Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Top 15 Novels

This is the meme: Fifteen novels you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

Here is my list, in no particular order:
  • Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny - First book of the Amber series: I was sold on it by Page 2. It got me to try my hand at writing fiction again instead of comic book stories.
  • The Heritage of Hastur by Marion Zimmer Bradley - Women like her writing better than men do... well, straight men.
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett - Cinderella story + similarly named heroine + heroine liked to make up cool stories. What's not to love?
  • Carrie by Stephen King - I was eleven when this book came out. I loved the notion of telekinesis - even had a set of the Rhine ESP cards - but the language and sexual content of this novel took me out of the realm of kiddie books.
  • The Far Side of Evil by Sylvia Louise Engdahl - original version. This one also took me out of the realm of kiddie books, but without sex or foul language. One of my early exposures to adult versions of cruelty.
  • Shutter Island by Dennis LeHane - This book was a major mind-screw. I loved it. Movie true to the novel, also great.
  • The Sandman, Vol. 7: Brief Lives - I loved Delirium. No one who knows me will be surprised by this.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle - Best explanation of the 4th dimension that I ever read.
  • Startide Rising by David Brin - Nonhuman intelligent species don't always think the way we do.
  • Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key - These kids are gifted and different from other kids. They live in a cruel world that confuses them. Finally, they find 'their people' and become happy. A parallel for real-life misfits.
  • The Other by Thomas Tryon - What a vile book! Harvest Home was also good, but this one sticks with me more, perhaps because I read it first.
  • Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl - screw Willy Wonka. I can dream up my own Candyland.
  • The Best of H.P. Lovecraft by H. P. Lovecraft - "The Silver Key" will always be my favorite. Lovecraft's manifesto against mundane thinking.
  • The Other Side of Tomorrow, collected by Roger Elwood - edges out Dystopian Visions. Elwood glutted the SF market in the 70s with anthologies. I read every one I could get my hands on.
  • Red Dragon by Thomas Harris - Yes, I also enjoyed Silence of the Lambs. This one explores the pathology of its villain in greater depth.
I did give this more than 15 minutes of thought, I confess. I've read a lot of books in my life. Some of the books above are collections of short stories, rather than novels. One is a graphic novel. Just be grateful I didn't list the entire Phoenix saga from the X-Men. All of these books either sparked my creativity or took my mind in a new direction. Sometimes I learned new (and not always nice) ways of thinking. Startide Rising stretched it in alien yet idealistic ways, Red Dragon drew me down into the pit.

Most of the lists I've seen in this meme, and others like it, contain works of great literature: Catcher in the Rye, Tom Sawyer, the periphrastic and boring Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I'm sure many of these people are telling the truth, but sometimes I suspect they just list the books they were forced to read in school. I make no pretensions to reading good literature. I read fiction for pleasure, not to become 'cultured'. That's what my schools and my parents were for. The books above have special meaning for me in one way or another.



Mark Souza said...

1 "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak
2 "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen
3 "The Speed of Light" by Elizabeth Rosner
4 "Misery" by Stephen King
5 "The Long Walk" by Stephen King
6 "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein

Sarah G said...

Only one I've read was 'Misery'. I see that many of your selections deal with the depths of human cruelty and the ability to survive despite it.

Mark Souza said...

Many of them deal with human resilience and redemption. The long Walk by Stephen King is a metaphor. A metaphor for what? I won't spoil it for you. We can discuss after you read it.

I'd like to add to my list:

7 "Where Mercy Flows" by Karen Harter. Karen was a friend and is gone now. This, her first novel, was brilliant.