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Even before I was became a writer, I was an avid reader. I love books like I love breathing. And like my writing, I’m a multi-genre reader. With an average of a 150+ books a year, I’ve read a lot of books in my time. Considering I’m pushing 51, that’s well over 4000 books over the years. Probably more. Some good, some bad. But it’s the ones that rocked my world that I want to list here.
in no particular order
1. The Power by Naomi Alderman
One of my favorite genres of fiction is dystopian. For me, there is something incredibly provactive and thought-provoking about seeing the “what could be” in a recognizable world. It’s the believable implications that scare the hell out of me. The Power is one of those books, even with the fantasy element of the physical powers developed by women. Even that feeds into the themes that are at the center of this novel.
2. All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis
This book is a young adult novel that has everything I want in a dystopian novel. It takes place in the future, in a capitalistic society that is out of control. Virtually everything is copyrighted, trademarked, or restricted, forcing anyone over the age of fifteen to pay for anything not in the public domain, which is very little. Words, ideas, gestures, hair cuts, clothing, and so much more. Kissing, shrugging, hugging… all protected and charageable. Each and every word uttered is charged. And the prices, like stocks on the market, fluctuate. The world in this book, while exaggerated, is entirely imaginable.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
There are no words for me to describe how much this book rocked my world. Although it was published when I was 16, I didn’t read it until 30 years later. And I’m glad I waited because I think the experience would have had far less impact on me then than in recent years. I wouldn’t have been able to full appreciate the implications of the novel. The andocentric, misogynist world of the book is so relevant to today. Interestingly, the author has said the events of the book, all the atrocities and world-building, have come from reality. Everything is based on a society or event that has happened or was happening in the world.
4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Yes, I do read books outside of the dystopian genre. This book touched my soul in a very real way. It’s a book that touches on the very foundation of what it means to be human, the kind of book that puts things into perspective, reminding us that time is too precious to waste on things that just don’t matter in the bigger picture. It is heartwrenching but so incredibly beautiful. And it’s a very intelligent and witty book, with an irreverant humor that I enjoted.
5. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
Arrows of the Queen, a high fantasy, came out in 1987. I read it and was immediately hooked. It was the first book in the still ongoing Valdemar saga, a collection of series, single books, and short stories. I have been reading the entire saga consistently since 1987, over and over again. I’ve never not been reading one of the Valdemar books. I’m that obsessed.
6. Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Whatever your feelings on J.K. Rowling and her views (I heartily disagree with her on her views on trans people), there is no question how influential this book is. I feel as if, even though she wrote the books, it really belongs to the world as a part of the cultural fabric for so many people. I read the first book in the UK version (Philosopher’s Stone) initially and fell in love.
7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
42: The answer to life, the universe, and everything. I don’t even know how to describe this book, or the series. It’s unique, it’s weird, it’s quirky, and it’s amazing.
8. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This book holds a specail place in my heart because it’s the first full-length book I read by myself when I was four. I realize that there has been a lot said about the racist aspects of this book and series, but I think it’s important to remember the context of the world at the time when it was experienced and then written into a fictionalized version. And it’s still an important book.
9. Suffer the Children by John Saul
This is the book that began my lifetime love of horror novels. It came out in 1977, and it probably wasn’t too many years after that when I snuck it out of my dad’s book collection and devoured it. John Saul is a master of horror.
10. The Stand by Stephen King
I can’t imagine my love of horror novels without mentioning Stephen King. This is the first King novel I read, and it cemented my love of the genre.
11. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
What can I say? I love GoT, the books and the show. Minus the last season, of course.
12. Beartown by Fredrik Backman
I love everything he’s written, but this was the book that led me to him. It was the setting of Sweden and the hockey that was at the center of the story that brought me in. But the book is so much more than that. It’s about loyalty, friendship, disappointment, committment, and the way a single decision can change everything.
13. Hawaii by James Michener
Michener seems to be one of those authors one loves or one hates. I am of the former, as was my grandfather, who introduced him to me when I was in early high school. My father hated his books. It begins with the formation of the islands themselves and continues to the mid-1950s, not long before the novel was published in 1959. It is incredibly historically accurate. And reading it was the motivation for me to want to visit the islands. I read it again on the plane when I moved here in 1994. And then when I moved back, for good this time, in 2016, I read it again on the plane.
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