Darying Young Mom recently asked people to name their single most favorite book.
I haven't had my face out of book for more than an hour at a time since third grade. Picking one was like trying to pick a favorite food. I love them all but sometimes I'm just in the mood for this one; it doesn't mean I like the others any less.
So, while I put my thoughts together for some more substantial posts, here's a list of the books I love enough to keep.
"Misty of Chincoteague," by M. Henry. Might as well start with the one that started it all. I was assigned this in third grade. I remember sitting on the couch as my mother tried to call me to dinner but I was too engrossed to move. She said "We'll never see that girl full-face again." She was right.
"Merovingen Nights." Actually a series of inter-connected short stories by C.J. Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey and others. Fascinating "lost space colony" story with richly detailed culture.
"The Hedge of Mist," by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison. Time was, my definition of a good book was one that had maps and glosseries. "Hedge of Mist" is the end of a trilogy of King Arthur and has the distinction of being the only one, out of all the many, many, MANY King Arthur stories I have read, that has made me cry at the end. Has the added bonus of NOT including the pathetic Lancelot cycle.
"Tam Lin," by Pamela Dean. Part of the "Fairy Tales" series started by Terri Winding. It's a novelization of an old Scottish ballad, set in a 1970-something Minnesota college. This is one of my oldest favorites. I remember reading it in high school and hoping that my college experiences would be like that. (Er, minus confronting the Queen of Faerie.)
"Snow White, Rose Red," by Patricia C. Wrede. Also one of the "Fairy Tales" series this one is a delightful mix of alchemy, human magic and the Faerie Queen's court set in Elizabethan England. I found a copy at a discount bookstore at the beach and have counted myself lucky ever since.
"Rimrunners," "Downbelow Station," "Merchanter's Luck," "Tripoint," and "Finity's End," by C.J. Cherryh. I've never cared much for Cherryh's fantasy books but I just love her sci-fi. There's something smart, snappy and almost puzzle-like about her Merchanter's Alliance universe. It's the best kind of sci-fi, it looks at the culture and the effects of the various technologies on culture and politics without bogging you down with techno-babble or long explanations of things that everyone in the book ought to know already.
"The Tale of Murasaki," by Liza Dalby. Liza Dalby is the only Westerner ever to have become a geisha and she brings a wealth of cultural and historical knowledge to this novelization of the life of Lady Murasaki, the woman who wrote "The Tale of Genji." "The Tale of Genji" is considered to be the first work of fiction ever and is to most Japanese as Shakespeare is to us Westerners. (I.e, old, venerable, cultural heritage and full of language so archaic as to be nearly unintelligable.) Mz. Dalby does a beautiful job of sketching Heian-era Japan right down to the poems the aristocracy used to communicate.
"Sister Light, Sister Dark," by Jane Yolen. A wonderful weaving of novel, myth, legend and "historical essays." An interesting world that comes complete with maps, lyrics and music. Gotta love it.
"A Prayer for Owen Meany," by John Irving. Nostaligic, transforming and riveting. It's been mentioned elsewhere on the Bloggernacle as a Non-Mormon Mormon book and I have to agree. I loved it so much that in my eagerness to recommend it to a friend, I just flat out bought a copy for her.
"Good Omens," by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. A friend of mine loved this so much that in her eagerness to recommend it to me, she just bought me a copy and I can't say I'm sorry she did! The cock-eyed view of things, the silly footnotes… it's hysterical. Admitedly it's a very humanistic view of Armageddon but it's still a very, very good laugh.
"Papa Married a Mormon" and "Mama's Boarding House," by John D. Fitzgerald. Frontier Utah life as told by a young man who lived through it. Some of you may be familiar with the "Great Brain" stories. This is the same author and these are the bio- and auto-biographical stories of his family growing up. I'm not always sure of the timeline, though. Pictures and other things in these books indicate that John D. was born in the early 1900's but he also describes his father and the local LDS bishop crying with joy when Utah was admited to the Union in 1880-something. Still, it's very interesting to read about that time and place.
"Saints" by Orson Scott Card. LDS historical novel with polygamy. Also with some shrewd comments on LDS with pioneer heritage. Loosely based on the life of Eliza R. Snow and so well done that after I read it, I went through the hymnal looking for songs written by the heroine. Again, it's very interesting to read about that time and those places.
"The Lord God Made Them All" and others by James Herriot. I just eat up these stories of veterinary life in rural England around WWII. There's so much appreciation for the little things in life, gentle humor and decent people. Not every veterinary visit in the stories is a success but it's still a feel-good series.
"Sherwood," "The Hero and the Crown," "The Blue Sword," "Deerskin," and "Beauty" by Robin McKinley. These are all lovely books. "Beauty" is and always will be my favorite version of "Beauty and the Beast." There's something about the characterizations and descriptions that make her books a delight. The narration too is funny, light and interesting. Unfortunately, McKinley's later books have a tendency to end in magic sequences so odd I think "this must be what a bad drug-trip is like." The magic endings make sense in "The Hero and the Crown," "The Blue Sword," "Deerskin" and "Beauty" but in "Rose Daughter" and "Spindle's End" I can barely understand what happened, let alone why it was supposed to have had the effect that it did.
"Chicks In Chainmail," edited by Esther M. Friesner. Cute and funny collection of short stories poking fun at the idea of the bronze bikini-wearing warrior girl. Continued in other books like "Did You say CHICKS?" and "The Chick is in the Mail."
"Hellspark," by Janet Kagan. My mom picked this up for me at a yard sale on the off chance that I'd like it. Somewhat to my then-teenaged chagrin, she was right. Talk about poly-glot! A gorgeous cacophony of different cultures, languages and body language with a good stiff dose of suspense and mystery. A truley wonderful sci-fi book that never pales no matter how many times I read it.
(My husband is now teasing me for not including the Book of Mormon but this is a list of novels. As wonderful and inspiring as the Book of Mormon is and as grateful as I am to have it, it's just not the same reading experience!)