Inevitably when you write a list of favorites like I did, you will later wake up in the middle of the night, wide awake, thinking, “How could I have forgotten….?” or someone will mention a novel to you and you’ll groan, wondering how that masterpiece slipped your mind. So here are a few of the books that weren’t front and center in my memory last time I posted on this topic. Trust me, I’m sure there are plenty more where these came from and no doubt, you all have a few gems to add to the list. First, two children’s or young readers’ books:
Bob, Son of Battle by Alfred Olliphant. A classic coming of age tale set in the Cumbria region of England. This book is the tale of two competing sheepdogs aspiring to win the coveted Shepherd’s Trophy but it is also the story of young David, whose mother is dead and whose father is a violent drunkard. Rivalries, false accusations and anger contrast with the kindness of neighbors, the innocent love of a young girl and the loyalty of a good dog. I loved this book intensely and the cover art prompted me to draw thousands of portraits of collies.
The Black Stallion by Walter Farley – I read and reread all of this series when I was young. I loved horses and desperately wanted one. It didn’t help that my best friend lived on a ranch and not only had a horse but her own longhorn bull! I satisfied my desires by drawing horse after horse.
And now, for the adults in the crowd:
The Stand by Stephen King – the full, unexpurgated version. I love this man’s craft and the depth of his characters. Plus, the first time I read this book, I was living in Las Vegas where the final showdown takes place – talk about creepy! I actually like most of King’s books. And like most book vs. movie contests, the books are better by far – especially The Shining. There are some things even Stanley Kubrick can’t put in a film.
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. One of those books that simply draws the reader in and immerses you in another culture, another world and then takes your breath away with the beauty of its prose. Kawabata’s works are sad, illustrating the contrast between traditional Japanese society and mourning the coming modern, often Western, way of life.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This was a surprising read for me. My eyes were opened to the horrors of the Soviet gulags and there treatment of prisoners, written by someone who’d survived the camps. In spite of the oppressive work, the extreme cold, the brutality and the lack of food, the central character in this novel finds hope in the small bits of luck that befall him.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Although billed as a memoir, this fictional tale is still compellingly told from young Chiyo’s viewpoint. We follow her life, tragedies, loss, loves and struggles through WWII. I love books with glorious descriptions and full of culture and color and this novel has all of that plus memorable characters.
There will be more to come. Please feel free to add your suggestions to the list.