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November's FEATURED AUTHOR: Jeannie's top 5 books

November 17, 2010
Today, Jeannie swings by to share with us her top 5 reads... Come find out what they are!

Top 5 Favorite Big, Fat Books

When people ask me what sort of music I listen to, I answer “all kinds”. Which means I listen to radio ga-ga. Which means I don’t identify with any type of music. My answer is always very disappointing to people.

When people ask me what books do I like to read, I can’t be so blithe. I do read all kinds, but my books do identify me. So here’s my answer – big, fat, juicy books the size of dictionaries. Ones that suck you into their decades of storyline, and at the end you feel like you’ve aged and changed with the characters. In retrospect, most of them are historicals and fantasy stories. Probably because that also lends to the transportive element.

Here are my five desert island keepers—in no particular order. They are all books that took me somewhere else and kept me there for a long time. Very important to have that window when you’re stuck on a desert island.

Roots by Alex Haley. This powerful book showed that traditions of culture and family are strong enough to transcend time and space. Through abduction and enslavement and every attempt to erase his past, Kunta Kinte survives and passes down his roots through the stories and words he taught his child. The scene where Kunta names Kizzy and presents her to the heavens the way his ancestors did back in Africa brought me to my knees. When Alex Haley traces back his family history and finds his ancestral tribe in Africa, it’s a miracle that the original abduction was still recorded in their oral history. The “laying on of hands” as Alex is taken back into the tribe completes the circle.

gone with the wind
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I watched the movie after reading the book and I never felt the movie did it any justice. So much more happens in the book. There are nuances of Southern culture before and after the Civil War, as well as Scarlett’s growth from a spoiled brat to a strong woman. Also her relationship with Rhett Butler is complex and conflicted. The movie chops everything up into disjointed episodes. The scene when Rhett drags Scarlett up the stairs makes no sense without all the context behind it. I also read this when I was in love with The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. The Outsiders references Gone with the Wind, so reading both enhanced my experience.

the pillars of the earth
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Though a historical, this reads to me like a fantasy with its elements of witchcraft and prophecy and dastardly evil villains. The historical detail regarding craftsmen and builders is fascinating. Everyone kept on recommending this book to me because they knew I loved historical epics. “It’s about building a cathedral,” they’d say. It is so NOT about building a cathedral. It’s about Christianity and its role in politics. It’s about the rise of cities and medieval industry. It’s about the plight of working class people. And there’s a love story woven into it all. So many threads and generations winding together so perfectly.

mists of avalon
Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. This story brought Morgan Le Fay to life for me. It told a favorite story of mine from a new feminine perspective. I read this first in middle school and it changed everything I thought about King Arthur. Plus the risqué sexual elements and Wiccan rituals had me avidly hanging onto each page. The story starts with Morgana as a child and follows her through a stint with the fey, where time distorts, and then it continues afterward to the last days of Camelot. I closed this book and felt like time had distorted for me. Fifty years had passed and I had lived them with Morgana. But when I looked up from the book, only a day had gone by. This book started my addiction for big, fat epic books.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov. I could have cheated and rolled the entire trilogy in, citing one of those three book volumes, but I think each book in itself feels epic. After reading this book about the rise and fall of civilization, and the psycho-historians who tried to be the shepherds of it, I wanted to be a psycho-historian. I heard Asimov wrote this when he was 18. I was 19 when I read this and felt dull and dim-witted in comparison. They were originally published as a series of novellas, but there’s such cohesion and purpose throughout that I never thought of them as separate entities. The later books are written more in novel structure with a single storyline that continues throughout. This was a book where I felt my neural connections expanding, making new branches and growing beyond their old boundaries.

I guess that’s the only way I can describe it. I could feel my mind going somewhere new and unexplored with each of these books. I didn’t just enjoy these books, I assimilated them. Or perhaps they assimilated me? The books I write now are much, much smaller in size, however the grand scale and larger than life characters of these epics has always stayed with me.

Are there any big, fat books are on your keeper shelf?

Wow, those are epic reads, Jeannie! Gone with the Wind is on my shelf. And while I haven't read Pillars of the Earth yet, it's on the tbr list... My keeper shelf has George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire series, and I've read them multiple times. Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower. C.S. Friedman's Coldfire trilogy. And a few others... What about you guys?


Unknown said...

Hi :)
Those are some great books Jeannie. Thank you for sharing here today.
My 5:
Wheel of Time series.
Fionavar Tapestry series.
A Song of Ice & Fire series.
Honor Harrington series.
and the Pern books by Anne McCaffrey

...anything by C.J. Cherryh, C.S. Friedman, Julie Czerneda, Jim Butcher, Richelle Mead, Jackie Kessler, Diana Rowland Jeanne Stein, Nicole Peeler, Devon Monk, Stacia Kane, Kelly Meding, Kelly Gay...

*I could continue but it would take all day*

All the best,

wheels209 said...

I always wanted to read Asimov maybe now that I have a nook I will. However, not for a while because to many other books to read first.

Take care,

holdenj said...

My sister-in-law shared her love of Pope Joan with me, it's a pretty big tome! GWTW would be on my list too!

drey said...

I have never read Asimov... Something I'll need to rectify one of these days!

Jeannie Lin said...

Great recommendations! I feel like I don't have time to immerse myself in a book that hefty nowadays, but that's just crazy thinking. You need to make time, right? I really must check out Song of Ice and Fire.

I, Robot by Asimov has some of the feel of the Foundation series, but is much smaller if someone wants to dip into Asimov on a smaller scale. But heck, I'd say go full throttle.

Big fat book runner ups: The Stand (which got left out because of the ending), Les Miserables (I didn't feel it was fair because I read an abridged version), LOTR -- because if I separated it out to individual books, it didn't measure up to the 5, though as a series it did.

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