I’m a huge fan of reading. Ever since they taught me how to (and probably before), I’ve been practicing as frequently as I can. There was one teacher I had in grade school who claimed that she would either visit in our homes or call our parents, and if we were reading when that happened, we’d get something special. (I don’t remember anymore what the reward was.) Because of that (threat/promise/challenge), I read a lot. And kind of kept going.
The statistics on reading baffle me. A few years back, a survey showed that the average American who reads regularly read only 7 books per year. And one in four adults read no books. No Books?!?!? I’ve already read six since the beginning of the year, and most of a seventh (it’s mostly a running book filled with tedious training plan details. I don’t really need the part of the book that I haven’t read until later when I’m going to run a marathon). If I stopped now, I’d be there with the average reader, and I still have ten and a half months to go!
The problem with reading that much is that you start to run out of things to read. I have always been a strong genre reader. I come back again and again to specific genres because I know them and I know that I will generally like what I read. My genre is typically Epic Fantasy, although I will occasionally fiddle with some other aspects of Speculative Fiction. I’m open to other genres and types of books, but I generally don’t know where to start outside my genre.
Late last year, I decided two things.
#1- I was going to read at least three books out of genre before returning to Epic Fantasy.
#2- I was going to leave Young Adult Fantasy and Sci-Fi behind me for the time being.
To point the first, I was pleasantly surprised by the books which I did read. The World Without Us is one that I’ve brought up in conversations with many of my friends and family. And while I don’t think I could recommend Ragtime in good conscience to most people, it was a good read. I think that my “adventure” with James Joyce could best be described by not describing it.
To point the second, I recently decided that while most YA Fantasy is good reading, I needed to read less of it. The plots were becoming predictable for me, and I was tired of the sanitization that happens in YA. Several years ago, I drew a line that placed that vampire series (you know the one) on one side of a line, and Harry Potter on the other. Lately, I’ve pushed a whole lot more past the line. Once my detox is complete, I think that I might reevaluate where the line sits. (There will always be at least 4 books on the other side of the line. You know which ones.)
After returning from my out of genre stint, I’ve actually had some fun. I’ve been reading classic science fiction works from the ’60s and ’70s. These were some of the real pioneers of the sci-fi genre. I also read a heady Speculative Fiction novel and a Literary take on fantasy.
With all of this reading, my To-Read shelf has dwindled. I have one or two more novels there, one of which I am saving because it might take some re-reading of some previous novels. So I took my problem to Facebook, and asked my friends what the best book they’ve ever read is. I was blown away by the response. Some clearly didn’t understand the assignment. (I’m looking at you, Clint.) I got a huge list of books to read! Of those suggested, I had only read four. And while a few were YA, most looked like ones that I could come back to after my self imposed ban is over.
I was so happy with the list that I thought that I should share it. So, below the break, I’ve included a cleaned up list of The Best Books, at least according to my Facebook friends. I linked them all to Amazon, in case you’re interested in more information about any of them. I’ve already ordered one (Scar Gate), and I’m looking forward to reading many more of them this year. (If you were wondering, I marked the ones I’ve read with (R) and the Young Adult Fantasy and Sci-Fi with (YA).)
So what about you? Did this list miss the best book you’ve ever read? Let me know in the comments!
The Best Books Ever!
Chass- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (R)
Cora- Monster Blood Tattoo Series by D.M. Cornish (YA)
Melanie- Call It Sleep by Henry Roth
Kim- The Percy Jackson and The Olympians Series by Rick Riordan (YA)
John- Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
Amy J- Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
– Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Nic- On The Shoulders of Giants by Stephen Hawking
Jen- Starship Troopers byRobert Heinlein
Martha- I Heard the Owl Call my Name by Margaret Craven
– Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
– And There was Light by Jacques Lusseyran
Edie- Life is So Good by George Dawson
– Esperanza Rising (in Spanish) by Pam Munoz Ryan
Amy M- So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane (YA)
Cass- The Eragon series by Christopher Paolini (YA, ~R)
– The three Jumper books by Steven Gould
Beverly- Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Clint- The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (R)
– The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
– Spooky Little Girl by Laurie Notaro
– The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (R)
– The Hunger Games Series by Susanne Collins (YA)
– Age of Unreason Series by J. Gregory Keyes
– Scar Night by Alan Campbell
– One Door Away from Heaven by Dean Koontz
– The Child Thief by Brom
Dustin- Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Damien- Mars by Ben Bova
Christi- Fablehaven by Brandon Mull (YA)
– A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
– Peace like a River by Leif Enger