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Favorite Books :


Intro:  Recently a friend asked me if there was anything that would make my life better—happier. (We're talking anything in the realm of possibility, and not an answer like “win the lottery.”) I thought about it a while, and finally said, if I was given one really good book to read every week—one of those, can't put it down/ can't wait to get back to it kind of books. The kind that I'm still thinking about the next day— because something about it has stayed with me. One book like that a week would make my life better.

It sounds so simple. One book a week. But it's not, unfortunately, as easy as it sounds. They're out there. I know they are. And I do find them—just not as often as I'd like.

These are some of my all–time favorites. I read everything: fiction and non–fiction, from classics to science fiction to YA. But to make it less confusing, I've broken my favorites down into the different genres. I know I haven't thought of them all. But as I remember, I'll add to the lists...


Children's Books: This category is first, because these are the books that made me fall in love with reading. I'm including both middle–grade and YA in here because all of the books on this list I've re–read as an adult and enjoyed them just as much. So I think they transcend age.

  • Watership Down by Richard Adams: This might be one of my favorite books of all time.
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham: This one isn't very well known these days, but it won the Newberry back in 1956. It's an historical novel, so it isn't dated at all.
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • Darkness Rising by Susan Cooper
  • Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander: This is the third in a series, but it's my favorite.
  • The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, and Beauty by Robin McKinley

19th Century Fiction: It's a bit strange—I write thrillers, but one of my favorite things to read is 19th century British fiction. The reason I love the genre is that these books often have a lot of dialogue, there's always a good story, and most of the time there's quite a bit of social satire (which I love.) The only ones that made it on this list are the ones I've returned to several times.

  • Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope (at least this is my favorite, but I love almost all of his books. Well, the two dozen or so that I've read. He wrote somewhere around 40.)
  • Anything by Jane Austen (though Persuasion and Pride & Prejudice are my favorites.)
  • Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Science Fiction: This is a category I find people have very strong feelings about: people generally either love sci fi or stay away from it altogether. I'm not a hard core sci–fi reader, but I've always been a fan. Here are my favs.

  • Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, and Songmasterby Orson Scott Card
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Puppet Master by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Gateway by Frederick Pohl

Books in Translation: British fiction gets plenty of attention, but I feel like books in translation (except for the biggies like Flaubert, Sartre, Kundera, etc.) get a little neglected. For example, my absolute favorite author in this category—and she may be simply my favorite author—is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature. She's Swedish and her name is Selma Lagerloff. Never hear of her? Neither had I.

  • Almost anything by Selma Lagerloff: Loved all her books except for her most famous, Gosta Berling. I especially recommend the trilogy under the name, The Ring of the Lowenskolds.
  • A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  • Almost anything by Dostoyevsky, though Brothers Karamatzov was my favorite—and I have to admit I couldn't ever get through Crime and Punishment.

Non–Fiction: I tend to like non–fiction that reads like fiction.

  • Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang: I thought this book was amazing. Reads like a novel, plus you get a great perspective on the history of the last 100 years in China.
  • God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana's Angola Prison by Daniel Bergner: I discovered this book when I was doing research for my book Jude. It could make you think differently about prisons and prisoners.
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  • Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy and Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Anne Patchett: The second is about the friendship between Lucy Grealy and Anne Patchett, written after Lucy Grealy's death. These two books—especially read together—are fascinating.
  • Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje

Mysteries: There are some absolutely devoted mystery readers. My mother is one of them—she started on Nancy Drew and never stopped so her knowledge of the genre is amazing. I like a good mystery, but I am just an amateur. But these are a few of my favorites.

  • Presumed Innocent by Scott Turrow
  • Anything by Dick Francis written before 1990 (the older the better)
  • I know there are more, but I can't think of them right now…

Literary Fiction:

  • Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson
  • Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • End of the Affair by Graham Greene
  • Two Lives by William Trevor
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