Not everyone is a book person, but we all have stories that are important to us. I have friends that have watched “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” every October 30th since they were four years old. Other friends don’t think it’s Christmas unless they’ve re-read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Maybe it’s weird that I don’t have holiday reading traditions. What I have books that are important to me. Not the great literary titles I’ve read, but the ones that I go back to when I’m feeling nostalgic. The books I picked up at the right moment in my life for them to always mean something to me.
1)The Animorphs by K.A. Applegate
Offering a plausible explanation of how your principal could be an evil alien is an excellent way to draw a third grader into a book. Giving a bunch of kids the power to turn into animals and fight aforementioned aliens was a one two punch that drew me in and kept me for three years and thirty-five books. The Animorphs was the first book series that had me memorizing release dates so that I could be at the bookstore the second they hit the shelves.
2)Magician by Raymond E. Fiest
I can’t find the article to cite the quote, but I remember reading an interview with Raymond E Fiest where he said something like ‘When I sat down to write Magician I had no idea how to write a good book. I knew how to tell a good story, so I tried to do that.’ When I read Magician I didn’t know what made a good book or a good story, bI fell in love with the fantasy adventure about two boys from a small town who went out and changed the world.
3)The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
When my grandparents gave me an autographed trade paperback of Eye of the World they had no idea the door they were opening. They knew I was a reader. They knew I liked fantasy. They knew Robert Jordan lived four doors down from the house I had lived in until I was seven. They didn’t know how profoundly this book would change my life. Somewhere in the middle of this book I realized that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to tell stories.
4)Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Holy crap, Will read a book without swords or aliens! What’s that? The main character’s a wizard? There are in fact two swords in the book? Fine, but cut me some slack. You don’t just abandon a childhood as a genre junky. There’s a weaning process. The story is set in Chicago and the swords are incidental.
5)Atlantis Found by Clive Cussler
See, no swords, no wizards. Cussler might have only a passing familiarity with the laws of probability and the physical limits of the human body, but the Dirk Pitt books are absolutely not speculative fiction. Cussler gave me a series of books that introduced me to pleasure reading sans magic, and you could always find one in the airport if you needed something to read.
6)Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
Somewhere after Treasure Island, but before Pirates of the Caribbean, I decided that if the storytelling thing didn’t work out piracy would be an acceptable alternative. Patrick O’Brian made me add life as a naval officer to the list. Then someone told me that taking prizes was no longer allowed, and my brief career in legitimate sea robbery came to an end. What Master and Commander really did was introduce me to historical documents as a source of stories. I know it is fiction but it amazingly well researched and made me realize that I could look up naval archives and old ship’s logs
7)The Paradise Snare A.C. Crispin
When I in my freshman year of college, I suddenly stopped being able to walk. Speaking became difficult and my upper body strength was enormously reduced. This continued on and off for months and I was eventually diagnosed with Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis. A.C. Crispin’s Han Solo Trilogy provided a needed escape from a very dark part of my life.
8)His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik.
Patrick O’Brian + Dragons = Winning. His Majesty’s Dragon was the first and best piece of historical fantasy I’ve ever ready. Very well researched and written the novel doesn’t include magic, it just offers a theory on how the Napoleonic Wars might have gone if both sides had aerial corps that rode trained dragons
9)The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
My brother gave me a copy of the Sherlockian for Christmas a few years ago, and it took me well over a year to get around to reading it. The story weaves together a modern murder mystery with a Victorian murder mystery being solved by Arthur Connan Doyle in a desperate attempt to outshine his famous creation. It’s pleasantly lacking in consulting detectives and got me reading the Sherlock Holmes cannon, which I had somehow overlooked until my mid-twenties.
10)Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell
Quarter Share is one of the best science fiction stories I’ve seen in a long time. Set on a cargo ship in deep space it is totally lacking in space pirate attacks, explosions, alien species or almost anything else I associate with space fairing science fiction. It’s a well told coming of age story, set on a clipper ship, in space.
That is my list. What books do you go back to when you’re feeling nostalgic?