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.
Five books you have to read. *cheater alert* I’ve named one book of a series just so I could get around the ‘only five books’ rule. I mean, FIVE? Impossible! Just like you’ll find it impossible to stop after only the book I named. 😉
PAWN OF PHROPECY
David and Leigh Eddings.
Long ago, the Storyteller claimed, in this first book of THE BELGARIAD, the evil god Torak drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.
But Garion did not believe in such stories. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved—but did not know…?
The Belgariad is populated with character archetypes, and that’s part of what makes it sooooo good. The child of prophecy, the beautiful wayward princess, the glib-tongued thief, the slackard wizard who is not all he seems—the heroic, yet slightly befuddled knight—I get a real kick out of the fact his entire race is known as Arend’s. (Really!)
While the plot twists through some predicable territory, that’s part of the charm of the books. We like arcs where we know what’s coming because it lets us wallow in the banter and the belonging, and besides, we know what’s coming because it’s what’s supposed to happen. The villain is supposed to be defeated, the prize returned to the victors and, of course, the boy is supposed to get the girl, (although you’ll need to read all five books+ for the true HEA)
THE HORSE AND HIS BOY
Narnia…where horses talk and hermits like company, where evil men turn into donkeys, where boys go into battle…and where the adventure begins.
During the Golden Age of Narnia, when Peter is High King, a boy named Shasta discovers he is not the son of Arsheesh, the Calormene fisherman, and decides to run far away to the North–to Narnia. When he is mistaken for another runaway, Shasta is led to discover who he really is and even finds his real father.
A boy and a talking horse share an adventurous and dangerous journey to Narnia to warn of invading barbarians.
For those of us who as writers like to take on more than a single story, The Chronicles of Narnia is one of those amazing collections that has grown more fascinating to me over time. My father read the series out loud to our family on Friday evenings one long, cold, Canadian winter. I listened with awe as a child, returned again as a youth to revisit old friends, reread as an adult to dig out more, only to be floored as a writer.
Lewis wrote the books out of order, never intending more than the Lion the Witch and the Wardobe. From the beginning of the world to it’s end, Lewis takes readers through a life and death adventure, including a story written within the timeline of another story—A Horse and His Boy, which is just about the best title ever. Betrayal and love, villains who are evil and heroes who sacrifice. And ordinary people—kids!—who make a difference.
CASEBOOK OF THE BLACK WIDOWERS
The third in the Black Widowers series, a collection of witty and cleverly concocted conundrums about diverse topics and with enough information given for the dedicated reader to work out the answer before Henry the waiter does so. Once a month the Black Widowers club meets to enjoy good food, fine wine, convivial company – and to entertain a guest. Each month the guest provides them with a conundrum – a mystery which has so far proved completely baffling. And so the Black Widowers set to work on the problem – aided and abetted by Henry, their perspicacious waiter, whose powers of deduction never fail to astonish…
Yes, he’s the guru of scifi (I, Robot, Foundation, etc) but the man was prolific in a way that makes Nora Roberts look like a slacker (gasp!) He wrote essays about everything from black holes to the bible to the origin of numbers—and why zero matters (you have to find that essay—it’s soooooo good!). And he wrote mysteries. The set up is vaguely Encyclopedia Brown-ish in that a mystery is presented through the short story, and if you’re good, you’ll catch all the clues and know how the butler solves them. Yes, the butler does it…again and again. The short stories are eminently readable and wonderful examples for authors of presenting the subtle hints to an audience.
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
Everyone’s favorite redhead, the spunky Anne Shirley, begins her adventures at Green Gables, a farm outside Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. When the freckled girl realizes that the elderly Cuthberts wanted to adopt a boy instead, she begins to try to win them and, consequently, the reader, over.
This Canadian girl has to confess I didn’t read these until I was an adult, which was probably the RIGHT time to glom through the entire series for the romantic elements. Historic facts intermingled with an ongoing romance, Canadian setting, a hero who almost dies, a spunky heroine who writes letters to her beloved, but only those kind of letters when she’s got the right kind of pen— The first book in the series is one most people think they know (because of movies and TV) but you need to read it for yourself! I’ll warn you the last book broke my heart into a million pieces.
THE COMPLETE TIGHTWAD GAZETTE
At last–the long-awaited complete compendium of tightwad tips for fabulous frugal living!
In a newsletter published from May 1990 to December 1996 as well as in three enormously successful books, Amy Dacyczyn established herself as the expert of economy. Now The Complete Tightwad Gazette brings together all of her best ideas and thriftiest thinking into one volume, along with new articles never published before in book format. Dacyczyn describes this collection as “the book I wish I’d had when I began my adult life.” Packed with humor, creativity, and insight, The Complete Tightwad Gazette includes hundreds of tips and topics, such as:
Travel for tightwads¸ How to transform old blue jeans into potholders and quilts¸ Ten painless ways to save $100 this year¸ Picture-framing for pennies¸ A comparison of painting versus re-siding your house¸ Halloween costumes from scrounged materials¸ Thrifty window treatments¸ Ways to dry up dry-cleaning costs¸ Inexpensive gifts¸ Creative fundraisers for kids¸ Slashing your electric bill¸ Frugal fix-its¸ Cutting the cost of college¸ Moving for less¸ Saving on groceries¸ Gift-wrapping for tightwads¸ Furniture-fusion fundamentals¸ Cheap breakfast cereals¸ Avoiding credit card debt¸ Using items you were about to throw away (milk jugs, plastic meat trays, and more!)¸ Recipes galore, from penny-pinching pizza to toaster pastries¸ And much much more . . .
Okay, they told me 5 books that had impacted my life in some way. I know this isn’t a fiction book, but man—it was a vital part of my world at one point. In my family we call them the “oatmeal years”. The time when my husband and I tended to run out of paycheque before we ran out of month. I was a stay at home mom with 2 little kids and I made it my goal to save as much money on living expenses as I could as my contribution to the family budget.
The origin of the book is interesting for historic reasons (consider it a part of the “pre-Pinterest cultural phenomena”) so I’m sure some of the content is dated, and the information jumps topics like a toddler on a caffeine high, but was the shared “we can do this!” attitude that had me re-reading the book every Christmas holiday season. Amy presents suggestions regarding how to live with a happy soul while you’re stretching pennies until they squeak. We still make entertainment decisions based on “The Wow Factor”.
About the Author:
Vivian Arend in one word: Adventurous. In a sentence: Willing to try just about anything once. That wide-eyed attitude has taken her around North America, through parts of Europe, and into Central and South America, often with no running water.
Her optimistic outlook also meant that when challenged to write a book, she gave it a shot, and discovered creating worlds to play in was nearly as addictive as traveling the real one. Now a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of both contemporary and paranormal stories, Vivian continues to explore, write and otherwise keep herself well entertained.
Check out Viv’s latest release: Rocky Retreat (Six-Pack Ranch, 7.5)