K. D. Rush has thrown down the gauntlet and challenged his Twitter followers to list our favorite books and explain why each one is special to us (http://j.mp/AblYxD).
Although this was a fun exercise, it turned out to be difficult for me because I love a lot of books. I had to cut some old favorites because there just weren’t enough slots for everything. Items 1 and 2, as well as the starred selection, are set. The others could go anywhere on the list.
1. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
My college-age brother gave me this trilogy, along with the Hobbit, when I was nine. He was a tad optimistic about my reading level and intellectual capacity at the time, but he must have sensed even then that these were exactly the right kind of books for me. The danger drew me in—those horrible Ringwraiths sniffing around—and the desperation of the quest riveted me. I trace my deep affection for fantasy to Tolkien.
2. Watership Down by Richard Adams
The author claims that this adventure novel was not intended as an allegory, yet many—including me—identify with its themes of liberation and self-determination. I was captivated by the tales of the rabbit folk hero, El-ahrairah, woven into the main storyline, and this technique made for a truly satisfying epilogue.
Now for a real-life great escape: Shortly after my husband and I bought our house, a stray rabbit showed up on the doorstep. We took him in and tried to locate the owner, without success. “Mr. Bun” became a beloved family companion, free to roam our fenced back yard, which he could have dug out of at any time. He was reminiscent of the novel’s Bigwig in many respects, a powerful alpha male with his own ideas about the way things should go. The cats were terrified of him. He took to herding the humans around the yard like a border collie, a game he initiated by tilting his head and flicking his ears.
We learned much later that around the time Mr. Bun appeared, a group of rabbits had broken out of their pen several streets over. What was Mr. Bun’s role in that getaway? Was he the one to chew through the lock? Did his nose push open the gate? We’ll never know, but for many years we harbored this fugitive, a rabbit as fearless and clever as any of El-ahrairah’s chosen.
3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
A primer in the subtleties of oppression. I enjoyed all of McMurphy’s antics, but direct challenges to authority are rarely effective, Kesey seems to say.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Lee tells a story about standing up for what’s right with great insight, humor, and skill, and without ever preaching. I first encountered this book on racial injustice as a kid, and my appreciation grows with each reading.
5. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Earth is at war with the insectoid Formics, or “Buggers.” Smart kids like Ender are taken to Battle School to learn how to fight them. This is an intense read with good twists. It also made me think about violence, military ethics, diplomacy, and bullying.
6. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Spoiled belle meets hard times. Mitchell creates in Scarlett O’Hara a self-centered protagonist who becomes likable—and even admirable. I love this book because of Scarlett’s many foibles and sheer determination.
7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
This was my particular favorite of the Harry Potter series. Dolores Umbridge is a stroke of genius, and the showdown at the Ministry of Magic simply heartbreaking.
8. Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
This first novel in the Amelia Peabody series, set in Egypt in 1884, combines many fictional elements I like: mystery, action, romance, history, humor, and faraway places. And a mummy to boot!
9. The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne
I was amazed by what the author pulled off in this historical romance. The surprises were fantastic and the characters complex. Annique Villiers, the infamous “Fox Cub,” has become one of my all-time favorite female protagonists.
And last, but far from least, my starred selection:
*Moon Called* by Patricia Briggs
This booked turned me around after a writing slump, and for that it will always have a special meaning for me that transcends “favorite.” Car mechanic Mercy Thompson is a coyote shapeshifter among werewolves, which makes for some interesting social dynamics. A top-notch urban fantasy.
So there you have it—my top ten favorite books for right now, today. I’d love to hear about my viewers’ favorites!
Edited to change some poor word choices. —MC