Books I LOVE and Don’t Care if Anyone Else Does
(Or you can have my copy of these books when I’m cold and six feet under, if I don’t have them buried with me.)
Sometimes I think books-I-love lists are more about showcasing the books we should read. This list is just books I love and why, and I won’t expect you to read them because they just might not be your style. We all have guilty pleasures of reading. If my best friend and I need a laugh, we read a Cosmo, snickering over the sex obsessed lines. If I’m tired of read long complicated adult books, I pick up a teen fiction book. (Careful, some of these can be quite complicated and obsessive.) If I want something to cheer me up (especially in that first trimester), I go to my trusted stand bys on this list. So what are your absolute favorites? Are they Harlequins or cheap mysteries or stand by classics?
In no particular order, the books I love and read over and over:
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I swear I can’t read any other Arthurian literature because Bradley did such a great job. She humanized all the characters. You can’t help but love Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar. At the end you realize they did the best they could, and humans just have a way of hurting each other and messing everything up. The writing is superb. I read this in high school at the snickers of my swim teammates, who couldn’t believe I would read a book so thick that wasn’t assigned. Jocks. I have read it several more times and made the mistake of lending it out twice. I’m on my third copy.
I Was a Teenage Fairy by Francesca Lia Block. Reading this book changed my whole outlook on writing. It’s a teenage fiction book that I picked up because I only had a day or two left of winter break. Block writes fiction like she writes poetry. The first page she compares Los Angeles to a model and the San Fernando Valley as L.A.’s teenybopper little sister, a theme that is carried on through out the book. I would place Block closer to magical realism than fantasy, but alas, we live in the U.S.
The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold by Francesca Lia Block. I love Block so much that I’m giving her two spaces. She rewrites some fairy tales, and the book is beautiful. Again like poetry. Snow White stays with the seven dwarfs because who loves a girl better her fathers who raised her and know her or some prince who got a hard on by seeing her sleeping? Sleeping Beauty is a drug addict, hiding from child abuse and forced to throw off the habit through love. The wolf from Little Red Riding Hood is an abusive stepdad, who Red is running away from to Grandma’s house. All the stories are great revisions, and I love the retelling, wondering if I could do just as well.
The Garden by Elsie V. Aidinoff. Yet another teen book (told you this list was filled with guilty pleasures.). I was actually editing my own version of the tale of the Garden of Eden when I read this book; I abandoned it because Aidinoff did such a great job. She takes a deeper look on the concept of the Fall Up (for those who don’t know, many biblical scholars point out that the fall out of Eden was actually beneficial so we could CHOOSE Grace, not just be born in it.) The writing is beautiful, and the relationship between Eve and the Serpent is complex and wise.
Tithe by Holly Black (might as well keep all the teen books together). You might know Block through her more famous books The Spiderwick Chronicles. This and her other books on the topic (Valiant and Ironside) are written like traditional faerie tales with the darkness and violence that accompanies them. Block plays with the dark and the light, the fear and the strength. It sings to the days of teenage angst with magic.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (and the rest of the saga). It finally became clear to me that I should one day write teen books as well as adult fiction, so when I heard about Twilight, I thought it would be good research, and I loved L.J. Smith when I was a teen. So my best friend (who is a teen youth church leader) decided to read them as well, and we were hook, calling each other every night with where are you, call me when you finish the chapter, oh my god can you believe that. All the books are an absolute page turner, and I can be giddy about young love too. I loved the characters and the writing style.
Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey (and the rest of the saga, especially Kushiel’s Chosen and Kushiel’s Avatar). Let’s just say that after I finished the first book, I paced the house for a half an hour before I grabbed my keys to race to the nearest book store before it closed to buy the rest of the series. Carey writes beautifully, creating a complex, wondrous world that rivals Tolkien’s. The only reasons this book is classified as fantasy are because there are other religions with gods interacting at times and all of earth’s best civilizations are alive and well. The religion Carey creates makes me want to convert. Her characters are human, beautiful, and awe-inspiring. I could read these books a million times and not be bored. I love Phèdre! In the end, the books focus on the strength and beauty of love. Warning: a lot of explicit sex scenes, some very dark ones too.
Rhapsody By Elizabeth Haydon (and the rest of the saga, especially the first trilogy). Sometimes I think writers over extend their characters in too many books, like Carey, Haydon writes so well that you don’t want it to end. I remember thinking damn I only have a hundred pages too go. This is true fantasy with magic, swords, and even a type of elf. Haydon illustrates how hope and friendship comes from the most interesting places. You fall in love with the main characters, especially Rhapsody who is so sweet and optimistic, you might believe she’s naïve. Like most of the books on this list, the main characters are reluctant heroes, just trying to do what’s right.
Kiss My Tiara by Susan Jane Gilman. I have bought a dozen copies of this book and given away everyone. I love this book. An answer to The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, Gilman doesn’t believe we need yet another how to trap a man book, but a book of advice for being a woman, given to her by her chocolate cake eating, gin drinking grandma. Advice like if you can’t order desert, you can’t ask for a raise and use your p.m.s. to write and complain to elected officials. Admitting that third generation feminism is looking narcissistic, but only because advertisers have taken it over, Gilman works to reclaim feminism and what it means to be a woman. She’s freakin’ hilarious.
So there we have it, my top books. Please let me know if you do your own list, I would love to read it!