A few weeks ago, I added my first book review post to this blog. It was a list of my favorite Pride and Prejudice variations. As I said in that post, I wanted to review P&P variations because when I was looking for where to start, I had a hard time finding any that weren’t on Amazon.
One thing I realized in reading reviews of any kind is that I never know if I should trust a reviewers opinion because I don’t know if we have the same taste in books, or movies, or music, or . . . anything, really.
With that in mind, I am going to present here a list of my favorite books of all time. Hopefully, this will give you a feeling for what I like in books, so when you see my future reviews, you’ll know whether or not you should pay any heed to my opinions.
The books on this list are presented in no particular order (basically, as they came to me.)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Well, given that I read P&P variations, this title could come as no shock whatsoever!
But why do I like it? I love the narrator and the way the narrator slyly comments on everything, exposing the hypocrisies and foibles of the times—it’s subtle satire, and I love it. Austen wrote of her novel that it was “rather too light & bright & sparkling,” but I must disagree with her. It is her ability to weave a story that is both sparkling and serious, that speaks to us about love and respect and learning from mistakesandpersonal growth, that inspires and awes me and keeps me coming back.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
In this book I love the scope, the world building, and the characters. Ah, Samwise.
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
I also really liked Interview with a Vampire, but Lestat is my favorite because of the narrator—Lestat, himself. He is pure charisma. He’s bold and cheeky but with a surprisingly moral code. I defy anyone not to fall in love with him.
Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins
Okay, I’m sensing a theme here—I like books that make me laugh. No one does that better than Tom Robbins and in no book more than this one. How could I not love a book where some of the main characters are a Can O’Beans, a Dirty Sock, a Painted Stick and a Conch Shell? And it’s not just comedy for comedy’s sake—there are some profound insights into the human condition as well.
The Dune Series by Frank Herbert
These books don’t have the humor I love so much, but they do have complex, rich world building. These books are amazing in how they tell a relatively simple tale, but enrich that story with philosophy, religion, environmentalism, economics and more. I love all of the books, but my favorite is Children of Dune. Leto the second is a true hero—willing to make the tough decisions.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
I loved Jane’s strength and Rochester’s brooding. I love the suspense of what is happening in the house and the shock of the truth, Jane’s bold yet reckless decision to leave, and her unwillingness to live in any way that is counter to her own inner sense of right.
Middlemarch by George Eliot
This is another book brimful of complex characters and a rich, detailed world. For some reason I didn’t think I’d like this book when it was assigned for a class, but I loved it.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
What a wondrous journey. Multiple dimensions. Daemons. Complex characters. Philosophy.Harrowing journeys. Talking polar bears. First love.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
This book is not only humorous, but super imaginative. It’s a strange and wonderful alternate universe where time travel is possible, street gangs identify by what poet they prefer, and the characters inside books are alive. Plus literary references galore! Top it off with a kick-ass female lead, and I’m a happy reader.
House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
This was my first experience with magical realism. So lovely and haunting.
The Stand by Stephen King
I have always loved Stephen King books. It was hard to choose just one. His use of voice is so good, each character is so distinct. I think The Stand is my favorite, but ask me a different day and I might choose a different book. I haven’t read every book he’s written, but I have read a lot of them. The Stand stands out (ha, ha!) because of its scope. (Another recurring theme for my favorites appears to be books with a large cast of characters and an epic scale). I also like the post-apocalyptic survival aspect of this story. (Another couple of post-apocalyptic survival stories that I really liked are Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle and The Passage by Justin Cronin.)
One thing I really hate about our society today is how much we know about the authors of our favorite books (and the creators of our favorite movies, music and tv shows). I really wish they’d all just make their art and otherwise keep out of the public eye. But they don’t.
Hence, “Death of the Author” and “Separate the Art from the Artist.”
So, I hereby acknowledge the existence of, but do not in anyway support, the harmful views held by two artists whose works I love: J.K. Rowling and Orson Scott Card. Because of this, I can’t advocate purchasing these books new—buy them used and support local used bookstores.
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Again, this is a great mix of world building, humor, seriousness. Despite the author’s own prejudices, these books actually teach children to be more empathetic to others, and they speak to the idea that it’s what’s inside a person that counts, not some label that society puts on you.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
This book isn’t humorous. But it does have a wonderfully complex and interesting main character. Ender may be a child in a battle school that orbits the earth, but through him the book asks big questions: what is okay to do to individuals in the name of the greater good? How does lack of a willingness to understand the “other” lead to the murder of innocents? Can ruthlessness be countered by compassion? Plus is has an amazing twist near the end.