My favorite books of all time (for this week anyway) would be Shadow of the Wind, Pillars of the Earth, and anything by Wally Lamb, as well as classics of fem literature (Bronte sisters, The Scarlet Letter, Jane Austen, The Awakening, Jane Eyre, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Tara Road, Toni Morrison, I could go on...). As my good friend Matt said when introducing me to Zafón, "drop everything you are doing and read Shadow of the Wind. Now." I pass this message on to you now with great urgency and bossiness- seriously, it is so good.
I favor novels over anything else, but I will literally read from all genres. However, there is a difference between reading and loving, and in terms of that distinction I am particular.
1. I like books to be engrossing, but they don't need to be suspenseful to be page-turners. I would love some advice on an author that can craft mysteries or thrillers while still being good literature. For example, I enjoyed the Dan Brown books, but can I really say his prose was epic? (for a similar storyline AND beautiful writing, check out The Rule of Four).
2. As alluded to above, I need them to be well written- The Hunger Games, while definitely gripping, is not a bastion of literary genius for young adults (which is possible- just look at The Giver, Lord of the Flies, or anything by C.S. Lewis). I enjoyed them immensely, and will probs see the movie this weekend, but I can't move them to the "best books ever" shelf when I feel they were not fully developed nor written artfully.
3. Content does matter a bit, in terms of the subject. I happen to really enjoy fantasy novels (I use to re-read all of Tamora Pierce's novels each summer), but I'm not interested in sci-fi (except for Ender's Game...LOVE). I don't enjoy monsters, boogey men, or vampires (needless to say, Twilight does not meet any of my "good book" criteria thus far). I hate unjust accusation- it makes me feel anxious and self-righteous at the unfairness of it all, which keeps classics like Atonement barred from my literary heart (though I thought another of McEwan's efforts, Black Dogs, was philosophically intriguing). Don't even get me started on how utterly fabulous Ms. J.K. Rowling is, either.
4. Content does matter a bit, in terms of the time-period. Other than 1984, I don't love futuristic novels (and let's face it, by the time I read it 1984 was a history lesson). I love historic novels- for inspired renditions, check out Margaret George (you must read Mary, Called Magdelene, then Helen of Troy, then her novel on Cleopatra and tell me how it was), and for lighter fare check out Phillipa Gregory. The Red Tent, Girl with a Pearl Earring, and Pope Joan were other novels that touched upon history and women, two of my favorite subjects.
I have a couple book lists that I'm working on- I currently refer to the Top 100 of the Random House Board Members, the Top 100 of the Random House Reader's List, The Top 100 from Harvard/Radcliffe (Novels and Nonfiction), and book lists from Oprah and Real Simple for the of-the-moment best sellers.
I would also deeply appreciate your own recommendations for new reads- I devour books, so I'm thinking about doing a "bibliophile" post twice a month to share what I'm reading and solicit ideas. I think I've given you plenty to pursue- you have my word that all of the links above will take you some place wonderful :)
Tell me your favorite book in the comments!