Monday, February 7, 2011

Was it good for you?

Heh. I did some reading this weekend. Did you ever wonder why one book is a keeper and another isn't? I believe it might be because the keeper provides complete fulfillment on some level.

There are a lot of meh books and stories out there. And then there are the ones that provide such a visceral satisfaction that we don't want the book to be over. We slow down our reading, savoring every word. We might even go back and re-read a portion of the story. And when that book is finished it goes on our keeper shelf because we plan to re-read it again. Why? Because it was that good.

One of the interesting things that have happened to me is to find a book in the midst of a series that is a true keeper while the others are okay. They're good. But they don't touch my soul like that one book. Usually, in that case I'll keep the series based on that one book that wowed me.

There are other authors who wow on a regular basis so much that I've automatically collected all their books and I re-read them every two or three years. They might be entertaining. Or thought provoking. Or touch something deep in my soul. But one thing is guaranteed--when I close that last page, I don't forget them.

A book will speak to one person and not another. I remember discussing a particular author I love with a friend of mine. She absolutely despises this author. As we talked, it dawned on me the very things that I love about this author, are hot points for her. So. We agreed to disagree. Life experience and background have a definite influence on reading preferences.

My sister-in-law will not read fantasy, sci-fi, or paranormal. For her, they are not real and she cannot suspend reality long enough to get into the story. I, on the other hand, love fantasy because of that whimsy, imagination and the exciting possibilities.

Another friend only reads non-fiction as she considers all fiction a waste of time. When I think back over the years and remember all the fabulous books I spent hours reading, I just feel sorry for her. And yet, I suspect she feels the same way about me, wasting my time on all those fiction books.

What authors are automatic reads for you? Mine are numerous. But here are a few of my favorites and why they made my list. I should warn you...most of them might be hard to find.

Georgette Heyer. Whatever your mood, there's a book for you. She wrote mysteries, regency romances, and historical romances. My favorite is Sprig Muslin. It's an extremely lighthearted romance that made me laugh. And laugh. And laugh. The first time I read it (in the middle of the night) I was sitting in the bathroom on the closed toilet lid so I wouldn't disturb my family. Laughed so hard I fell down between the tub and the toilet. The next day I went back to the library and checked out every Georgette Heyer book I could find. I still laugh when I read that one...forty years later. But I know other readers who found it only mildly amusing so I guess humor really is in the eye of the beholder.

Louis L'Amour. Mr. L'Amour is one of those authors who get by-passed by the romance crowd, I suspect mostly because of his covers. That's a shame. He's one of the most romantic male authors I know. His men are truly alpha males. His women are smart, self-sufficient and in the modern parlance, kick-ass. Together, his couples are unbeatable. The vast majority of his books are fairly short, but I heartily recommend all of them. They range from medieval historical to contemporary. Favorites? Last of the Breed, The Walking Drum, Bendigo Shafter, all of the Sackett family series. Oh, yeah...he has secondary characters that show up in several different books. You have to watch for them.

Mary Stewart. Ms. Stewart was one of the first authors I read in high school. The school librarian introduced me to her and I was hooked. She writes true romantic suspense that can curl your hair. She also has a fabulous Arthurian quartet. Her romantic suspense is entertaining and satisfying. The Arthurian books are on my yearly re-read list but they require a commitment because they are not a shallow treatment of the story. From the moment I opened up The Crystal Cave, I was hooked. As a bonus, there are author's notes at the back of the books that explain her treatment of the story. I want to write like Mary Stewart when I grow up.

John D. MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald started writing at the end of World War II. Evidently, he wrote many short stories that took place in the Far East war theater. My favorite quote from one of his interviews--"My agent told me, John it's time to come home from the war." I've read many, many of his books and short story collections. My specific recommendations are his Travis Magee series (all the titles have a color in them--the first one is pink) and another book, The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything. If you believe what goes around, comes around in life, you'll truly appreciate that philosophy in this book. I read the Travis Magee books every year, in order, and appreciate them more every time. If you pay attention, they are a living history lesson of what was happening in the world at the time they were written.

That's it for me today. This is the good stuff.



  1. I fell in love with the John D. McDonald books when we first moved abroad and I had no friends / no children / no jobs - in short nothing to do but read. Those are some fabulous books...

  2. I love his writing. Some of the best things I learned about writing were from reading his books.

  3. I have three - Tad Williams, Sharon Kay Penman, and Guy Gavriel Kay. Science fiction, historical fiction and sort of fantasy/historical fiction.

  4. I'll check them out, Julia! Thank you for sharing.

  5. I read "Airs Above the Ground" when I was maybe 10. Have been hooked on Mary Stewart ever since. All your authors are on my keeper shelf.

  6. Oh, I love Airs Above the Ground. It has everything!

  7. The ones that are keepers for me are the ones that always leave me feeling changed somehow. And while some may think that a romance book can't do that--you know how people think about romance--but they wrong. Evoking enough emotion in someone that they don't want to put a book down or don't want it to end is a pretty big thing.

  8. Oh, yes, Tess. Morning Glory by Lavryle Spencer did that for me. It was a powerful story. So was Cry No More by Linda Howard. It made me look at the missing child issues in ways I never thought of. So yes, a romance can change you. Last of the Breed by Louis L'Amour did that for me too. It redefined the alpha male for me.

  9. I haven't read the Louis L'Amour title, but the other two, yes. And I so agree. Those books definitely changed me. And by the end of the books it was as if I had somehow bonded with the story. The endings were like a physical loss in some way. Odd but in a good way. Very thought provoking post, Anny.

  10. Anny, I think "The Ivy Tree" might have been my first Stewart title and I can still remember not being able to put the book down. I was so hooked!

    I think you're right about L'Amour having wonderful romances in his books. I loved the way he could draw you into the story with his strong characters and settings. They were perfect winter time reading:)

  11. I love the women in his books. I think my favorite was the heroine in Keylock Man. Excellent couple.

  12. You hit a couple of my favs. Remember Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney?
    Have you ever read Marian Devon?
    She wrote Regency and I think she even topped Heyer.

  13. Never heard of her, but I will go look her up!