As a writer, I also read a lot and I thought I’d say something about a few of the books that rank up there as my all-time favs. Most of them you may have heard of and/or already read. But some may surprise you. Each of them profoundly moved me, although in different ways. Each, I believe, has inspired me to be a better writer…
THE MAGUS by John Fowles (original version, 1965)
This has always been one of my favorite reads. The cover shown is that of the original volume. I first read this novel as a paperback, but when my book finally disintegrated, due to time, the elements, and constant re-reading, I had to go to a rare book dealer to get another copy. The reason I had to do this was because the author re-wrote it in 1976 and, after publication, the original could no longer be found at regular booksellers. Why he rewrote it, I’ll never understand. To me, the 1965 version is absolutely perfect.
The tale, set for the most part on an island in Greece, is magical and magnificent. Full of suspense, dark romance, and mystery, it is, in the end, quite simply a story of a boy and a girl and their journey to find each other. And, believe me, it is one hell of a journey!
I think one of the things that constantly draws me back to The Magus is that no matter how many times I read it, I always learn something new.
The Magus is a fabulous read, full of darkness, portents, seduction, along with profound musings on the complexities of the human mind. If you want to read it, try to find a copy of the original version. Most highly recommended.
The Lightkeepers, A Novel by Abby Geni
I discovered this novel on one of those lists of great new books that you find frequently on FB or BookBub. The story is about a nature photographer who travels to the Farallon Islands, a remote archipelago off the coast of Northern California. This intrigued me as I once took a boat ride out that way when I lived in the Bay Area. The Farallon’s are a wildlife sanctuary and, in this novel, the photographer (Miranda) has secured a one year residency to capture the natural rugged beauty of the place. Her only companions on the island are the scientists who live there, studying the fish, birds, and other wildlife that inhabit the region.
What impressed me about The Lightkeepers was how vividly author Geni painted pictures with her words. I could see, hear, and feel everything from the waves crashing against the rocky shore to the harsh calls of the gulls scavenging for food. When I finished the book, which is a mystery/thriller, I felt inspired. I wanted to write something that would do for others what Abby Geni did for me. The result was my novel, Summer Girl and I think I did achieve at least a bit of what I experienced reading Geni’s novel. One of its customer reviews, which I cherish, said the following: “What a way with words! I could see the rocks. I could hear the waves.” And, more recently, Chanticleer Book Review said the following in their 5-star editorial review: “Watkins’ beautiful writing paints a picture of inexperienced teenagers with honesty and vulnerability that makes their parting even more emotional.”
The Lightkeepers is a hauntingly beautiful novel and I recommend it most highly.
The Stand by Stephen King
The Stand was originally published in 1978. I was in my early 30s when the paperback came out. I had become a rabid Stephen King fan after reading Salem’s Lot (1975) which I still think is one of the best vampire books ever written. Following that, I devoured anything he wrote: Carrie, The Shining, and Rage. But The Stand was something different. At over 1300 pages, it qualified as a big, fat, book. But it was one that, once you started reading, you couldn’t put down. I remember after I finished it, I lent my copy to one of my friends, who became, just like me, completely wrapped up in the fates of Frannie, Stu, Larry, and the other characters.
If you haven’t already read The Stand, believe me, you should. Oh, by the way, the cover illustration posted above is the original cover art. My paperback had a different picture on the cover.
The Lord of the Ring Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
Okay, we’ve all seen the movies, right? And, they were great. But you gotta read the books. There is so much more to discover. I believe I read The Hobbit when I was just out of college. I’d graduated in 1970 and moved back to my hometown of Dearborn, Michigan. I enrolled in grad school at Wayne State and found myself an apartment in the basement of a retired couple’s home. I went to class at night, so I had my days free. I spent my time doing tie dye and reading. After I finished The Hobbit, I naturally had to move on to the greater work.
These are books you don’t want to end. I don’t remember who, but someone gave me the hardback edition of the trilogy and I still have it today. The story is iconic and the writing is beautiful. The movies were great, but the books are even greater.
The Art of Racing in the Rain, A Novel by Garth Stein
This is the best dog book EVER! I believe I read it when I was living on Chebeague Island, Maine with my three dogs, Splatter, Spudley, and Jasper. I am a huge dog-lover, but have never been drawn to “dog” books. But this one is different. Told from the dog’s perspective, it’s funny, moving, and profoundly inspiring. The wisdom of Enzo (the dog) is endless and, by the time you reach the final page (which is one of the best endings EVER), I dare you to have a dry eye.
Highly recommended for anyone who cares about the human and/or canine condition.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
This book is a hilarious recount of author Bryson’s adventure on the Appalachian Trail which stretches from Georgia to Maine – a long 2,100 mile trek. But the book is not just a humorous tome. No, Bryson has something to say about conservation and the fragility of our American wilderness. First published in 1998, the book is even more relevant now with the looming crisis of climate change.
Highly recommended reading for everyone on the planet.
In closing, when I decided to write this post, I just let my mind wander to books I love. I didn’t realize until I had the post almost finished that I still have a copy of each of the books listed. My paperback copy of The Stand, copyright 1980, is yellowed with age and has survived moves from California to Oregon to Maine to Michigan and, finally, to Sedona, Arizona. I wonder where it will travel next?
Thanks for dropping by,