A blog I read has been calling on authors to give their five favorite books, and after a week of watching, I’ve decided I want to play, too. So here are my five favorite books, in order. I encourage anybody reading this to post five favorites of their own, be they books or TV shows or movies or albums or what have you. I’d love it if you linked back here, too, so I could go and snoop.
1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
An amazon.com review of this book describes it as "a scary, strange, and hallucinogenic road-trip story wrapped around a deep examination of the American spirit." That’s about right. I would love it for the meeting at the House on the Rock alone, but what gets me most about this book is the way folklore and myth and spirituality and belief and the best distillation of "American" I’ve ever seen are delivered in what, if you don’t really want to pay close attention, is also just a plain old good story. It is deep without being pretentious. And it’s Neil Gaiman. This is the book where I fell in love with him as a storyteller, and it absolutely changed my life, both as a reader and as a writer.
2. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
I actually haven’t reread Tom Jones in several years, but even if I never picked it up again, it would still have to be on my list of top books, because it is THE novel that influenced me first. It’s a classic, but in its day it was controversial as all hell, and as my undergraduate British Novel course is testament, one can still argue over the moral lessons presented within it today. Tom Jones is baudy, racy, well-paced, full of action and adventure and quirky narrative, and wit. It taught me how to structure a many-layered story more than any course or book ever did, all without even trying. It also taught me what a hero should look like in a novel, and without question, he is one of the most major influences in many of mine, particularly Charles of the Etsey series.
3. A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold
I love the entire Miles series, and I was tempted to name Memory or Mirror Dance as a favorite, but really, this is the book that hooked me into the series, and it’s the book that despite my having read it four or five times now always has me turning the pages in anticipation of getting to the end each and every time. What is this book about? In short, it’s Jane Austen in space. But it’s also a crown jewel of a brilliant series full of characters so intense and real you swear you know them personally. It’s one of the best rides in fiction in terms of plot and emotion. It has Emperor Gregor, it has court intrigue—it has it all.
4. A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
Essentially you could insert the entire Pratchett multiverse into this slot, and really, it’s hard to choose when you have Guards! Guards! and Hogfather and Thud! and Going Postal and so many others all lying there as perfectly acceptable alternatives. I chose this one because I fell in love with Tiffany Aching, the heroine of this story and two others by Pratchett, and it’s in this book that I feel she truly shines. This book wraps up so much of what I love about Pratchett and also includes many of my favorite characters. I look forward to Anna being a little bit older so I can introduce her too this book, too.
5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
I am not a fan of all of Michael Chabon’s works; in fact, this is the only one I feel I need to own and reread. But this book to me is priceless. I love it as a story of men, as a story of America, and as a story of war. I love it as a story of struggle and of loss and of hope. I love it as a story of identity and perseverance, and I love it because it is about comic books. I love so many, many things about this story, but most of all I love the ending, which Dan swears ends sadly and I swear ends happily. What a coup: a book so strong that even its resolution can be read in completely different ways. These are my five favorites. I look forward to seeing yours.