Saturday, July 30, 2011

These are a few of my favorite books--books I love and that had a real impact on my life

I picked up this "not intended to be a meme" from Bobbi Newman at Librarian by Day. These are all books that made a difference for me, that changed how I looked at the world, and have added to my appreciation of it. I hope you'll find something new and enjoyable to read here, and leave comments about your own favorites.

Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell. This wonderful book about the life of a horse in 19th century England was my first introduction to the idea of truly getting inside the animal's viewpoint. I must have read other books earlier that had "talking animals," but they didn't have the same impact.

Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit. Five children find a Sand Fairy, and get one wish granted every day. They have incredible, delightful adventures, but also learn that getting exactly what you asked for can be more trouble than it's worth! When I was a shy child whose family moved frequently, this book was an enormous comfort to me. I can't imagine that there could be a child in the world whose life wouldn't be enriched by it.

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien was an Oxford don who started writing fiction for his own children. But he was an expert in languages and mythology, and he couldn't create a fictional world without creating its languages and mythology first. The result was this incredibly rich and layered world, that reflects his Roman Catholic moral and ethical values without ever lecturing or introducing anything recognizable as any modern religion. Yes, sure, there are places where it sounds silly if you read it out loud, and there's a sad lack of good, well-developed female characters. So what? You can't have everything, and this trilogy (and its prequel The Hobbit, and its background and supporting matter) has so much! Well worth a reread every few years.

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast, by Robin McKinley. Beautiful language, rich, fully-developed characters, a story that's more believable, in its human elements, than the traditional fairy tale--but all the magic is still there, too. This is another one I reread every few years. And,  oh, yes, McKinley found she had more to say, and gave us a completely different retelling of Beauty and the Beast, in Rose Daughter, twenty years later. Also well worth reading!

Cromwell: The Lord Protector, by Antonia Fraser. I've always had a love of and interest in  history, but initially it was mediaeval history that held my interest. This is the book that refocused me from mediaeval to early modern history, and gave me a real and lively sense of how history shaped the world we live in today.

Plagues and Peoples, by William H. McNeill. How disease affected the course of human history. It's one of the most compelling, fascinating books I've ever read. I know that sounds--unlikely. It's true, though. This is truly a seminal work, and deserves its status on every level.

I've done my bit; now let's see your favorites!


  1. Recently been on a Vonnegut kick.

    Just adore "A Man Without A Country," an older, cynical Vonnegut looking at a bizarre country, does see the country he likes in librarians.

    "Cat's Cradle" -- didn't realize every chapter was meant as a joke. Just genius and bizarre.

    "Slaughterhouse Five" -- left a huge impression, amazing and hard, hard story to tell.

    Favorites over time:

    Huck Finn
    The Martian Chronicles
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    On The Road
    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
    Edge City: Life on the New Frontier.


  2. Ah, I've enjoyed several of those, too. Huckleberry Finn is mislabeled as a children's book. The Martian Chronicles was my first introduction to prose poetry. Vonnegut always packs a punch, and 1984 is one of those books that people are shocked when you say it's science fiction because, you know, it's good.

    Edge City--It was good, but I thought his earlier Nine Nations of North America was stronger in both its logic and its research. Edge City was written at one of the peaks in real estate values in New England, and based some its arguments about New England's prospect on the odd assumption that those real estate values would never experience a dip. It made me wonder how many people in other regions would think his comments about their areas were equally odd.

    Thanks for stopping by!