Lately I have been spending a lot of time reading (and listening) to books. The novel I have been writing for the past year is fairly polished right now, so most of my writing time is going towards my memoir. Writing memoir doesn’t take as much preperation as fiction though – I already know the story, since it already happened to me. So I’m back to reading/listening to two or three books a week. This has lead me to think about what my favorite books are. Here are what I consider my five all-time favorite books.
“The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell – I tend to use this book as a litmas test for potentail friendship. If you don’t like this book, really I don’t want to talk to you anymore. I never read SciFi, but this book is just way to good to pass up. I once went to a reading by Mary Doria Russell where she described this book as “Jesuits in Space”, and that is really exactly what this book is about. The Catholic mission to meet God’s other children after life is discovered on another planet. The cultural misunderstandings that unfold are the best picture of humanity I’ve ever read – even if they are about aliens.
I have decided to only list one book by any one author on this list, but I feel the need to mension Mary Doria Russell’s other books too, because “A Thread of Grace” (historical fiction about Jewish refugees in northern Italy during WW2) is probably my second favorite book of all time. She also wrote “Children of God” (sequil to The Sparrow) and “Dreamers of the Day” (historical fiction about post WW1 division of middle east, staring Lawarance of Arabia and Winston Churchill).
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon – Perhaps it’s just because I am learning disabled myself, but I enjoy stories about abnormal thinkers. I don’t think another book exists that does a better job of putting the reader into the mind of an autistic child. This murder mystery told from the point of view of a ten year old autistic boy should be on everyones must read list. It is funny, engaging, and thought provoking all at the same time.
“Virgin Blue” by Tracy Chevalier – I tend to really enjoy historical fiction. I like learning things when I read, and historical fiction does a better job of entertaining while teaching than reading straight non-fiction histories. Tracy Chevalier is best known for “Girl with a Pearl Earring” but I enjoyed “Virgin Blue” a lot more. It has a catchy mistery element as it uncovers the rolls wemon played in the middle ages. Tracy Chevalier’s other books are “Falling Angels”, “The Lady and the Unicorn” and “Burning Bright”.
“Harry Potter Series” by J.K. Rowling – I don’t need to describe this story. I assume anyone able to find this blog has already heard of the unstoppable force known as Harry. But Harry actually holds a unique place in my reading development. Technically I learned how to read in elementry school (enduring nearly 400 hours of private tutoring), but I never got to the point where my reading skills matched my thinking skills and as a result I spent most of my time listening. I was a senior in college when book four of Harry Potter came out and the Harry craze made it out of the elementry schools and started swarming through college dorms too. I attempted to order the books from RFB&D where I got all of my audio books at the time. I was told that there was a six month wait for the extreamly popular books. So I decided to read them instead. Amazingly, it was easy and fun. I read all four books in less than two weeks and loved every second of it. Harry Potter didn’t teach me how to read – but he did prove to me that it was something I knew how to do.
“A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving – I am listing this book as the fifth book in my greatest books ever list, because for many years it was number one on my list. I first listened to this book when I was in junior high school. I then relistened to it again in high school and loved it even more. It’s an entertaining coming of age story about a very pecular little boy. Maybe I related to Owen Meany as a kid because I too have always been a bit peculiar. What ever the reason, this was my favorite book as a kid, and one that will always stay high on my list of favorite books. The movie “Simon Birch” is a horrible adeptation of the novel.