Fri 19 Mar 2010
Last week, I was asked a question about the one book that influenced my life. I had trouble narrowing it to just one.
So I started thinking about all the books I’ll hold close to my heart and will have in my collection until I die.
And I made a list.
1. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley.
This is the first book I remember carrying around with me constantly.
My favorites passages are Alec’s first ride aboard the Black on the deserted island, Alec’s midnight ride on a real racetrack that becomes almost surreal, and, most especially, the climatic match race between The Black, Cyclone and Sun Raider.
When I needed a name for my superhero, I called him Alec. His last name isn’t a coincidence either.
2. Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
When I was twelve, I got a subscription to the SF Book Club and got to choose five free books. This was included, along with a couple of Edgar Rice Burroughs books and Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. I like Zelazny’s work a lot but it was this collection I read until the pages fell out. It still has orange stains from the Cheetos I ate while reading.
The book is likely a little dated now but the dragons in this series are still the best.
3. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
I know some people think the narrative moves slow at the beginning but I was hooked right away with the descriptions of Bilbo’s birthday party. I just adore Tolkien’s narrative voice, rambling and all.
By the time Strider showed up in Bree, I was hopelessly in love with the story. Eowyn’s battle against the King of the Nazghul remains my favorite scene though Gandalf’s confrontation on the bridge in Moria is a close second.
4. DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke
I love any number of superhero stories but if I had to pick one story that distilled everything I love about superheroes, this would be it.
5. The Sherlock Homes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
I’m the proud owner not only of the classic William S. Baring-Gould Annotated Sherlock Holmes but also of a new annotated edition published a couple of years ago. These stories are everything I love about mysteries and I’ve yet to find a detective I like more than Holmes.
But it’s Watson who really makes the stories to me. He’s flawed but intelligent and kind and adds the human touch that the stories need. The new movie with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law didn’t impress me much but it got Watson right, a big point in their favor.
6. Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie
I normally steer away from contemporary stories–they’re too close to reality for me. But this is the book that really turned me on to romance stories. It’s sad, it’s funny, and everyone in it is so real. It’s a beautiful book.
7. The Plantagenet Chronicles by Thomas Costain
I think this four-volume set came through a mail-order book club too. It starts with Henry II and ends with the death of Richard III, the last of the English Plantagenet kings. It’s more of a collection of anecdotes spliced together than it is a linear history. Costain is a great storyteller.
And I’m still with him that Richard III may have been innocent of his nephews’ murder and that Richard II was a really lousy king. One of these days, I’m going to write the William Marshall story inspired by Costain.
8. Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
This is the book that brought me back to SF after years of avoiding it because of cardboard characters. I’d been mostly reading fantasy until a friend insisted on read this. It’s now one of the most dog-eared books in my collection.
It’s…well, ostensibly it’s about a woman from a very liberal culture who falls in love with a man from a planet and a culture isolated for thousands of years from the rest of galactic civilization.
But that’s like saying the Sopranos is about mobsters. It’s true but there’s so much MORE.
9. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
The first novel in a series so good that other Arthurian fiction writers use it as a basis for their stories. Young Merlin is a bastard child in a court that would rather see him dead but his Gift of Sight ultimately protects him long enough to find his father, the Roman heir of Britain.
There is magic in these pages.
10. Hope’s Folly by Linnea Sinclair
My latest obsession. Adrenaline-fueled romantic SF with a pace that would please Robert Heinlein. It’s just sheer fun to read.
So what are your favorites?