I like to keep books I have loved, both so I can lend them to friends and to enjoy them again and again. Needless to say, I continue to buy bookshelves and fill them. And now I'm even filling up bookshelves online! Want to know what I'm reading right now? Check out my Shelfari bookshelf below.
For pleasure and escape, I enjoy fiction. For a big-time get-away, mysteries are the best! I enjoy Tony Hillerman’s Navajo settings, and Elizabeth George’s complex plots. After that, I love character-driven stories, whether historical or contemporary. Then there are some novels that are just plain fun to read, like Alexander McCall Smith’s #1 Ladies Detective Agency series.
Here are some of my all-time favorite novels. It was hard not to overload this list! If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear your opinion. Is it a favorite, or not?
- And Ladies of the Club, by Helen Santmyer. The story is set immediately post-Civil War. I’ve returned to it again and again to revel in the period details.
- The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay. A wonderful coming-of-age story. Just possibly the best book I’ve ever read.
- The Sky Fisherman, by Craig Lesley. Another wonderful coming-of-age book, this one set in eastern Oregon, an area very familiar to me. Being able to picture the setting added much to my enjoyment of the story.
- Anything by Barbara Kingsolver. I love her writing. The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven are serious stories that bring both tears and laughter. The Poisonwood Bible is a masterpiece of POV changes.
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This story was a delight to read, and brought home to me the deprivations suffered by the residents of the Channel Islands during World War II. It is a tie between this one and . . .
- The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, as to which was the best book I read last year. This heartwarming story is told from a dog’s point of view, and I completely fell in love with Enzo, the protagonist.
Here’s a partial list of my favorite authors of inspirational fiction.
- Bonnie Leon has written a number of compelling series. She has set her stories in locations as varied as Russia, Australia, and Alaska. Each book leaves the reader with a strong sense of place, as well as the satisfaction of a story excellently told.
- Liz Curtis Higgs has written many outstanding historical novels. I was captivated by Here Burns My Candle and Mine is the Night, a retelling of the Biblical story of Naomi and Ruth.
- Laura Frantz is another author of historical fiction whose books I love. Her first three novels were set in Kentucky in the 1700's. Courting Morrow Little was my favorite.
- Julie Klassen's stories are very Jane Austen-ish, and a pleasure to read. It's hard to pick a favorite, so start with The Silent Governess and read them all.
Sometimes compelling nonfiction serves to open the door to adventures I’ve only dreamed about. Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air is a good example. I’ve read it twice, and will probably read it again. He takes the reader along on a breathtaking and ultimately tragic climb to the top of Mt. Everest.
Another wonderful nonfiction author I’ve enjoyed is Stephen Ambrose. His Undaunted Courage spins the story of Lewis and Clark almost like a novel.
Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand is an unforgettable story about one man's courage during World War II. Not to be missed!
And how about Marley and Me, by John Grogan? If you’ve ever loved a dog, and I’m in that category, you have to read that book. I laughed until tears ran down my face.
Check my blog for my newest faves. When I read a good book, it’s always near the top of the list for a while.
BOOKS FOR WRITERS:
No author’s list would be complete without recommendations of books to read if you are someone who wants to launch into a writer’s journey yourself. Those I’ve referred to most often are:
- Scene and Structure. Jack M. Bickham.
- The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. Evan Marshall
- Plot and Structure. James Scott Bell
- Getting Into Character. Brandilyn Collins
- The Elements of Style. William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White—a classic.
- Writing the Breakout Novel. Donald Maass
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Renni Browne and Dave King—indispensable.
- Bird by Bird. Ann Lamott—no one says it better, even if she does use a few colorful words.
- The Insider’s Guide to Getting an Agent. Lori Perkins—this one is just as useful after an author gets his or her first publishing contract.
If you have a particular book that’s helped you, would you please let me know the title? We writers never stop learning.