For one to be a writer, it is probably advisable for one to actually be a reader as well. I have been a reader my whole life. The genres of preference tend to be on a wide spectrum. I love discovering new stories and adventures. I honestly did not think I was a “sci-fi” geek until I married Shauna. It turns out, yeah, I like sci-fi. I love thrillers, mysteries, and spy novels. I don’t generally read romance, but sometimes I can be persuaded to read one here and there. I like to read some biographies, but here lately, I’ve been losing myself more in fiction than in non-fiction.
Fiction gives you a problem, and with luck, a solution to the problem. Looking around the world today, it’s so easy to spy problems EVERYWHERE you turn, but the solution tends to be harder. Perhaps it’s the idealist in me, but often I prefer to lose myself into something that ultimately will work out in the end. It may not be a happy ending, it could be a tragic ending; but the fact that there is a solution is good enough for me.
Anyway, I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of fiction vs. non-fiction. That’s a long arduous debate, and I just don’t have it in me. What I am here to do is discuss my top 5 go-to books (encompassing both impressionable adolescence and my adult years. When I say top 5 go-to books, I mean books I’ve read multiple times, own both print and audio versions, and when I need a book and I don’t want to look to discover something new, I fall back on these old faithfuls. I will be taking liberty with “books” because.. well.. It’s my blog and I can do what I want damnit. Okay.. so without further delay… Here are my top 5 go-to books.
1. From the Corner of His Eyes - Dean Koontz
This is my hands down #1 go-to book. First of all, you see that 2 of the 5 books here are Dean Koontz books. I will not deny that he is probably my favorite author of all time. I’ve read almost all of his books. (Almost…. I can’t get with ghosts… therefore I’ve missed much of the Odd Thomas series. Also, I haven’t tried out the Frankenstein series yet…)
That being said, From the Corner of His Eye is my favorite book by this guy. Like, I’mma be real… In 50 years, long after Dean (and probably I) am dead, this will be considered a masterpiece up there with Tolstoy and Kafka. Bold words? Probably. But it’s a deep-seeded belief for me.
Anyway, this is a book that touches me on a deep level - from the 1st reading to the 25th reading. I honestly believe that this is the 1st book that actually made me cry. I recall being in High School and having to “find” themes in old school works. Sometimes, I could easily identify what my English teacher was wanting me to find. Other times, the theme was either super obscure, or I just enjoyed the work too much to coherently find the theme. (Poe’s Cask of Amontillado comes to mind.)
Perhaps it’s because I’m older and have lived a life where “themes” make sense due to life experiences. I am at the age where my view of life is clearer than it was when I was in my 20s. (Which is actually when I first read the book) From the Corner of His Eye not only has overt themes, it also gave me my first taste of quantum physics, which… I don’t get… but I enjoy the creativity surrounding the concepts! (I even use them a little in my own writing)
This book touches me on so many levels, it makes me look at myself and my outlook, and it is so entertaining! The entire body of work, for me, reads like a sonnet. It’s poetic. Ah! I wish I could put into words how much I love this novel, but I have to keep moving on.
2. Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus Series - Rick Riordan
Okay, so here is the 1st of my 2 cheats. This is not just 1 book. If you want to be technical, it’s 10 books in one entry. I justified using both series as one entry because they are connected. (Also, I said top 5… I didn’t say top 20) I am fully aware that these are YA books and I’m a grown ass woman. (The gray hairs I keep finding also keep me up-to-date on that fact…)
This past May, I’ve been out of high school for 20 years. (Stick with me, I know this seems like a segue.) To be honest there is very few things I remember or WANT to remember from that time in my life. I was fat, awkward, introverted, not very popular, and gay in a VERY religious and homophobic environment. I choose to kinda blur that out of my active memories. This means much of my High School English/Literary exposure was between 20 - 24 years ago. It’s kinda that situation where I see my little brothers/sister reading things like To Kill A Mockingbird, and I’m like, “I know I read it, but I couldn’t tell you too much detail.” (Well, that’s not really true for To Kill a Mockingbird, I actually loved that book. Let’s say the Red Badge of Courage. I read it, I don’t remember it.) There are other short stories and novels I read that have stuck with me throughout adulthood. I’ve already mentioned one, The Cask of Amontillado. (Seriously, the fact that I LOVE that twisted ass story says a lot about me.) Great Expectations is another book that I remember well. But the subject matter that fascinated me to no end? Greek Mythology.
I mean, I’ll be real… I don’t quite remember the Odyssey or the Iliad as much as I should. It was those works by Homer that introduced me into the world of Greek Mythology. But I recall being fascinated by the other stories and discussions surrounding the gods and goddesses, of the heroes and demigods; it was almost like a whole different world. We mainly discussed Greek Mythology, but we touched on Roman as well, which isn’t completely different.
Riordan’s works teleport me back to a happy time of my childhood. It also teaches me even more stuff I didn’t know, or gives more detail to things that we may have only touched on in school, or that I have forgotten all together. Then add the genius of putting it all in present day with a bunch of kids, as a method of making ADHD & dyslexic kids feel special and not alienated? DUDE… I’m not ADHD or dyslexic, but I was alienated as a kid, so this is TOTALLY up my alley!
3. Life Expectancy - Dean Koontz
This is another Koontz book that I like to revisit often. Unlike FTCOHE, this is a much lighter and shorter read. But again, Koontz is so good with themes. A big theme in this book is syndactyly. Not in the medical sense, (well yeah it’s there in the medical sense too) but in life. Syndactyly is a medical condition where some or all fingers or toes are partially or fully connected. (Think of a human with webbed feet or hands.) However, Koontz uses this medical term to talk about how often we can be connected. Now, I will admit, I am an idealist, but I’m also a realist. (I refuse to call it pessimist.) I think Koontz puts a little too much credence to destiny in some of his writing, but as an idealist who can be whimsical, I can enjoy the concept, even if I don’t believe it at its core.
The idea of connectivity is one I can get behind. That fuels even my writing. We are all people, we are all humans. We are different, but there can be more that connects us than we know. Sometimes, we have to just listen.
It’s also about a killer clown, and c’mon… Who doesn’t love a book about a killer clown?
4. Chronicles of Narnia series - C.S. Lewis
This is my second cheat here. I read this continuously when I was younger. (Although I really think I should pick it up again and give it another read.) Perhaps it’s growing up in a Christian home and the symbolism these books represent. Maybe it’s the adventure of children being able to go to a distant land with talking animals and magic. (Now that I think of it, I have been a sci-fi fan since I was a child and didn’t realize it.)
There is also a story here. I’ll try to make it quick. (She says and laughs because as we have learned, “word count” is her kryptonite)
As mentioned in prior posts, I grew up Seventh-Day Adventist. This meant that I could literally do nothing after church on Saturdays but take a nap. That is often what happened at my house, but as a kid of 10-11, “I’m too old to take a nap!” (I totally regret that sentiment today, for the record. I’d kill for a nap some days.) Anyway, we lived in a small college town and often, some of the students would come over to our house to have lunch and…well…nap. One of these was Keith, who is basically like my brother. Keith was always a dynamic speaker and storyteller, and seemed to connect with kids better than most at his age. (Not creepy or anything, I swear). Anyway, Keith(who is now a pastor), sat me down and told me the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe from memory. At the time, I had never heard of the books, and he never even told me that it was a book. He just sat down and told me about Lucy, Peter, Susan and Edmund. He told me of their adventures and of the majestic Aslan.
Guys, I. WAS. CAPTIVATED.
Flash forward a few years, I’m in the school library and I happen to pick up the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. As I read it, the familiarity hit me. I knew I’d never read the books, but I KNEW the story. I asked Keith, “Was this the story you told me when I was 10?” He grinned and affirmed that it was. So of COURSE I had to read the whole series! Several times!
5. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
Our school library had 1 copy of this book. The book card had my name all over it. People would come looking for it, but I always had it. I LOVED this book. When I first read it, I had no idea that this was the guy who wrote the 3 Musketeers. I just loved the story of pain, sorrow, redemption and revenge. Perhaps because at the time, I was bullied a lot and the idea that I could one day be like Edmond Dantes, and find some sort of retribution for things people did or said to me. Not just children, but adults as well.
Okay, so I was a sullen and vengeful child, but I promise I grew out of it!
Anyway, it also tickled me that Dumas was half-Black. I haven’t read this one in a long time either, I feel like I need to revisit 4 & 5 very soon.
So that’s it… my list! I could put a whole lot more, but I’m working on “limiting myself”…*rimshot*
(One final joke before you go.)