My Ten Favorite Novels

Here’s a ist of my ten favorite novels, and why. It’s a pretty eclectic list, and I won’t pretend that they’re in any kind of order other than as they come to mind.

  1. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) – OK, this one is in order. Pride and Prejudice is without question my all-time favorite book. I read it every time I’m tired of reading anything else. I read it at least 2-3 times a year. Austen’s writing is clear, witty, and simply sparkles. Her characterizations are some of the best in the English language, and her plot, while a simple boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-gets-girl-in-the-end, is the standard by which all others are judged. No doubt the nearly perfect English novel.
  2. The Number of the Beast (Robert Heinlein) – Sometimes I just want to read an old-fashioned space opera with mad scientists, evil aliens, beautiful assistants, brave heroes, and lots of alternate realities. Heinlein takes that space opera, makes sure all the parts are there, and then turns it on its head. Stranger in a Strange Land might be his best novel, but this one is the most fun.
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien – I’m cheating here. It’s not possible to pick a favorite from Tolkien’s work, and I honestly enjoy reading any of it. From The Hobbit, to Smith of Wootton Major, to Roverandom. From prose to poetry to song. Tolkien’s work is vast, complex, and scholarly. You can find just about anything in it to suit any mood. It’s more than the movies could ever be.
  4. War in Heaven (Charles Williams) – Williams, a lesser-known contemporary of Tolkien (and and a member of the Inklings) is an excellent writer in his own right. War in Heaven is not considered to be his best novel, but it’s the one I like most. I’ts the story of a simple parish priest who gets caught up in a battle between good and evil over the fate of the Holy Grail.
  5. The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman) – Definitely my favorite Gaiman book. It’s associated in my mind with his book Coraline, possibly because they’re both written for younger readers. This is the story of a child who’s parents are killed, and is raised by ghosts in the graveyard. A well-written and enjoyable, if slightly odd, coming-of-age story.
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) – The classic story of love, betrayal, revenge and redemption. A bit slow in parts, but well worth the time and effort to read.
  7. The Fancy Dancer (Patricia Nell Warren) – Not as well known as her book The Front Runner, I like this one much better. Here, Warren examines the intersections of religion, culture and sexuality while telling the story of a young Roman Catholic priest and a Native American in contemporary Montana.
  8. The Father Brown mysteries (G.K. Chesterton) – Some of my favorite classic mysteries. There’s little if any violence, and Father Brown solves the mysteries using only his understanding of the human condition gained by years of work as a parish priest. It’s a whole other world from today.
  9. The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown) – The third in the author’s Robert Langdon series, this book relies much less on religious symbology than the earlier works (Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code). Using symbols visible in D.C. public spaces and monuments, Brown weaves a fascinating (and believable) story related to the founding or the American republic.
  10. Six of One (Rita Mae Brown) – If you ever need a laugh-out-loud read, this is the book. Set in the fictional town of Runnymede on the Maryland-Virginia state line, Six of One tells the story of the rivalries, lives and loves of the Hunsenmeir sisters and their friends. By far one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

So what are your favorite books? Let us know in the comments. No need to come up with a long list, just what you like.


I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

Maggie is a real estate agent and former Miss Alabama, who has a to do list, and when it’s accomplished, she will do away with herself, except she just can’t get her list, that she created to relieve her friends and family of any messy business after she is gone, gets completely finished. Along the way, she finds out that life is not as bad as she thought!


The Prince of Frogtown

This is the third book and final book about Rick Bragg’s childhood. This one focuses on his father. Rick Bragg had tried to forget about his father because he had so many bad memories of the way he mistreated Rick’s mother. He came to realize that he needed to write about his father so that he could come to terms with him. Rick Bragg had fallen in love with a woman who had three sons, and the youngest boy, a ten-year old lived with her. Rick was going to be a step father to this boy, and he had no idea how to be a father.
The book starts out introducing the reader to Rick’s paternal grand parents. They live in the Appalachian mountain area of Alabama. Bob and Velma were the parents of Charles Bragg. Bob was a drinker, but he supported his family by working in the mill. It was a hard dangerous life, and the men would work during the week, then drink on the weekends. Sometimes Velma would have to bail Bob out of jail. Charles Bragg was called the Prince of Frogtown because when he was young, he was tough and carried an air of confidence about him that the other kids, especially boys, respected. As he got older and after serving in the Korean War, he had a hard time being responsible and keeping a job and being around for his family without getting drunk.
The book is written with one chapter being in the past about his father, and the next would be present day of Rick Bragg dealing with his stepson. I am not sure why he wrote it that way, but I liked it because it was lighter and more uplifting than the ones about his father. Sometimes it was like comic relief to read about Rick and the boy after reading about his father.
I recommend it partly because I like Rick Bragg’s writing style. He writes in a flowing way has a beauty to it. It’s a good story about a man coming to terms with an alcoholic and absentee father.


The Yard by Alex Grecian

Mystery novel set in 1889 England. Mr. Day is new to the Murder Squad at Scotland Yard and one of his first cases is the murder of a co-worker. Post-Jack the Ripper, when a second policeman is murdered the fear is that there’s another one on the scene. Some of this is not mealtime reading material for the faint of stomach, but it’s a good read.


Bad Dog: A Love Story by Martin Kihn

I can’t remember, now, how I decided to read this book.  There certainly are enough dog stories out there…and I’m pretty tired of reading them.  This is a complicated story about relationships and how people and dogs can veer off the path together.  This is a memoir that illustrates how bad it can be to hide out in a bottle, and how good it can be to accomplish a task- any task, when you’ve been sitting with the bottle for too long.  Dogs can save us.  They have a unique way of consoling and cajoling that tends to be a positive step when you’re facing the depths of depression.  The author never intends to train his dog, but the dog is a force that flips the switch on wanting a life- a life that he’s not afraid to take control of…great story and great writing.


Dewey: The small-town library cat who touched the world

After being discovered in Spencer Public Library’s book drop (on a freezing January morning!), Dewey became a vital part of the library community.  Co-author Vicki Myron (director of Spencer Public) relates in detail Dewey’s life at the library and the impact he made on members of his community — and of the United States and the World!

Blended in with Dewey’s story, Myron includes much history about the town of Spencer and surrounding areas, as well as quite a bit of interesting information about her personal life.

A good story!




Restaurant Man by Joseph Bastianich

I chose this particular book to review based on my love of all things food related.  Whether it is a cooking show or cookbook, I want to know more about the subject.  Instead of this biography only being about the author finding success in the restaurant world, it is a tale about a guy trying to find his passion in life outside of the family business, then in the end realizing his family business (the restaurant world) is in fact his life’s passion after all.  The unfortunate part of Restaurant Man is you have to wade through all of the coarse language and ethnic stereotypes to find this message.


Mystery Book Group Coming Up

Don’t forget that our mystery group, Murder by the Book, will meet on Wednesday, August 8, at 7PM in the Small Meeting Room of the New Albany-Floyd County Public LIbrary. We’ll be discussing Margaret Coel’s book Eagle Catcher. For more information, call Reference Services at 949-3523.

The Eagle Catcher, by Margaret CoelWhen the Arapahoe tribal chairman is found murdered in his tepee at the Ethete powwow, the evidence points to the chairman’s nephew, Anthony Castle. But Father John O’Malley, pastor of St. Francis Mission, and Vicky Holden, Arapaho lawyer, don’t believe the young man capable of murder. Together they set out to find the real murder and clear Anthony’s name. The train that Father John and Vicky follow winds across the High Plains of the Wind River Reservation into Arapaho homes and community centers and into the fraud-infested world of Indian oil and land deals.