There’s been book discussion going on on my twitter timeline constantly lately. And for those of you who know me, for every part of me that loves talking about TV, that increases tenfold when it comes to books. I’ll discuss books all day long. So I thought I’d write up a little blog post with a list of some of my favorite books. If I may, I’d encourage ya’ll to comment and list some of your top recommendations. Then I’ll have a lovely collection to refer to throughout the year.
CS Lewis once said; “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” I think that is so true. And it’s always been a reminder to me that I can still enjoy children’s books or YA books as an adult, because a good book is a good book. Alright with that said, here’s my in no way comprehensive list of books, I recommend.
*I tried to separate into categories if possible. Well, at least define categories.
Mystery: Dorothy Sayers. Sayers was the only female writer to join the group of The Inklings (CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams) and was one of the better mystery writers ever. She wrote several but my favorites are those starring the character of Peter Wimsey. Whose Body is a great starting choice.
The Princess & the Goblin: George MacDonald. Macdonald is quite unique for his ability to write original fairytales. Well, was unique. While he wrote several books, including a fantastic work called Lilith, The Princess and the Goblin still gets my top recommendation. To this day I compare every goblin description to his to see if they measure up. Other Books by this author that I recommend: Phantastes, Lilith, The Light Princess.
Mystery: Agatha Christie. I’m partial to the Hercule Poirot books by Christie but you can’t go wrong with any of them. The thing I love about Agatha Christie mysteries is even if I’ve read a book several times, I still find myself second guessing who the murderer is every time. Each mystery is seamlessly woven together, anyone seems like a suspect and yet the evidence is all there when you learn the truth. My favorite Agatha Christie mysteries: The ABC Murders, Death on the Nile, And Then There Were None, and Curtains.
Young Adult Fantasy: Rachel Caine’s The Morganville Vampires. I have to confess that I’m a bit frustrated with Caine at the moment. She spoke out in favor of SOPA & PIPA but her statements seemed to indicate a lack of familiarity with the bills. Actually I know they did because her own site could be in quite a bit of trouble had those laws passed. Still, this is one of my favorite vampire series and I would be remiss if I did not include it. Morganville is a small college town in Texas that is controlled by vampires. Claire is a 17 year old college student who agrees to go to a small school, closer to home for a couple years for her parents. But once she gets to Morganville, she learns about the vampires and gets heavily involved in their world. It’s fairly basic as far as YA stories go and is a very quick read but there are multiple books in the series which for me is always a plus and the supporting characters are great. Michael Glass owns my heart.
Young Adult Fantasy: Tamora Pierce: Tortall Based Books. Tamora Pierce has a number of books out but I’m partial to the Tortall books as opposed to the Circle of Magic books. I would argue that the Song of the Lioness Quartet, starring Alanna as a young girl who pretends to be her brother so that she can train of a night, is the most well-written of the quartets. Of her various quartets, I find choosing a favorite heroine between Daine & Keladry to be difficult. I like Kel’s stories better but I love the romance of Daine’s story. My true favorite however is easily the Trickster duology starring Ali. Ali gets swept up in a rebellion at the behest of a trickster god and turns into the rebellion’s spy-master. Characters from previous books feature into her story as well. Top choices: Trickster’s Choice & Trickster’s Queen.
YA Fantasy- Patricia Wrede: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles or Sorcery & Cecilia. The chronicles are a set of four books starring Cimorene. Cimorene is everything a princess shouldn’t be. She cooks cherries jubilee & chocolate mousse, practices sword fights and can’t complete a proper curtsy. So in desperation, her parents try to marry her off. Cimorene instead decides to take a job as the dragon Kazul’s princess. Her stories among the dragons are fascinating and Cimorene is one of my favorite kickass heroines ever recorded. Meanwhile, Sorcery & Cecilia puts a society of Wizards into England just after the Napoleonic Wars. Rather than pure fantasy, history and anthropology are deftly woven into this story told through letters between a pair of cousins. Kate is my personal favorite of the two but I think Thomas, the Marquis of Schofield is absolutely to die for.
Childrens: Bobbsey Twins & Nancy Drew. These classic children’s series are must reads. Even if you’re far beyond being a child, you owe it to yourself to read the books that have inspired so many writers. I’m a hint more partial to Nancy Drew but I love both series. Plus one of my most treasured possessions is a first edition of The Bobbsey Twins at School (albeit a very beat up copy) that I found at a flea market. Both series were written by ghost writers, as many others were at this time, but the consistency in the characters is prevalent throughout. I promise you, it’s worth passing an afternoon on the books. There are also some fun crossover books between Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys. Favorite Bobbsey Twins: The Bobbsey Twins at Snow Lodge, TBT at Home, TBT Solve a Mystery, TBT on a Ranch, TBT in Rainbow Valley, TBT at Big Bear Pond, TBT & the Secret of Candy Castle, and TBT on the Sun-Moon Cruise. Favorite Nancy Drew: The Mystery at Lilac Inn, The Sign of the Twisted Candles, The Password to Larkspur Lane, The Mystery of the Brassbound Trunk, The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, The Clue in the Velvet Mask, The Clue in the Old Stagecoach, and The Spider Sapphire Mystery. (Can’t get enough, try The Happy Hollisters too).
Children’s: Margaret Sidney’s Five Little Peppers & How They Grew. Technically there is a series here as well but my favorite remains the first book, published in 1881. The story follows the Pepper family and honestly ya’ll it is so good that I couldn’t possibly spoil it for you. Not that there’s a lot to spoil. But it also stars the best Jasper to ever appear in literature.
LM Montgomery: EVERYTHING. The author of Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon is a must read for anyone. I even posted an earlier blog entry about my love for her books which you can read here.
Children’s Fantasy: CS Lewis-The Chronicles of Narnia. Granted these are classics in their own right so if you haven’t at least read the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, we probably can’t be friends. My all time favorite is the last book in the series, The Last Battle, but there’s a level of magic in each one that simply cannot be understood unless you’ve read the books. My screen name that I use everywhere (onlymystory) actually comes from The Horse & His Boy, which is the 3rd or 5th book depending on whether you read chronologically or by publication. Shasta, a young boy, is talking to Aslan and being told part of his story. Shasta, being curious like most people, asks Aslan about his friend Aravis, trying to see what will happen to her. Aslan reprimands Shasta, telling him he is only allowed to know his story, Aravis’ story belongs to her. So I tell only my story. I can’t speak to other people’s opinions or lives (though I pretend to sometimes when I forget this), so I just tell mine.
YA Fantasy/Dystopian: Suzanne Collins: Hunger Games. All concerns about the upcoming movie aside, these books are some of the best to come out in years. Even my dad & sister, both of whom maybe read 5 books in a year, devoured them and they both can’t stand fantasy books. I personally am a big fan of the final book, even the epilogue, but the entire series is brilliant. I find myself identifying most with Gale in the books. Katniss and I make similar decisions (or at least I would choose some of the same decisions she does) but she struggles with them whereas I tend to be more like Gale & straight up make a decision. Plus Gale’s hot.
Historical Fiction: Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society. One of the best books I had the privilege to read last year. The book tells the story of a village on Guernsey island (part of the British Isles) and how they made it through World War II, despite being occupied by the Germans. It is both fascinating and heartbreaking and I can’t possibly recommend it enough.
Fantasy: James A. Owens: Here There Be Dragons Series. You know how some old maps would show sea serpents in unknown waters? That’s because for uncharted waters, mapmakers would mark it with that to indicate “here be dragons”. So in the series, there’s a book called the Imaginarium Geographica that is established as a map to these magical lands, reached when you hit the farthest edge of civilized waters. The books star members of the Inklings (CS Lewis, Charles Williams & JRR Tolkien) before they wrote their classic works, giving hints at their inspiration. It’s quite a masterful look at the authors but also delves into classic literature by bringing beloved characters to life in different ways.
Jasper Fforde: The Eyre Affair. Similar to the conceit of Here There Be Dragons, Fforde also pulls from literature. But his creates a different world where books are the most important commodity and several don’t have the endings we know. One of these is Jane Eyre, something the protagonist, Thursday Next, discovers once she learns how to jump into books. While still enjoyable if you haven’t read most classics, the real joy of this book is for those who have read many classic books and can recognize little nuances & liberties.
Fantasy: Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian. While yet another vampire story, this particular one delves more into the history of vampire mythology and is written in a much more old school, Bram Stoker vein than the modern redemption of vampires. For fans of vampire lore throughout history, this is an excellent choice.
Leo Tolstoy: The Life & Death of Ivan Illych. Tolstoy is of course most famous for War & Peace and Anna Karenina (both books that I certainly recommend) but his “short story” of Ivan Illych is my favorite. It’s quite a poignant look at a man on his death bed and those last few moments of life. I say “short story” because it is still 300 pages long.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky: The Idiot. I’m a complete sucker for Russian authors and this book that tells a different, and modern version of Jesus is fascinating, clever and mesmerizing.
Bram Stoker: Dracula. Just read it. Seriously. Even if you aren’t a vampires fan (though how are you friends with me in that case?) the way he uses journal entries and letters to tell the story is fascinating. This is my all time favorite book. No matter how many times I read it (and it’s about once a month), I find myself completely forgetting that vampires aren’t real and making sure the doors & windows are locked and that there’s garlic in the house. Stoker is a masterful storyteller. I’ve actually gone through 8 copies of the book at this point. I read it until it’s falling apart, then buy a new one.
Plato: The Republic. While hard to describe, of any Greek literature, this one is the one I enjoy the most. And like Dracula, I’ve read through several copies.
Madeline L’Engle: A Wrinkle in Time. A children’s book that can be enjoyed at every age, L’Engle’s story is a mastery in science-fiction. To describe it would be to take away from the story itself so just read and enjoy. Also, while I still find her other books to be a good read, none of them come close to measuring up to the first one.
Melissa Leaman (That’s me!): Dream Peddler. Okay I’m cheating with this last one. But seriously ya’ll. I didn’t write a book for no reason. You can totally read it.