. My only frustration with this story is that I should have read it 30 plus years sooner.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. This is a trilogy, the first book is called The Golden Compass. I adored the combination of fantasy, science and religion in this one. But what I hold most dear about it is after Joshua died, I found myself returning time and time again in my mind to a scene in the story where the dead are released from captivity, so that they were free to leave the state of individuality and return to the unity of the universe. It's a small moment in a very huge saga, but it brought me joy at a time when I didn't know if I'd ever feel joy again.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. And of course the rest of the books that followed. It's all about loving the characters and the world they inhabit.
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. This book was handed to me by an much older cousin when I was only thirteen. It was the first adult book I ever read and so my fondness for it is in how it opened a door into new territory. Plus, how can one go through life without the ability to "grok" something.
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. A work of fiction, but it gave me the first clue that the divinity could be defined as feminine as well as masculine. And it was the first work that showed me that it's all about the perspective of the protaganist. Which is as true in real life as it is in a storybook.
Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne. I adored all four books as a child and at one point I had probably memorized most of the stories and poems. I remember some of my own first writing attempts were to create my own stories in the Hundred Acre Woods. And who doesn't love and know their own Eeyore. Or Tigger. Or Rabbit. Or Owl.....
The Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett. This might be my favorite in the series but truthfully I'd add the entire Discworld series to my list of favorites. There's nobody, in my opinion, who can be so funny and so wise at the same time. The other MUST mention titles in particular are two of his Young Adult titles: The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky.
The Wise Child by Monica Furlong. A children's book but I read it as an adult.
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Anything by Samuel Clemens is worth reading of course, but Huckleberry has a special place in my heart.
Jane Eyre by ....one of the Bronte sisters - don't make me go look this one up. Now I think the whole thing reads like any number of other angst riddled tragic romances, but at the time I read it I thought it was the most amazing thing I'd ever read and sooooo romantic. Hey, I was a teenager, what can I say. I have to add it to the list for sentimental purposes.
The Return of the Goddess by Elizabeth Cunningham. Any of her titles, really. They're all so different.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Here, you can borrow my box of tissues.
Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson. Unlike my friend Deb, who had a rule that it had to be a book she'd read more then once to make her list, I rarely read a book more then once, or at least I haven't in the past, so I can add this new title. It's one of those books that one reads the last page, closes the cover, holds the book close in your arms like a small child while you let the last of the tears fall, and then immediately set upon your friends and acquaintances with the fervor of a preacher in an attempt to get them to read "a good book".
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. I read this book out of curiosity because it was banned from being used in an advanced English class at our local high school by a very conservative school board. Not only am I to this day confused at what about it they argued was inappropriate, but it became one of my favorite reads, along with the rest of her novels.
Geeze louise - this is a lot harder then I thought it would be. For one thing, I keep wanting to list children's books, but I don't think that was the original intent, or at least not my original intent. Maybe books we read as a child have a greater impact on us because we have less experiences yet and so the story is a greater part of the whole of what we then understand of the world. Maybe it's because as children we read with more receptivity, less editors and critics dancing around in our head adding their opinions. Too, I find I'm trying to think of favorite books and coming to a point where I want to list favorite authors instead, because a particular author HAS to be in this list but I can't pick just one title. Last, I keep thinking I'll finish, hit "publish post", and for days I'll have other books come to mind that I'll have to slap my palm on my forehead and go "duh!, how could I have not mentioned that one!"
I'm inclined to be gentle on myself, and change the rules midstream (if I had any, which I don't remember mentioning that I did) and so I'll finish this list with authors who I can't live without and have too many titles for me to choose between.
Forests of the Heart by Charles DeLint. Okay, so that was a title. But that might be my favorite of his work so far. That could easily change as I haven't even started on his work yet, but I will undoubtedly have to find time to read all his books, short stories, poems, or even grocery lists.
Charlaine Harris - her Southern Vampire series.
Laurell Hamilton - the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series - introduced me to the fun of reading about gore and sex and monsters and sometimes all three at once. What can I say, they are not great literature, but they are a great read.
Earlene Fowler - her Benni Harper Mystery series - the characters are folks you just can't live without "knowing"
Susan Wittig Albert - her China Bayles Mystery series - see above comment
Sherri Tepper - anything by Sherri Tepper
Alice Hoffman - I haven't read her last few adult titles, but when I first discovered her I ate up all her books and she was one of the first, if not the first, author I sought out and read through the body of their work on purpose. If we don't count Nancy Drew. Recently I've read only her new young adult titles. I don't know if I can pick a favorite - probably would have to go with Practical Magic since that's the first one I discovered.
Tanya Huff - her Summon the Keeper series
Ann Bishop - The trilogy that starts with The Pillars of the World
Mark Anthony - The First Rune series - a six book story
The Summer of the Monkeys by..... can't remember the author - yes, a children's book. But read it even if you're an adult. And no, watching the Disney movie will not be the same.
Tuck Everlasting - author?
Oh! (my first "duh! how could I have missed these" - and I'm not even done writing the list yet!) -
In the Land of Winter by Richard Grant
Tex and Molly in the Afterlife by Richard Grant
Like Water for Chocolate by whoever wrote it.
Nina Kiriki Hoffman - all her titles
Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare - and yes, I know, this is a play, NOT a novel. So sue me.
Hunter of the Light by Risa Aratyr - an old writing buddy of mine, this was her first, and as far as I know, last novel. Wish she'd kept publishing. Don't even know if this is still in print.
Okay, I give up. How many have I listed? One, two, three....thirty three. Only a third of the way there! ARgh! Then again, some of these mention a series or more then one title from the same author, so if I count that way, I'm sure it's way more than 100 books listed already. I know I've missed titles by the bucketful that shouldn't be missed. But this is HARD! I thought it would be easy peasy, but it's HARD!
Deb! It's all your fault! Waily waily!
But hey, at least I've stopped ignoring my blog, and that's one good thing.