Best Books Reflection So Far

HARRY POTTER CHAMBER OF SECRETSIt’s been two and a half years since I posted “Sound Advice,” an entry on The Starving Artist about reading. At the time, I was wanting to read more and also seeing it as part of my job as a writer, but I was struggling with a long string of books which were sub-par. I felt as if I had been chasing books based on whims, bookstores, and recommendations, and almost all of the them had been falling short of my expectations and leaving me apathetic about picking up the next book. At the same time, I had one of those reading bucket lists growing somewhere in the back of my subconscious brain; years and years of shoulds and wannas which included many of the classics and some vague genres like “philosophy.” (My bachelors is in philosophy.)

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES 2So I made the Best Books list by searching best-ofs lists from reputable sources, randomized it into an order 800 long, and started reading from number one, The Harmony of the World, by Johannes Keppler. Over the next two and half years, I supplemented for three reasons: my kids were reading something (and I make it a goal to read what they read); I enjoyed an author or series (from the list) so much I read more of them; or I had a personal reason that required a book (like taking a class or having a health problem). Occasionally, I accidentally acquired a book which was later on the randomized list, so I bumped it up the title. Other than that, I plowed straight ahead.

ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERNOver that two and a half years, I also added to the Best Books list by generating genre-specific lists for comedy, autobiographies and memoirs, travel, history, science fiction and fantasy, children’s, middle grades, and YA, poetry, and food and cookbooks. (There are still seven more lists to add, over time.) Then I copied the list to The Starving Artist TBR. The list is now thousands of books long, but I am still moving forward…

GREAT GATSBY IMAGE 2…and really enjoying it. I would say that I enjoy most of the books that I read now, and have no pauses in between books. I went from slumping through (if I was lucky) a dozen “fun” books a year to reading more than forty every year (while also writing about one per year).

Here is a short reflection of these last couple years:

VILLETTEI am on book 112. I have read through several classics, including Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Anna Karenina, and The Great Gatsby. I have read several series, have squeezed in some re-reads, and made some inroads into science fiction and fantasy, a genre I did not appreciate until more recently in life.

My favorites:

  • Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery (and series; re-read)
  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Clarice Bean trilogy, Lauren Child
  • Ruby Redfort series, Lauren Child
  • Villette, Charlotte Bronte
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte
  • Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling (re-read)

THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALLBooks that changed my life:

  • The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren
  • Secrets of E-Publishing Success, Mark Coker
  • Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey
  • More Attention, Less Deficit, Ari Tucker
  • Jump Off the Hormone Swing, Lorraine Pintus

Other books worth mentioning:

  • The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
  • Hamlet, William Shakespeare
  • My Teacher Is an Alien, Bruce Coville
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  • A Night to Remember, Walter Lord
  • Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  • Shirley, Charlotte Bronte
  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes, vols 1 and 2, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
  • CLARICE BEAN SPELLS TROUBLEAgnes Grey, Anne Bronte
  • A Snicker of Magic, Nathalie Lloyd
  • Sisters, Raina Telgemeier

Real stinkers, despite their laurels:

  • Sybil, Benjamin Disraeli
  • some of the Jacqueline Wilson canon
  • a couple Henrik Ibsen plays (but not “A Doll’s House”)
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), and pretty much anything not Harry
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
  • The Secret Series, Psuedonymous Bosch

And not quite as adamantly, but still disappointing:

  • TAKE YOUR LAST BREATHFever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
  • The Fault In Our Stars, John Green
  • The Professor, Charlotte Bronte

Books that I appreciate, but were BEARS to read:

  • Harmonies of the World, Johannes Kepler
  • Parade’s End tetrology, Ford Maddox Ford
  • Principia, Isaac Newton/Magnificent Principia, Colin Pask

(You can find reviews for all of these books HERE.)

I have also, happily, found some life’s work in the project. I used the inspiration of The Writer’s Journey to write half a book over Camp NaNoWriMo last summer and will be finishing it up soon. Also, this summer Owl and Zebra press will be publishing a re-print from a spin-off reading from the Best Books list. There will be more news on that soon. And I can only assume that–less definably–my writing has been affected by all the reading that I am doing. I will not be stopping any time soon. (For my TBR, see HERE.)

In short, I highly recommend making yourself a list of only greats and sticking to it. Or you could totally just borrow mine. You might just find that you read more, enjoy it more, and get more out of it.

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One thought on “Best Books Reflection So Far

  1. 2 books on my mind lately to re read: Archie & mehitabel and the mouse that roared. Also, just getting ready to re read the name of the rose and foucault’s pendulum.

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