Monday, August 18, 2014

Get Thee to a Bookshelf...

I read a post on Twitter about how many books students working toward an English degree have to read. The person counted about 150, but that also included books for the other subjects. I'm not going to bore you (and myself) counting all the books I read for my English degree (nor do I want to), but instead, I'm going to list some of my faves (not all of them were required reading, some were for fun and maybe shouldn't count, but I'm putting them in anyway):

English Romantic Poetry. Ah, how can anyone not love On the Grasshopper and the Cricket by John Keats. Or The Nightingale by William Taylor Coleridge. Lord Byron's, She Walks in Beauty is swoony romantic. There are lots more, but moving on...

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. One of my all-time absolute faves. You don't have to be a Christian to understand and appreciate the messages of charity, hospitality, fairness, generosity, and compassion that are required of all of us as human beings.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is science with scare and caution in an eloquent tale. I'm a big fan of Mr. Stevenson.

Oscar Wilde's The Strange Case of Dorian Gray has been made into several movies. It's kind of like the the artist's version of Jeckyll and Hyde.

While I could never be as composed as Jane Austen (I'm a Scorpio, we tend to run emotionally amuck at times), I love her passion. And it doesn't end like a Disney-princess story, which annoys me a bit about modern books. Humans have less perfect endings, yet so many books have the opposite. I'd write a book with a realistic, bad ending, but no one--agent, editor, reader--would probably want it.

I took a class in Arthurian literature and the bible of that class was Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. I loved the female perspective which gave it a deeper feel than the traditional male-let's sword fight-woo the damsel-save the kingdom feel. It really gave me my first connection to feminism.

My list could never be complete without J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings opus. It is the almost quintessential book for me. (The only holdback is that Tolkien, a man of his times, neglects to include both strong female characters and the female perspective.)

Although it doesn't shine as much as her beloved Interview With a Vampire or The Vampire Lestat, my favorite of Anne Rice's works is Rameses The Damned, Or, The Mummy. Anne makes me feel the dry heat of the desert seeping under archaeological tents, or a body freezing with fear as Rameses stalks his enemies. Love, love, love. I keep leaving comments on Facebook (cause, we're like, 'friends') for her to do a sequel. So far, I'm being ignored.

One last one: The Secret, by Julie Garwood. Yes, it's an historical romance but it's wonderfully written and reading Garwood's novels helped me learn how to write dialogue. (Some novels fail miserably at this.)

As you can see, I'm not pinned down by any one genre. And that's great because when I leave one for a while to try something new, I come back and rediscover why I liked that first genre. It becomes fresh again. So maybe you should re-visit some of those novels you read in high school or college (or soon after) that you liked or loved. (I don't waste my time re-reading novels I hated, hoping I'll like them again. I won't.)

There's nothing like revisiting an old friend.



  1. The best thing about being an English major is being "forced" to read so much great literature.

  2. It's the only way I think to open someone's mind. I couldn't imagine reading most of it on my own, but once I got started...