Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Favorite Books

hard at work on a book review
photo by my daughter

I don’t usually do memes, but this one I couldn’t resist. From the Desk of Bee Drunken posted a list of her favorite books and asked me to do the same. Bee and I first connected through a favorite author, Lionel Shriver. I have loved so many books; it was hard to choose. I’ve limited myself to 10 per category. Many of these novels have inspired my own writing.

The “childhood favorites” are the authors I read and re-read during my childhood. I love Roald Dahl now but found him too scary as a child. I remember the thrill of Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising Sequence coming out, like this generation’s Harry Potter. There are many new YA authors I’m only just discovering with my daughter. Another post….

A fun category was “comfort reading” which are the books I’ve returned to over the years. My mother read me Jonathan Livingston Seagull as a bedtime story, and it was one of the first books I read by myself. I’ve revisited it over the decades. Leaving the flock to fly farther and faster but sometimes crashing in the sea is a good metaphor for writing and revising novels. There are no limits.

Even more amazing than hatching an egg, Horton survived 3 generations of my family.

Childhood Favorites
Dr. Seuss
C. S. Lewis
E. B. White
Judy Bloom
Susan Cooper
Walter Farley
L. Frank Baum
Madeline L’Engle
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Lucy Maud Montgomery

Comfort Reading
T.S. Eliot
Robert Frost
Tracy Kidder
James Harriot
P.G. Wodehouse
William Shakespeare
The Blue Jay’s Dance by Louise Erdrich
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Favorite Novels
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
The Cider House Rules by John Irving
The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Unforgettable Literary Heroines
Nancy Drew
Bridget Jones
Hedda Gabler
Scarlett O’Hara
Daisy Buchanan
Ayla (Clan of the Cave Bear)
Rosalind (As You Like It)
Sethe (Beloved)

Dave Barry
Woody Allen
David Sedaris

Books on Writing
On Writing by Stephen King
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Elements of Style by William Strunk & E.B. White

Most Memorable Novel I read in
2009: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA)
2008: The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly
2007: The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
2006: Intuition by Allegra Goodman
2005: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2004: Empire Falls by Richard Russo
2003: Bel Canto by Anne Patchett
2002: The Secret History by Donna Tart
2001: Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
2000: Moo by Jane Smiley
1999: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Book I'm reading now: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Note: I'm taking a week off from blogging.
Next post: Wednesday June 24.


Elizabeth said...

How super you posted your list.
I'm always really enjoy seeing what others enjoy.
Some interesting new books to explore here.
Have a wonderful week off!

Cynthia Pittmann said...

What a detailed list, Sarah. I was invited to do the tasks but it is a huge undertaking. I would have so much to sort through and decide upon...and it's not that different from the kind of thinking that I usually...and I'm trying to separate myself from work at the moment...and engage in another. I've been having a little computer blog trouble...last week my post came out unfinished. I had to post it to read it. Then I couldn't proof it because I got the message "abort operation" ---and zap. Gone. I couldn't stay on my own blog! Then a strange post appeared from a directory service that lists my blog...I decided to just wait it out and troubleshoot as I got a new idea. I think the problem is solved now...though I had a few people reading a mess...and I couldn't respond in the comments. Also, I couldn't read blogs that had a lot of media. Has that ever happened to you?

I like and read many of your commerical writers listed here. JLS was such a classic-it inspiredp me too.

Reading your young adult selections made me realize that I must have jumped from childrens directly into adult...I missed a great middle section...I read a few of those when my daughter was younger...(she's reading about Twilight and wizards now...and a devoted HP fan.)

Have a great holiday from blogging.<3

A Cuban In London said...

Good, good, good to see Dr Seuss in your list. I came to him through my children. I love the fact that you like Woody. His book 'Getting Even' is one of my comfort reads. I've probably eard it a dozen times, but never bores me. Picoult is one of those authors I've long thought of giving a go to and your list has encouraged me to pursue that interest further.

Many thanksk for this extensive (and exhausting, for you I bet :-D!) list.

Greetings from London.

Hana Njau-Okolo said...

Oh my, what a lot of work you have done here. From the exhaustive list, to the visually pleasing display of the list - just as scenic as that photo of you lounging in that to-die-for hammock! :-)

I am pleased to see we share the following in their various categories: Dr. Seuss, E. B. White, L. Ingalls Wilder, T.S. Elliott, Robert Frost,
The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende, Nancy Drew, Beloved, all three of your On Writing books, Anita Shreve, and Interpreter of Maladies.

Thanks for your personal recommendations. I will use at the library this summer.

Enjoy your well-deserved break! :-)

Tutaonana ['see' you later]

Laura said...

Sarah, this is a great list - and I loved the photographs as well. I felt as if I was somewhat looking into my own bookshelves. Really thoughtful commentary as well. Have a good week off from blogging and am looking forward to reading your next post!

Sarah Laurence said...

Elizabeth, I wanted to link to your book list too but didn’t have time to search for it. If you can, leave another comment with the link. I loved the humor of your list.

Cynthia, it took me ages to draw up this list and there are many favorites missing. Sorry to hear about the computer problem. I usually compose in word and copy in case something goes wrong, but it never has (knock on wood.) I had one week where the comments kept hiding when I posted a video before the comment line. Sometimes my photos or followers don’t show. I enjoyed a bit of YA in my tween years, but switched to adult by high school. I’m discovering some fabulous new YA authors with my daughter now. HP gave the genre a much needed boost.

ACIL, I love Woody Allen’s Without Feathers and will have to check Getting Even – not sure if I read it or not. My favorite Picoult is The Tenth Circle with its comic book Dante theme and focus on teen date rape. Very original. I think you’d find it interesting too. Dr. Seuss I never outgrew. I still have trouble spelling his "name."

MS, the hammock was the best mother’s day gift. I’m pleased and not surprised that we share those favorite authors in common. Lahiri’s latest story collection, Unaccustomed Earth, is now out in paperback. I reviewed it about this time last year.

Laura, great to hear we share some favorite reads. Looking forward to reading more of your blog when I have time.

Elizabeth said...

So glad you enjoyed my list.
I posted it on May 25th.

Sarah Laurence said...

Elizabeth, thanks for your book list!

All, if you've posted a list of favorite books or do one soon, come back and leave the URL or link in my comment section. Thanks! I'll be off line for a while.

Anil P said...

Nice to know your preferences, always curious to find out what others like reading.

James Herriot is among my favourites as well. It is a happy world he paints.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I saw the title of your post come up and immediately said, out loud, ..."oh boy!". Loved your lists. The Shipping News...oh how I loved that. And I read Olive Kitteridge a few months back and found it absolutely wonderful. It was a library book that I then had to buy. I wanted it in my personal collection. Smart, compassionate, and profoundly human.

Enjoy your hammock week!!

Alyson | New England Living said...

I love this list! Thanks for posting it. So many are my own favorites. Though I can't believe one of your Dr. Seuss books has made it through 3 generations! Mine barely survive a single child. Seriously, I've had to rebuy more than one Dr. Seuss over my years my parenting.

Love the photo of you reading in your hammick! That is one of the reasons I love summer.

Thanks for your concern over on my blog over my absense. I have been going through a lot, but can't say too much on my blog at this time due to the fact that I may take legal action. It's all over a very complex, disturbing trauma from childhood that continues to this day because of my family. One of these days I'll have to email you with more detail. Anyway, thanks so much for caring!

Keri Mikulski said...

What a wonderful, well thought out list..

I'm with you on the Books on Writing, Nancy Drew, and commercial fiction. :)

I'm still wondering what MIDDLESEX was about when I read it in 2005.. But, it certainly was memorable. :)

Mary Ellen said...

Sarah, I'm not surprised to find that we have some book favorites in common. I've been keeping a list lately - books I've read and loved, or hated, works of literature and those I love in secret (what I usually call beach books when what I mean is probably trashy!) I'll have to go back and add the books of my childhood. I hadn't thought about how much they helped form both my tastes and my writing.

Have a fabulous vacation!

Bee said...

What a wonderful opening! Your new reading spot looks well-placed in the world.

We share so many favorites (no surprise), but I'm also delighted to realize that there are books here that I've yet to discover. Most impressed by your third generation Seuss. My parents still have the ones that belonged to my brother and me and it is a family ritual to read "The Sleep Book" at least once during every visit.

I did a double "boarding school drama" bill on the Devon trip. First, A Private Place by Amanda Craig -- inspired at least partly by her years at Bedales -- and then, Testimony by Anita Shreve. I saw it in a Devon bookstore and I was reminded of your recommendation. Gripping read; upsetting, though.

I love any kind of book-sharing . . . thanks for playing along with this one, Sarah.

Rose said...

Sarah, a very thorough list! A few books come to my mind immediately as favorites, but then I would have to think a long time to come up with so many specific titles. Two books in recent years that I guess you would classify as "commercial fiction" that I loved were The Kite Runner and The Secret Life of Bees. I'm glad you included Scout on your list of heroines; the more I taught To Kill a Mockingbird, the more I loved that book.

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Thank you for your wonderful booklist and for sharing it with your readers!! I have ordered the book by Elizabeth Strout and it seems to be a good book.
Have a nice week off :)

Dave King said...

Only two of those I've read - and two more I shall read. Thanks. (i'm being deliberately enigmatic.)

troutbirder said...

The meme and your response Sarah are really interesting. Now if I could find the time.... and gather my thoughts enough to follow your lead.. Oh well.

Les said...

I could be considered a reader compared to the populous as a whole, but not compared to you. I did recognize quite a few names on the list, but it ended at recognition. Just this week I checked out Cider House Rules from the library, and I also finished reading Russo's Bridge of Sighs. Russo's book was very readable, but I am still trying to place it. It reminded me of a Southern novel with the exception that the sense of place was not as important and the town's characters were not as quirky. Perhaps I would like Empire Falls better.

Dawn Maria said...

Gift From the Sea is a book I come back to again and again. I'm still amazed at how Morrow Lindbergh's words resonate so loudly here in the 21st. century, when so much media junk clamors for our attention. I plan to re-read my dog-eared, highlighted copy while on my writing retreat at Whidbey Island later this month.

☆sapphire said...


Thank you for sharing your great booklist.
So glad to find my favorite ones in it; Roald Dahl, ~Seagull, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables, and so on.
Murakami Haruki has just released his new novel, "1Q84"(two volumes) and I can't wait to read them!

Many thanks for the wonderful list!

Donna said...

This was so interesting to read. I like finding out what books and authors other people like. We have many of the same ones on our lists!

♥ Boomer ♥ said...

Oh,my! I would never blog if I had that hammock and that yard!!! Enjoy yourself!

Shauna said...

Oh...that hammock! Enjoy your time off from blogging. I hope at least some of it is spent in that beautiful spot.

I love your book lists posted here. We share the same childhood favorites and I was surprised to find that I have read many of the novels you listed. Gee... I suppose I read more fiction than I realized.

cynthia newberry martin said...

I love lists, especially of books. Thanks for taking the time to post. When I was in grammar school for a period of time, I kept an index box with the name of each book I read written on a card. I sure wish I had that now. Aren't books great?

Stacy Nyikos said...

What an amazing list. That must have taken some real pondering to pull together. Favorites and why. And there are just so many good books now. It seems like it would take three lifetimes to read them all.

Kelly H-Y said...

Wow, what an amazing listing of books! And, that picture looks heavenly ... the hammock ... the gorgeous garden ... heaven!

Sarah Laurence said...

All, sorry to be so slow to respond. I’ve been in England (see my next post.) It was wonderful to come home to all your comments. It might take a few days to catch up with all your blogs, but I’m looking forward to it.

Anil, I love Harriot’s world too.

Pamela, I agree that Olive Kitteridge is worth owning. I will definitely want to go back and reread it. So many perfect sentences and metaphors!

Alyson, not all of our books survived childhood. I still mourn the loss of some of them, but it’s the cost of sharing and worth it. My kids love books too. I do wish you all the best sorting out this family trauma.

Keri, I do like a variety of authors. My memorable list are the ones that really stuck in my mind that year although I enjoyed so many more too.

Mary Ellen, it is interesting to hear so many of you say that our favorite books overlap. We keep good company! Beach books are great for summer.

Bee, I’m still finishing Craig’s Hearts and Minds. I always appreciate your recommendations – thanks for the meme. I’ve reviewed Testimony on my next post – it must have been someone else that recommended it to you. Book sharing is a favorite part of blogging for me too.

Rose, I loved the Kite Runner and The Secret Life of Bees too. My son is reading To Kill a Mockingbird this summer for school. It made a big impression on me in childhood and remains one of my favorite books ever. Scout is perfectly imperfect.

Tracy, did you recognize the book I was reading in the hammock? It was Olive Kitteridge.

Dave, now I’m most curious.

Troutbirder, I don’t usually follow memes, but this one was fun.

Les, I haven’t read Bridge of Sighs. Try Russo’s Straight Man or Empire Falls. The first one is hilarious and definitely plays for the middle aged male sense of humor.

Dawn, welcome to my blog! You are so right about Gift From The Sea. I’m envious of your island writing retreat. Enjoy! I’m looking forward to checking out your blog.

Sapphire, 1Q84 isn’t out in the US yet, but once it is, I’m buying it. I can’t wait! I’ve read almost all of Murakami’s books (except the running one) and met him a few years ago when he came to Bowdoin College. My lucky husband, who teaches Japanese politics, got to have dinner with him and only a few others. Welcome to my blog! I’ll come visit yours soon.

Donna, I’m not surprised we overlap.

Mimi and Shauna, thank you!

Cynthia N M, I love that! What a shame that you didn’t save that box. I had fun reading back through my childhood journals where I mentioned books among other things. The post is in my sidebar: “Diaries, Cyberspace and Privacy.”

Stacy, it did take time, but it was fun. Any excuse to think of good books….

Kelly, thank you