Five Books Everyone Should Read is a new feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.
Today we have E_Bookpushers here to share her list of five must read books. I have to tell you, she put this list together under extreme duress. “Five? You’re crazy!” was her response the first time I mentioned, I think. She was a good sport. Mostly. There is the small matter of her sneaking an extra book into her list…but we don’t need to speak about such things.
I have to admit when I was asked to come up with 5 Must reads I really struggled. Not coming up with 5 but limiting my list to ONLY 5. So I decided I needed to narrow my scope and look at those who came to mind that I read as a relative youngster and made a profound mark on my life. This profound mark, let me hasten to add as one who never enjoyed “required reading lists” yet who loves rereading, had to be positive. By happy coincidence, all 5 happen to be part of a series or belong to an author with an extensive backlist for your reading pleasure. And yes a couple of these might have shown up on other 5 Must Read lists which just shows the impact they made.
In the beginning, before Thread, before the Dragons, before the Holds and the Weyrs and the elite Dragonriders of Pern, was just the great ships gliding through space with nearly six thousand colonists prepared to tackle the mighty task of beginning a new world on a strange planet. It was a jewel of a planet, with rivers and seas and mountains, and breathable air and growing things. Then came the terror. The strange, unidentifiable circles in the grass suddenly revealed a meaning, and every living thing was at risk. Many died — a horrible and consuming death. All resources, every man, woman and child had to fight the terrible nightmare of Thread. But a new creature was about to save the planet. From the delicate fire lizards a new life was born — a new symbiosis between man and beast.
This wasn’t the first book I read by McCaffrey – that would be either The White Dragon or Dragonsong. Nor is it really the chronological first tale regarding PERN, but it is the book that made me dream of hunting down a Fire Lizard AND of also riding a dragon like Sorka, one of the young primary characters. While all sorts of other events occurred in this story involving the adults, I loved Sorka and by extension Sean’s thread. In fact, when I went away to college 3000 miles away from home and my mom gave me a little stuffed dog, small enough to fit in a pocket, I named the dog Sean so he could watch over me. (I enjoyed almost everything McCaffrey wrote.)
For almost 20 years, Mercedes Lackey has been one of the leading lights in the fantasy genre. With Arrows of the Queen, she introduced readers to Valdemar, a world full of fascinating creatures and compelling characters. This first story features Talia, a young girl desperate to escape the strictures of her conservative society. Her life is changed in an instant when she encounters a Companion and is chosen to replace the recently murdered Queen’s Own Herald. As she begins her training Talia has no idea that a spoiled Princess, some nobly-born bullies, and a conspiracy that will threaten her life will all stand between her and the destiny she must fulfill.
Moving from telepathic, time-traveling, fire-breathing dragons to talking horses. This also wasn’t the first story I read by Lackey but it connected several books later with the short stories I read and enjoyed from a yearly anthology. Talia, the heroine, completely sucked me into her life as challenging, dangerous, and as unknown as it was. I loved how this country depended on teens, young women and men to survive and those teens were empowered. This was a great find at a “Friends of the Library” book sale. After I finished reading this story, I hunted down everything else Lackey had written. I continue to keep track of what she has written and most have a permanent place on my keepers shelf.
Lilith lyapo awoke from a centuries-long sleep to find herself aboard the vast spaceship of the Oankali. Creatures covered in writhing tentacles, the Oankali had saved every surviving human from a dying, ruined Earth. They healed the planet, cured cancer, increased strength, and were now ready to help Lilith lead her people back to Earth–but for a price.
Once more this isn’t the first story I read by Butler, but you really should read her books in order to understand what is probably one of my favorite characters, Imago. Butler used science fiction, fantasy, post-apocalyptic settings, and even alien life forms as a way to question what really is humanity. This particular trilogy, Xenogenisus, combines both post-apocalyptic and alien life forms along with DNA manipulation and engineering to really ask which is stronger and more human: survival as a pure DNA-encoded human or survival as a human/alien DNA blend? Is suicide as a species more human or surviving but no longer the same? I have read all but 2 of her novels and several of her short stories and essays. Each causes me to think and to question and it isn’t always comfortable but, her characters and their struggles are so compelling I re-read them over and over again.
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter)
It is 1137, and the ambitious head of Shrewsbury Abbey wishes to acquire the remains of Saint Winifred for the glory of his Benedictine order. Brother Cadfael is part of the expedition sent to the saint’s final resting place in Wales, where he finds the villagers divided over the Benedictines’ quest.
When the leading opponent to moving the grave is shot dead with a mysterious arrow, some believe Winifred herself delivered the blow. Brother Cadfael knows that an earthly hand did the killing. But he doesn’t know that his plan to root out a murderer may dig up a case of love and justice, where the waves of sin may be scandal—or his own ruin.
My mom loves murder mysteries and one from the first series she introduced me to was the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. Brother Cadfael was a monk who entered monkhood only after a lifetime of being a soldier and a sailor. So, he was in no way innocent to the ways of the world but almost seemed to be trying to make up for or pay for things he had done earlier in life. I often had the feeling one of his regrets was a lost or unrequited love so whenever an event arose involving young lovers, Brother Cadfael’s sympathies were firmly on their side. I love these stories for their very difference. The juxtaposition between his green house and the shifting tides of war. The contrast between his knowledge and the innocence of others around him, and the struggle between a peaceful monk and the warrior of his past all combined to keep me enthralled. This on top of the unusual setting and the thrill of solving a murder mystery made me a lifelong fan
In Ride the River, Louis L’Amour spins the tale of a young woman who has to protect her family fortune from a murderous thief and teach him what it means to be a Sackett. Sixteen-year-old Echo Sackett had never been far from her Tennessee home—until she made the long trek to Philadelphia to collect an inheritance. Echo could take care of herself as well as any Sackett man, but James White, a sharp city lawyer, figured that cheating the money from the young girl would be like taking candy from a baby. If he couldn’t hoodwink Echo out of the cash, he’d just steal it from her outright. And if she put up a fight? There were plenty of accidents that could happen to a country girl on her first trip to the big city.
Again this isn’t the first story I read by Louis L’Amour but it is one I reread often. Part of his long running Sackett series it features a young woman whose family depends on her to make the long trip out of the mountains of Tennessee into the big city of Philadelphia to claim a family inheritance. Along the way, she deals with unscrupulous lawyers, murderous thieves, and a young man who learned she wanted a partner not a protector. L’Amour’s stories show an appreciation for the land, the struggle to survive, basic human nature, and also how love or the quest for love/regard of one’s object of attraction can inspire incredible actions good or bad. I also love his stories because I have walked, driven, eaten, lived, or marveled in some of his very settings so his books come alive for me on several different levels. I also really enjoy them because they weren’t written in “the vernacular,” so therefore they are approachable.
Extra, extra read all about it – I would be extremely remise if I didn’t include the book I started wearing out in print when I discovered it in my second grade classroom thanks to Mrs. Biggs. This would be Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown. I have lost track of how many different copies I have owned over the years, along with its sequel or prequel, The Blue Sword. McKinley’s prose and her characters always take me on a journey, a journey I can repeat over and over again. In this case despite my love for dragons and wish to ride them, this was about a girl who didn’t quite fit in, was good at doing things girls weren’t supposed to do, and who saved her people despite themselves. McKinley’s heroines all speak to the part of me which doesn’t quite fit in with what most of my peer group is interested in at any given time.
I am E_bookpushers and I am addicted to books. I have to thank my mother for my addiction because one of my fondest memories involves bedtime stories. No, I am not talking about Dr. Seuss, Bernstein Bears or Madeline, those were daytime learn to read books, but I am talking about Tolkien, Richard Adams and Asimov… She also encouraged me to get my own library card as soon as I could write. I do not know what deal she struck with the local librarians but I was allowed to check out any book I wanted without any questions. If I read something I didn’t understand she allowed me to ask her, and she explained without embarrassment, shock, horror or disgust.
My first adult science fiction/fantasy book I read, she had checked out of the library and I thought the cover and title sounded interesting. Some of you have probable heard of it THE WHITE DRAGON by Anne McCaffrey. In fact the first adult romance I read was also my mother’s. Now this one I snuck because the cover to my young eyes was something people didn’t d o outside in public. I mean a clinch with flowing hair and overflowing bosoms. That book was the hardback of A ROSE IN WINTER by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. I still re-read those titles on a regular basis along with Julie Garwood’s THE BRIDE, which happened to be the first romance novel I bought.
Thanks to my mother’s open mindedness I did not grow up a genre snob. While I tend to read and enjoy SF/F in its various permutations, romance and its sub-genres I also read and enjoy westerns, murder mysteries etc. If a book can capture my attention, spark my imagination; carry me into a different world/reality than I am willing to give it a try. So bring on your recommendations so I can update my TBR list.