Sunday, July 17, 2011


East  of Eden---the Old Testament according to Steinbeck---I think of this as The Great American Novel, for sheer scope.

Tied for
First Place
with  To Kill A Mockingbird, whose untouchable perfection, unforgettable story, and a Hero for all time, put it in a class by itself.    Kind of like East of Eden gets the biggest Blue Ribbon, and To Kill A Mockingbird, the Purple Rosette.

Fried Green Tomatoes---and not just because of the two perfectly-rounded, interlocking stories portrayed in the movie.   Between each chapter of the book is a little “newspaper column” for the local weekly, and the reporter, Dot Weems, is a perfect smalltown newshound, of the social/sensational/nondescript kind, with tiny snippets of news ranging from weddings and funerals, to “Idgie's getting up a carful to go to the picture show on Friday night, so call her if you want to go.”   I’ve known Dot  all my life, and she’s one of the most true-to-life characters ever written.    

A Woman of Substance    It was the first time I ever heard of Barbara Taylor Bradford, and the fat brown paperback was on the shelf at my library.   I wonder if I’d feel the same about it now, all these years later, for it was a rags-to-riches piece spanning a few decades (then continued in succeeding books, with the heroine as the Grandmother, but those just didn’t interest me, somehow---the rich young folks in impeccable clothes, designers mentioned prominently and often---smacked too much of the over-wardrobed folks on Soap operas, who lunch in Chanel and wake up in lip gloss).    

The Rolling Years     From my high-school library---I re-read it every other year for decades.  It was also a follow-a-family of women down the years, and the people were sympathetic and of good character, with what I realize now were neatly-tied-up endings,  some bittersweet.

Winter’s Bone---Though a grim, desperate story, this is quite possibly the best putting-together-of-words in all my reading life. The craft and flow of the words is absolute genius, with gems of phrase on every page.    You can feel the cold and the pain and desperation of the questing; you walk the snow-path with bleeding feet, hear the begat line as if it were your own list of blood-kin.  You stand up to the fierce, pragmatic women doing the bidding of their implacable patriarch, smell the burnt gunpowder and the bitter-scent of squirrel guts as you hunt and clean your meager dinner, and come away with a smoky-shack, hard-life mountain twang to your inner voice.   

I have not the words for Woodrell’s words, and cannot tell you enough how impressed I am.   Who could ever forget Ree Dolly?

Watchers---Dean Koontz     THE shining star out of anything from the Koontz/King genres of the past decades.   Also the most appealing, absolutely BEST animal character EVER.   "Home is where the weenies are."

The Stand---we waited long and edgy for this one, and it delivered.   ( Though ONE character was taken---speech, life, and activities, straight out of Eudora Welty---I could just SEE Phoenix Jackson gathering that corn and baking those pies).

Understood Betsy and all the Maida Books.   Lovely little-girl books, with interesting adventures, kind friends, and loving families acquired along the way.  

The UN-favorites---perhaps another day.


Kim Shook said...

We share a love of a lot of books, but then we knew that already, huh?

I’m not sure that I could come up with such a good list – maybe authors would be easier for me:

PG Wodehouse (reading them, I had a big crush on Bertie, watching the DVDs I now have a big crush on Jeeves)

Agnes Sligh Turnbull – lovely, gentle stories – for when I need gentle (am I crazy or did YOU introduce me to Agnes?)

Angela Thirkell – lots of upperclass English nonsense

Gladys Taber – I want to go live at Stillmeadow

Alexander McCall Smith – especially the Sunday Philosophy Club series

Dame Agatha, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh – that pantheon of classic women mystery writers

Richard and Frances Lockridge – smart, funny NYC couple drink martinis and solve crimes

CS Lewis – just EVERYTHING – from Narnia to The Screwtape Letters to Surprised by Joy

Florence King – bust a gut laughter from this southern writer

Bill Bryson – travel writer - for being able to mock and love the countries and folks he’s writing about in equal measure – and, no matter what, you still want to visit.

Miss Read – quiet, everyday village stories – another author that I go to when I need some gentleness in my world

Rosamunde Pilcher – England, villages, everyday folks – I have a pattern, don’t I?

Louise Penney – beautiful, beautiful writing and imagery – WAY better than one would expect a mystery to be.

LM Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Maude Hart Lovelace – the writers of the girls I wanted to be and to know when I was a girl.

Rita Mae Brown – the early stuff – Six of One can still make me cry

And my all time favorite – L Frank Baum – the Oz books are the ones that I’ve re-read the most in my life. They provide everything – travel, nostalgia, magic, fantasy and a happy ending!

I hope I haven’t taken up too much room, or hijacked your blog, Rachel. But you knew that BOOKS would get a response from this constant reader!

racheld said...

Oh, Constant Reader!! Who would NOT love such a response.

I've read everyone on your list save Louise Penney and Bryson---and am in the middle of THE DRONE'S CLUB right now---thank you for the ideas.

I also hope that someday a comment will go through the first or the sixth time I try, on here or on any other blog. I can't even see the FOLLOWERS list anymore, nor the lists of quite a few other bloggers.

I trust that everyone knows how much I enjoy hearing from all of you, and how much you add to my days.


steelersandstartrek said...

When I saw your comment on Koonotz referencing the best of him and King, I agreed completely about Watchers being Kootz' best. But my gut was Og Come On, How Can You Not Mention The Stand? And lo and behold!

My list would include Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning," Ann McCaffery's first Pern trilogy (and nothing beyond those first three), "A Brief History of Time" by Hawking, any collection of Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert, or Bloom County, "Fatherhood" sort of by Bill Cosby, "Eon" and "Eternity" by Bear.

Tolkiin, Donaldson, Brooks, Anthony...... None of these were the authors of the best books ever written. But you said FAVORITES so they are fair game.

steelersandstartrek said...

One day I will learn to type. Or spell check.