My Ten Favorite Books: In My Head…

BooksBusy editing… busy reading… busy reviewing… and it’s summer.

Oh, I’m still here, just locking down my new book. And the new Harper Lee is out today (wow, it is sooo weird to type that). and I need to read it fast for my book reviews.

But I haven’t forgotten about this site! No you guys are still in my heart and head, so I thought I would share a quick list.

If you ever want to get into the head of an author ask them their 10 favorite books. Nothing will give you a better insight into their mind and creativity. So here is mine…

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- Easily, one of the few perfect novels in literature. Not a word out of place.

2. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut- My favorite from one of my favorite authors.

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald- Great to read, better to read aloud.

4. The Abortion by Richard Brautigan- The obscure work in the list. Love this book and the bookstore in it (which would be called in today’s world “Amazon.com.”)

5. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury- Beautiful, beautiful…

6. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis- When I was a kid and I visited new houses I would check every closet for Narnia. (Honestly, I still do that from time to time.)

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- You read this, right? Kind of a big deal in American Literature, especially right now (new book and all).

8. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf- A huge influence on how I set up family scenes and develop characters.

9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens- This is a story stolen by the business of Christmas, but once it was just a wonderful novella. Well, it still is and it is great.

10. Middlemarch by George Elliot- A literary epic, grand and at the same time filled with wonderful little moments and characters. Also one of the most beautiful endings.

Now I’m off to read this new book by Harper Lee (again, crazy we get to say that).

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The Five Books That Made Me

CompassOur lives are filled with landmarks. And just like the sites that dot our landscape, these moments dot our lives, creating the definition of who we are. For me, I can see them like a map spread out in front of me from movies to TV shows to experiences to relationships to plays to books… oh… a lot of books.

I was the kid who would come home with a pile of library books each weekend, who later would take his bike out to only ride to libraries, having three in my vicinity to choose from with a separate card for each. If I could have had a collection of cards with aliases I would have done it. See, I would lose summer days just wandering through the aisles like visiting old friends, allowing my fingers to grace along the covers as I walked past, secretly hoping that a book would reach out and grab me.

I always get a little sentimental when a book is released (A Jane Austen Daydream). I can’t help it. This is a new kind of landmark; I’m adding to my own landscape now. And if I am lucky my work might find its way on to another’s map. See, that is the thing for me. It’s not about money, it never was.  It was always about the love of a good yarn, with surprises and new adventures.

When I look back at my life there are five books that stand out the most in inspiring me.  This is not to say they are my favorites, or what I consider the greatest works; no, not at all.

They are just the ones that grabbed me just when I needed them to. Continue reading

Talking About Some Deaths in Literature

Death is kind of on my mind a lot recently. My grandfather (who I wrote about here), died on February 9 and the loss of him and how it has impacted my every day thoughts had really made me think about death in relation to a lot of things around me. In my author-esq head, it’s not surprising that literature found its way into the mental ramblings (or should we just be honest and call them distractions from reality?).

It seems many times we don’t take “dead” very seriously in literature. Unless it is gruesome (Hi, George R.R. Martin!), or the other characters are seriously changed because of it for the worse (Seriously, why did Little Nell have to snuff it?), many times it seems to float past us as a plot device. Is it because we have a long history of people returning to life in books so it doesn’t feel as final? (Aslan, Gandalf, every comic book character, and most religious stories, etc.) The corpse is rarely there in a story, unless it has just happened; that could be part of it as well.

Death in writing is a plot device. It is a tool both sharp as a knife and as a blunt as a sledgehammer.  We cheer when bad guys die. We look at a death sacrifice as heroic, not thinking of the final end that just happened to a character.

Is it simply because we don’t see characters as “human?” So maybe it is more a fault of us writers that a readers feels, or doesn’t feel, the loss. There might be something to it. I wrote a book, MEGAN, that is built around a death and I tried to show a character from being told of the death of another with all the initial stages of acceptance over the course of a day. Hmmm… Probably why the work isn’t as popular on amazon.com than my time-traveling adventure, My Problem With Doors. So clearly, death is not a selling point.

There is a lesson there  I learned that you will not need to now. You can thank me later.

Sometimes a death can slip right by, almost as an afterthought. My favorite example of this is the first Harry Potter book. One thing I love to point out to people is that Harry Potter begins with a double homicide. Yes, we see the scene later in the series (We get a little description in the first book, just a taste). And while JK Rowling does her best to take a light approach to that first chapter (Vernon in all his heavy-set foolishness), it doesn’t change the fact the story really started the evening before when Voldemort went into the home of the Potters and slaughtered them gleefully. Continue reading