A Day in the Life

Homeschooling and Medieval Living

My Top 10 Books of All Time

Photo Credit: stevehuang7 via Compfight

Photo Credit: stevehuang7 via Compfight

I have just started reading a new book. It is called Building Fiction: How to Develop Plot and Structure by Jesse Lee Kercheval. So far, it is pretty good. It is full of great writing exercises. I was putting all of my answers to them in a notebook. Then I figured I could just put them here to share with all my fellow writers out there. So here they are. Exercise number one is: “[Make a list of] your favorite books. Explore why you remember each one. Was it a particular scene? A character? A memorable phrase or insight into life?”

1. Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

I really like this story because the main character, Harry Dresden, is dead. He died in the last book. He spends the entire book (in ghost form) trying to figure out who killed him. This is very unique and wonderfully written. The entire series really changed how I saw fantasy and magic. Jim Butcher gave me the inspiration to write my own fantasy novel.

2. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah by Stephen King

His characters spend a portion of the book looking for their creator – a writer by the name of Stephen King. It adds just enough surrealism to make it interesting. King appears several times in this book. It is both comical and thought-provoking. This showed me that the fourth wall can be broken successfully.

3. On Writing by Stephen King

This is both a memoir and a how-to book. It gives great insight into the man himself. The first third of the book is about his life before the accident that nearly took it . The second third is full of wonderful advice and writing gems. He tells the best way to find an agent and how to sell your work. He even includes some great book recommendations. The last third of the book concerns the accident and his recovery. He explains how writing, along with his wife Tabitha, saved his life. This is by far the best writing book I have read.

4. Thud! by Terry Pratchett

The main plot of this novel concerns the ongoing strife between the trolls and dwarfs and the Battle of Koom Valley. There is a small subplot that I enjoyed even more. The main character is Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork. Sam makes it a point to be at home by six every night so that he can read Where’s My Cow to his 16-month-old son. His love for his son carries him through the entire book. He even uses quotes from Where’s My Cow as zingers to the bad guys. The final scene will stay with me forever. I don’t want to spoil this for anyone so I won’t go into detail. I will say that it was so popular that Terry Pratchett actually wrote and published Where’s My Cow afterwards.

5. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

This book was the inspiration for the movie Apocalypse Now. It details the differences between barbarians and civilized society. Which side is actually more “civilized” – the British who colonized Africa or the tribesmen who where dominated and mistreated? I love how Conrad shows the fall of Mr. Kurtz through Marlow’s eyes. Marlow actually reveres Mr. Kurtz even through scenes of severe violence and domination. It is an eerie book and a must-read.

6. The Stranger by Albert Camus

I love the opening paragraph from this novel. “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: ‘Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.’ That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.” During the climax of the book, the main character (Meursault) fights with and kills a man. Meursault is then put on trial. The trial does not concern the incident so much as Meursault’s apathy throughout life. He was judged for not crying at this mother’s funeral. How sad it is to have a life not lived – to merely exist.

7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams was my introduction to science fiction. I was most fortunate to have listened to a lecture he gave at the University of Texas at Austin. He also signed a book for me. The man was very brilliant speaker and writer. Arthur Dent is one of my favorite characters in science fiction. He is a mild-mannered ordinary man who falls into adventure and chaos from time to time. And he never can get the hang of Thursdays. Douglas Adams is sorely missed.

8. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

I love the vampire Lestat. Rice wrote great vampire fiction before vampires were “cool”. Lestat is not cool or loving. He certainly does not sparkle. Vampires in this novel are blood-sucking monsters – and you can’t help but love them. The entire series is full of vampires portrayed the way they should be.

9. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

The work Tolkien put into this entire series is just amazing. He created an entire world – complete with it’s own languages and writing. It took him years to put it all together. He was a brilliant and very creative writer.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I like the last book the best. I love all the torment and angst of it. Teens are my favorite characters sometimes. I love how Rowling can start with a boy in dire straights and end with him as an adult in a normal tube station. The twists and turns are phenomenal.

Well, there you have it. Those are my top ten favorite books of all time. I read and re-read them. I give copies of them to friends. I spout their greatness to the world. Feel free to comment below and let me know what your favorites are. I would love to hear about them. Or if you put them in a blog post, give me a ping back. I will definitely check it out.

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A Good Book

– From the Daily Compass:

In the pages of a book our imagination meets the imagination of the author, and page by page something new is created in the space between two people who will most likely never meet. How’s that for a miracle?

What have you discovered lately between the pages of a book (or e-reader)?

I just finished reading Just After Sunset by Stephen King. I have not read much of Stephen King in the past. I read It and decided that he wasn’t for me. It seemed a bit silly really and did not scare me at all. Years later, I read Wizard and Glass and liked it. So, when I came across the collection of short stories in some books I had been given, I decided to give him another go.

Just After Sunset is wonderful. The book is a collection of some of his short stories. Not all of them are even in the horror genre. “The Things They Left Behind” is very sad. It is about the attack on September 11, 2001.  I thought it would be a small dedication piece. I was wrong. This story really rocked me. In it, the author speaks of possessions and how they actually possess the owner. King spoke of Thoreau and how we tend to be tied down by what we own. In it, King says “As infants, our first victory comes in grasping some bit of the world, usually our mothers’ fingers. Later we discover that the world, and the things of the world, are grasping us, and have been all along.” I mentioned in another post how this really affected me and my way of thinking about objects (see “Antiques“).

King’s story “Rest Stop” is based on a true situation. It is about an author who overhears a man beating his girlfriend in a bathroom.  It made me think of the UU’s stance on helping our fellow man. What would I have done in a similar situation. I would probably have gone to my car and called the police. Then, I would have stayed in my car and watched for the couple to emerge. Maybe. Being a small woman (five foot even), I would not feel confident about going after the guy. I have talked to my husband about self defense training. I will not carry a gun. So many people around me are so happy about getting their CHL. I am not that type of person. It is not that I am against guns. I feel that gun control laws will not really keep guns away from criminals. They will only keep guns away from the rest of us who want to defend ourselves. I say “us” but I mean those who want to use weapons to defend themselves. More power to them. I don’t carry weapons. I feel if it is my time to go, then it is my time to go. I am learning how to fight and how to disarm. That is enough for me. If the time came that the only alternative to losing my child or my own life was to use a gun, I would. I would even shoot the person trying to kill us. But, I will not carry a gun. That is just not me.

There are other authors I have read just for the shear enjoyment of seeing a challenging idea. I have read Thoreau, Camus and Conrad. Each of these authors have made me question my ideals and beliefs. They really make me think. I love books like that. I tried to get my husband to read them, but he says they look boring. He is into science fiction. He loves to escape challenging ideas and problems. I like to think about them and find a solution. I am a thinker. I am told that I think too much. My daughter is the same way. She can spend hours looking out the window as she thinks.

My son doesn’t like to read. I have explained how reading can take you to other worlds. He didn’t believe me. then, he read a story to me called “The Landlady” by Raold Dahl. My son loved it. “I see what you mean about going to another world. That story is creepy. I like it.” Leave it to my son to be transformed by a story. I am hoping that this triggered something in him. I really want him to read more. I love reading so much. I love what authors can do to me through writing. I wish I had that same talent. I am writing a novel at the moment, but it isn’t going well. Life seems to always get in the way. Oh, well. Maybe I will finish it one day.:)


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