Sunday, 28 September 2014

Aside. Top 10 Books

SmartCooks (cooking but not blogging much these days) here.  

Facebook folks were posting their Top 10 Book lists recently and I started writing one but didn't get a chance to post it so... blog it is.  

Writing a list reminds me that I used to read voraciously... Saturday mornings I’d make the rounds of the various unique  bookstores… Ottawa Women's Bookstore on Elgin, and over to the Glebe to Prime Crime, the House of Speculative Fiction and Octopus Books.  An ambitious Saturday then saw me head to Sussex where the Children’s Bookstore was housed for years.  All long before the era of the Big Bad Book Box stores.  My appetite for reading was insatiable. 

So my top 10 list and, yes, I read a lot of series.  I have to start at book one when I begin a series and then follow chronologically. 

1) Darkover series.  The science-fiction-fantasy world of Darkover and the lives of the Free Amazons and Renunciates.  All 28 or so books are written by Marion Zimmer Bradley, the same author of the wonderful Mists of Avalon.

2) Millennium trilogy.  It was so tragic 
Stieg Larsson died before we got book four.  I raced through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire and then discovered that book 3 (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) was only available in Europe. A friend got it from a travelling friend who picked it up at Heathrow.  She read all weekend and then called me when she was 20 pages away from finishing it.  I raced over, got it, and took home the treasure.  Like Brigid, I too now look for Swedish authors because of these books.

3) Harry Potter. I still laugh about waiting for hours in long line-ups at midnight at various Chapters and then reading the book all night. Ivan even made money one year as he left the store with several copies in hand.  A harried father raced up, saw the line-up, groaned, and offered $100 for one of the books to take home to his daughter.  Why not?

4.  Marcia Muller. (Now above 30 books) featuring private investigator Sharon McCone from the All Souls Legal Co-op, who tries to make a difference to her clients and the world around her.  Her life becomes very complicated!
5.  Woman’s Room by Marilyn French.  I read this book in 1997 when it was first published while sitting on a beach. I loaned it to a woman next to me who read it.  She, in turn, gave it to her husband to read.  They ended up in a bitter battle of words.  Oops. 

6.  May Sarton.  I prefer her 20-plus books to her journals.  I especially loved The Fur Person, a quirky novel for cat lovers, with Tom Jones, a street cat who gives up his catting-around lifestyle to find the right human companion.  It’s a must-read for all us cat lovers.  Her books were difficult to find in the 1970s and 1980s, long before on-line ordering.  I scoured bookstores in New York, San Francisco and elsewhere to make sure I had all of them. 

7.  Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. 1976.  Critics call it a classic utopian ‘speculative’ science fiction, I was gripped by how Marge Piercy dealt with issues around feminism, social justice, and mental illness.  She also predicts the rise of the Internet, and a world ruined by massive mega-cities and environmental pollution. 

8.  Tales of the City.  Armistead Maupin.  These books were game changers in the late 1970s, opening up a life beyond the narrow confines of Ottawa.  I devoured all six books.  Alas, by the time Bob and I travelled to San Francisco in the 1980s, it was ravaged by HIV/AIDS and many restaurants and businesses were all shuttered.  The only bookstore that was thriving was ”A Different Light”, managed by a former Ottawa Citizen writer, Richard Labonte, who both Bob and I knew from the Southam News days. The Castro Street bookstore was named after an author, Elizabeth Lynn, who wrote a science fiction fantasy (a world without cancer and pain) and in whose honour the bookstore was named. 

9.  Colour Purple by Alice Walker.  Another game changer, this time a novel set in the 1930s about lives I could barely comprehend.  A book that grips the soul and I literally could not put it down.  I felt all the injustice, rage and triumphs of these women.  It’s a terrific book (and movie).

10.  A toss up.  It’s either A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l’Engle, a science fantasy book published in 1962.  It won a Newbery Award and other honours and celebrates the indomitable spirit of children to take on ‘evil’ and conquer it.  The first book is the best of other books about the O’Keefe family.  

Or, it’s the The Giver, by Lois Lowry, the first in a series of four books about Jonas, questioning life in a boring utopia of community ‘sameness’.  Another game-changer.  It’s been made into a movie and I’m interested to see whether it lives up to my reading of it.

The walk down memory lane. And then there’s Robert Crais, Lawrence Block (Burglar series), Lord of the Rings series, Narnia series, the prolific Jonathan Kellerman with sidekick Milo, and on and on and on. I barely read any newer books at all these days.  Retirement will likely see me devouring what I’ve missed!

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