Top 10 Favorite Books

Whenever someone asks me for a recommendation of what to read, I always recommend one of the same ten books. I really connect to novels, hold onto them, and a lot of times people love what I suggest. Here’s my top ten favorite novels – in no particular order, because I love them so much I can’t rank one over the other.

1 . American Gods Neil Gaiman

My first Gaiman book was actually Good Omens, a satire on the apocalypse that he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett, an author I’d been reading since my sophomore year of high school (way back in 2003). My senior year, we took a three-day retreat to a convent (I went to a private Catholic college prep school). We were not allowed to take phones, laptops, and (I believe) iPods. I picked up a couple of novels to take with me, since we were supposedly going to have a lot of downtime, and one of those novels was American Gods.

I started out reading it with the thought, “Oh God, this is a total mind-f***.” And it is. It is definitely not for people who can’t handle a little screwing around with their brain.

2. Night Watch Terry Pratchett

Since I’ve already mentioned Terry Pratchett, it seems a good way to lead in to another one of my absolute favorite novels ever: Night Watch. The Discworld novels are all very brilliant and clever, and in most cases, light-hearted. The Sam Vimes novels are a bit more sinister, definitely darker, although there’s still those moments that will make you laugh out loud. Night Watch was the first Pratchett novel I read after Good Omens, and I’ve re-read it several times since. This is a big deal for me – it is very rare for me to read a book all the way through more than once.

It’s very noir, very hard-boiled, and was one of the inspirations, I think for deAngelis, along with American Gods. Vimes is the kind of policeman that Jenna wants to be as a steward, and if she were a little less sociopathic and a little more mentally/emotionally stable, I think she would be a lot like Vimes.

3. The Blue Sword Robin McKinley

I read this book for the first time in second or first grade and, while I was aware that I loved it, I definitely didn’t understand it — it was a little beyond my reading comprehension at the time, although later in second grade I tested as reading at a high school level or higher. I spent three years looking for this book, trying to find it again – we moved two or three times in that timespan, so I had new school libraries to navigate – and finally, in my sophomore year of high school, I tracked it down again and reread it. To this day, it remains one of my favorite books in the world – one directly from my childhood – and actually launched my interest in the bedouin culture. I think this novel in particular was a major influence on my starting to write, and as a young girl whose parents had just undergone a vicious, messy divorce, I needed a female role model who could be strong and reliable, and although I didn’t particularly follow the story at the age of seven, I did latch on to Harry. Robin McKinley, with her retellings of classic fairy tales, continues to be one of my favorite authors, and I follow her blog religiously (as I do Gaiman’s). I have loved every single one of the novels she’s published, and I suggest her to anyone who will listen.

4. Kafka on the Shore Haruki Murakami

Speaking of mindf***s, here’s a really good one. The story of how I got into Murakami is kind of strange. In high school, my best friend was (and still is) a major otaku. In fact, he first started speaking to me because I apparently looked just like Reki from his favorite anime, Haibane Renmei. That anime, which he had me watch, was partially inspired by a novel written by Murakami, titled Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I read it, and loved it, and started devouring his other novels. My favorite so far is Kafka on the Shore. It definitely messes with you, and, like all of Murakami’s novels, it’s one of those things that you just have to read without worrying too much what the story is about. You’ll figure it out by the time you get to the end. I would probably call his writing magical realism, or something close to it. It’s all a bit bizzare, but easy enough to deal with.

Murakami is a master of the Japanese language, I understand it – he can truly manipulate it – and the translations of his work into English seem to convey that same mastery.

5. The Caves of Steel Isaac Asimov

By the time I hit seventh grade, people had stopped giving me books because, honestly, I blew threw them so fast, and they could never quite figure out exactly what my reading comprehension level was. It was certainly very high by then, but they couldn’t see to find any novels for my mental capability that they also thought where, ah, age appropriate.

My father finally handed me a stack of novels from his personal stash of sci-fi, books I hadn’t even known he had. Most of them were by Asimov: the Foundation series, the Robot series, Nemesis, etc. The first one I picked up was Caves of Steel, and holy crap did it blow my mind. Sci-fi has always been difficult for me to digest, but obviously Asimov is among the best, if not THE best.

6. Blood Rites Jim Butcher

It’s so difficult to pick a favorite from The Dresden Files series, but I’m still digesting the events of Changes and a little peeved that the release date for Ghost Story has been pushed back, so I’m going to pick this one. I think that Lara Raith is a lot of the inspiration behind the villain of deAngelis: Resurrection; that is to say, Asmodeus. Honestly, I freaking love everything after Blood Rites, mainly because things start to get really dark and very noir, and Harry really has to grow up. Also, Thomas. ’nuff said.

Dresden Files is definitely one of the biggest influences on me sitting down to write deAngelis. I discovered the series in one of the strangest ways – Livejournal profile pics. I used to make them, hoard them, save them to my hard drive, look up ones I thought would be “appropriate” for my characters I was supposed to be writing… and I came across some that had quotes from Storm Front and Full Moon. I remember thinking, “Huh! Those are funny.” And then I moved on and forgot about them for a year. Finally, with nothing better to do, I spent four hours tracking down the pics in question, and looked up what book they were from, and it was a match made in Heaven.

7. My Year Of Meats Ruth L. Ozeki

Here’s a weird one from me. It’s actually one of the very few literary fiction novels I’ve read all the way through, put down, and said out loud, “Damn!”

This was required reading for my multicultural lit class, which is a requirement for English teaching majors at Indiana State. It was the only book assigned out of five that I actually read a word of (oddly enough, I got an A in the class), and it was the only book out of the five that I was actually interested in. Sometimes the fact-telling got to be a little too much, but the way that the story was told drew me in and held me in, and I finished the whole thing during my week of spring break last year. It was truly a gorgeous book.

Everyone else in my class hated it, and complained that they disliked it so much that they couldn’t finish it. What a bunch of weirdos.

8. The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger

How could I forget this gem? I read this several years before the film came out, and while I can say that I really did enjoy the movie, it just did not do the book justice. It’s one of those things that just can’t translate well, I think.

While this is, first and foremost, a love story, Niffenegger really has such a gift for point of view and voice and style, and for knowing what it is that really makes a human being tick. Henry matures as the book progresses – you can tell by the writing style – and Niffenegger handles the temporal and POV and age shifts incredibly well. This is another one of those books that I’ve read more than once (although not nearly as many times as I’ve read Night Watch).

9. Just A Geek Wil Wheaton

Yeah, you read that right: Wesley Crusher wrote a book. And not just any book – it’s an awesome book. It reads, more or less, like a memoir – about getting back on his feet after Star Trek: The Next Generation. Most people only remember Wil as that one guy from ST:TNG that everyone hated, and he addresses that. I picked this up at the library my first week home on summer vacation in 2010, mainly because it had the word “geek” on it and because I vaguely remembered hearing that Wil played D&D every so often or something. Then I walked from the library to the nearest Bub’s burger joint, found my way (okay, fought my way) to a seat in the corner, order a beer and a cheeseburger, and got hooked.

There’s something about Wil that made me feel for him, and he’s made it onto my list of Top Ten People I Want to Chill With For An Afternoon. He was only sixteen or so when I was born, something that makes me feel that, in a way, he might possibly be that long lost older brother I hoped and prayed for every waking moment until I was seven years old, who would come save me from the fighting I could hear down the hall from my parents’ bedroom and the kids who made fun of me at school and said I was lying when I told them that I could read. Wil Wheaton is one of the faces that I remember from my childhood, and following his blog and his Twitter has made me feel like I want to really know him. So that’s on my life of Things To Do When I’m Famous: get to know Wil. Also, make other people read his book.

10. Scaramouche Rafael Sabatini

This is one of those books that I’ve only read once but have always intended to read again. If I were to write a period novel, this is definitely the book that I would write. It just barely manages to be considered Victorian lit (if it does at all, which it might not… I’m not sure). There’s the dude who goes into hiding to prepare himself to avenge his best friend’s murder, while the guy he’s planning to kill is trying to woo the woman he’s in love with but can’t bring himself to ask out, and there’s wittiness and royalty being beheaded and Sabatini being awesome. Also people where a lot of ridiculous clothing and have a lot of sword fights and I think there’s an orphan in there somewhere, too.

Other Things I Wish I had Room for on This List:

  • Sherlock Holmes canon. I might be a junkie. Seriously.
  • Queen of Glass, a novel by S. J. Maas coming out sometime this year? next year? I’ve only read part of it, and that was on Fictionpress, but when I heard that she finally got it sold I think I did the most epic Kermit-flail on the face of the planet, outdone only by the actual Kermit himself.
  • Anything written by Samuel T. Franklin, a guy who’s been in fiction workshop classes with me at ISU and who absolutely blows my mind. I don’t think he’s published yet, but trust me, when he is, I will flip right the fuck out.
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About Kayla Rose

Leave me alone, let me drink my tea and write my snark.

Posted on February 8, 2011, in Book Reviews, Top 10 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I liked American Gods, too, but I think Gaiman borrowed part of the plot from Douglas Adams’s Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. Of the Discworld novels, I think the best is Small Gods, followed closely by Guards! Guards! and Wyrd Sisters. Your Mileage May Vary, of course. Thanks for the Wil Wheaton rec.

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