Five Books Everyone Should Read is a 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 romance author Kristen Ashley here to share her list of five books. As you know, Ashley is one of my favorite and most re-read authors in recent years. I’m so pleased to share her list with you today.
Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.
– it’s forcing me to hark back a loooooong way, but if memory serves, reading this book in my late adolescence not only solidified my future as an avid reader, but it formed the person I would become. An extraordinary story with a transcendent message and beautifully drawn characters from Scout and Jem to Boo, and especially Atticus. I have not read Go Set a Watchman, mostly because I’m chicken. I’ve heard some things about what Atticus has become in that book that I fear will pollute the beauty of a character who helped to teach me to be empathetic, thoughtful and active in my beliefs, no matter how quiet that activity is. I think I’ll hold Mockingbird dear and leave it at that.
Slaughterhous-Five is one of the world’s great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.
– it’s safe to say I’m a Vonnegut fan, (a scene in Bluebeard being one of the most magnificent reveals I’ve experienced in my lifelong literary journey). Slaughterhouse-Five is devastating. Humorous and magnificently strange, most definitely, but ultimately devastating. Almost too easy to read, the underlining message sneaks up on you, scoring your heart. I’ll never forget Edgar Derby or Vonnegut’s description of Dresden before and after the bombing. It is an odd and heartbreaking masterpiece.
A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole’s hero, one Ignatius J. Reilly, is “huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans’ lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures” (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times).
– this book has a cast of wonderfully eccentric characters, our protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly chief among them. A funny and fascinating adventure tale so well told, it could stand as a work of art. It won a Pulitzer, posthumously, Toole having committed suicide and his mother finding the manuscript after his death. Tragic. Yet he left us the rich and unconventional beauty of his imagination and sense of humor, which, lucky for us all, will live forever.
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.
As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.
– I grew up in a big house with six other people, their ages spanning four generations. That house was on a farm. And I cannot recall a single time growing up with my big family when I was alone in our farmhouse. Except the dark night I lay in my grandparents’ bed and read In Cold Blood. Do not read this book alone. Or in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. I was scared out of my wits. I even threw the book from me at one point. But I picked it back up and read on. I did not quit. I couldn’t. It was that good. That compelling. I’d never read anything like it and I’ve never read anything like it since. It stands alone in its genre. Magnificent.
The incomparable #1 New York Times bestseller—a book that reigned at the top of the list for an remarkable sixty-eight weeks—Rebecca Wells’s Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is a classic of Southern women’s fiction to be read and reread over and over again. A poignant, funny, outrageous, and wise novel about a lifetime friendship between four Southern women, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood brilliantly explores the bonds of female friendship, the often-rocky relationship between mothers and daughters, and the healing power of humor and love, in a story as fresh and uplifting as when it was first published a decade and a half ago. If you haven’t yet met the Ya-Yas, what are you waiting for?
– it guts me not to list a book by Margaret Atwood or Judith McNaught or Jane Austen or Tom Robbins (or Carl Hiaason, I’ll shut up now). However, I was so deeply affected by the depth and breadth of storytelling, the highs and the lows, the fearlessness of exposure of the darkest pits of characters that ran alongside their most glowing attributes that are featured in this fabulous novel, I have to list it. I remember closing this book and thinking I’d never write again for I wouldn’t be able to tell a story so fluidly, so hilariously, so vividly and so heartbreakingly as Ms. Wells. I’m a sucker for stories about women, most definitely. Packs of women friends, count me in. Mothers and daughters, for sure! This had it all and then some (and then some more). I read this book well over a decade ago and I still mourn Jack like he was my own love lost. That is not a joke. What it is is phenomenal writing.
Kristen Ashley is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She grew up in Indiana, but has lived in Colorado and the West Country of England. Thus she’s been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least), but loopy is good when you want to write.
Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multi-generational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland and existed amongst the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake (and the wardrobes that matched).
Needless to say, living in a house full of music, clothes and love was a good way to grow up. And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.
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