Autumn approaches. This happens after every summer solstice, but I dread it more each year. Yes, I love sleeping in the cool, but I hate waking up to cold air. I hate it when the sun takes a bit longer each morning to arrive. I do not bounce out of bed in the dark months. I will have to rearrange my FV schedule.
Yesterday Wordcrafter posted his top 10 favorite books. If he's anything like me (and we share some personality traits) he had a hard time winnowing down to 10. I have a special shelf with about 30 books on it, and I would be hard-pressed to pick even 10 to qualify as my favorites.
Each book on that shelf taught me something - something about life, something about writing, something about imagination. So, this isn't an exhaustive list, but here are some of my most cherished.
In the Something About Life category:
Anything by George MacDonald. The Lost Princess is probably my most quoted/mulled/applied, but I love his short stories -"The Light Princess," "The Day Boy and The Night Girl," "The Golden Key" - as well as his longer books like The Princess and the Goblins and Lilith. He has a way of illustrating deep principles in memorable characters. I do not wonder why C.S. Lewis admired him so greatly.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. My copy is almost entirely underlined. I might as well memorize the thing.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I've posted on it before, so I won't elaborate here. It even made a fairly decent movie.
In the Something About Writing category:
Anything by Anne McCaffrey. No other author has influenced me so heavily. Yes, all her books have some obvious themes/characters - the extraordinarily gifted yet misunderstood and persecuted youth, the ambitious slut, the psi-abilities. Still, she has wonderful descriptive turns of phrase and her worlds are fully realized, if only because she's written like a 100 books. The White Dragon is probably the one I've read the most.
Jerusalem Fire by R. M Meluch. This was the first complicated sci-fi book I ever read. It has numerous characters and character back-stories, plus an alien world and culture at once familiar and totally unknown. Fascinating.
Dune by Frank Herbert. Another complicated sci-fi book. Maybe it had something to do with Kyle McLachlan playing Paul Mua'dib, but I love this book. I hate the rest. I learned too late I didn't want to know what happened to Paul.
In the Something About Imagination category:
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. How a book with a nihilistic worldview can be so funny continues to puzzle me, but I laugh out loud every time. Especially when listening to the audio book read by the author. Irony and a British accent are made for each other. This is a book where the weirdest, most horrible thing will happen next, but since it isn't happening to me, I'm okay with it.
E.T. The Book of the Green Planet by William Kotzwinkle. Don't laugh. Ever wonder what happens to the little guy after he gets on the ship? He goes home to a world of plant-based technology, that's what, and with the help of his friend the Flopglopple works his flat bottom off to get back to Earth and Elliott. This is one cool planet and one surprisingly good read.
Golem in the Gears by Piers Anthony. I could put almost any early Xanth novel in here, but this is my favorite because I love Rapunzel of the magic hair. Xanth was something completely new, and while the stories are all basically the same characters with different coloring, the original idea is sound.
I have one book I love that doesn't fit into these three categories. Maybe that makes it my favorite.
101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith. Because of this book, I will not watch the Disney movie. They got Missus' name wrong. See, the happy couple are Pongo and Missus Pongo. Perdita was a liver-spotted Dalmatian who got brought in as a wet-nurse to help Missus with the original 15 puppies. Thanks to this book, I love tea with milk and hot-buttered toast.
While I'm thinking about it, I suppose I should add Elfquest. It's a series of 20 comic books, not a novel per se, but it influenced me in all three categories.
You'll notice Tolkien isn't on my list. While he did set the standard for almost all fantasy books to come after him (and several generations of role-playing geeks) and created a world and characters I love like family, I don't actually like his writing style all that much. He's long-winded, and I just plain skip over his poetry. The Hobbit is the most readable, but some 60% of the population can't get past the first 100 pages of The Fellowship of the Ring. I've read the series three or four times, but it isn't on my special shelf.