There’s no reason to care, just sharing…
When people ask me what’s my favorite movie of all time, I struggle. I like so many and it also depends on the mood swing I’m in at the time. But I would say any movie I can watch over and over, even on repeat, would be my favorite. Examples are Fifth Element, Shawshank Redemption, and A Few Good Men. The books on my list are the same way. Something that you can read over and over.
When people ask me who my favorite band is, still, I struggle to pick one, and again, it depends on my mood swing. It could be Rush, Pink Floyd, Opeth, or a specific genre.
But… when people ask me what my favorite book of all time is, the answer without question is easy. And not only that, I can nail down my top 5 favorite books without question. After that, it gets hazy because there are so many that could flesh out a top 10.
I’ll start at from the bottom and work my way up…
On Writing by Stephen King
Part autobiography, part writing instruction, this book is by far his best output. Especially the audio version (which he reads himself). There’s no doubt Stephen King is a grand master of the art of writing. For me, I find his novellas and short stories to be far superior to his lengthy novels. Works such as The Long Walk, Rage, and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. He is well published, and just about everything (with the exception of this book maybe) has been turned into a movie (give it time, right?). He has a great story to tell about how he slogged through the day to day of marriage, kids, and rejection slips. And about how Carrie almost didn’t see the light of day (but thanks to his wife…). And how ultimately it was that book that saved him and his family,. The common theme throughout the autobiography is about writing. It ties it all together. And listening to him tell it int he audio version is the icing on the cake.
The second half talks about the art of writing. It is required reading, I would think, for any budding author or writer. I mean, the man knows his stuff. This book, and those that follow, are typically on my To Be Read (TBR) list every year, and for good reason. This is a fun story, and educational, and he does a spectacular job here. For this book, I prefer the audio version. It’s better listening to him tell his story, and it’s like having him as your personal instructor for a few hours.
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This was a no-brainer. The story of Arthur Dent meets the end of the world and then goes off into a wild romp through the galaxy is fun, witty, and brilliant! Douglas Adams’s (RIP sir) writing is fantastic. From the first time I read it in high school (back when it was “new”, about 5 years old) it has hung around me like an albatross since (but in a good way). The best version I “read” was the audiobook version read by Douglas Adams himself. I am a fan of Monty Python, and british humor in general, so it was without a doubt that H2G2 would resonate with me. Mr. Adams was a writer with Monty Python, so it only makes sense, yeah?
I’ve listened to the Stephen Fry audio version the last two years, and plan to do so again. Or maybe this time I’ll read it.
Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock
Published in 1969, this story won the Nebula award. And with good reason. Now, I’m not saying that a book should be judged on it’s awards (just read some of the Hugo winners, you’ll understand), but this book… This is one of those books that once an author comes up with the idea, all other authors say “F–k! Why didn’t I think of that?” because once the idea is out there, there is no repeating it. And woe to those that try. Unlike “asteroid headed to earth” or “mars colonization” or “barbarian kill sorceress queen” stories, this one is not repeatable (which is what I just said isn’t it?).
So what is this grand idea? The story is about Karl Glogauer, a time traveler (and a recurring character in one form or another in many of MM’s books) travels back in time to the year…. 28AD. That’s all I need to say. I don’t want to spoil it for you. Worth every page.
Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock
Suffice it to say, this is my favorite fantasy book of all time and the book for which I measure all other fantasy books. Which is as much a curse as wielding the soul-sucking sword Stormbringer at times. I was lent this series in high school and I read all six stories in the series cover to cover in a very short time. It has highly influenced me, and still influences me to this day as a writer.
I still remember the books because they were the DAW press versions with the yellow spines and Michael Whelan covers. I have a full set now, all first print (I’m very proud of them, heh). And a few other copies of the set. And pretty much everything Michael Moorcock has published including the early science fiction books (Fire Clown, The Black Corridor, etc.). It’s fair to say he is my favorite author. Period. And this book set the bar pretty high for fantasy, world building, and multiverses. Oh, and swords as living creatures with intelligence. Second only to Excalibur, it is safe to say, Stormbringer is one of the most famous swords in the fantasy fiction.
But what makes this one better than the 900 pagers (volume 1 of 12) is he was able to write this story in under 300 pages. And pretty much did for ALL the Elric novels. You can (and I have) actually fit this gem in the back pocket of your jeans. If you haven’t read it because you’re still slogging through Volume 6 of Wheel of Time, put that down, and read this one instead. You’ll be glad you did.
Anthem by Ayn Rand
No words can express the impact this book has had on me since first reading it when I was 16 or 17. I wish I could remember the kids name who lent it to me. Unfortunately, he was transit that year and doesn’t appear in any yearbooks. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember the cover. I also remember wondering why she wrote the book in 1st person plural (We). Then I got to the end and whamo! At around the same time, I came across the record 2112 by Rush. Or the record came first. I don’t recall. Somewhere along the way, my girlfriend at the time, introduced me to Rush and I couldn’t get enough of the band. I listened to Caress of Steel and 2112 endlessly. There’s even a liner note in the album 2112 thanking Ayn Rand. And, the story of the song follows the story in the book. So, win-win. If you like the song 2112, the source material is Anthem, just saying.
Anthem is about Equality 7-2521 and his discovery, his love, and his quest. It resonates so much because Equality is an outcast in a world of uniformity. Being short, I was made to feel like an outcast. Equality literally “stands out” from his brothers because of his height (he’s taller, not shorter). He is frowned upon because he doesn’t play by the rules. He has hopes and dreams in a world where independent thought is not allowed.
The book has one of the best opening lines ever written (next to her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged of course): “It is a sin to write this.” I love the line, and the book so much, the phrase is tattooed on my write (I mean right) arm.
Yes, it’s Ayn Rand, so there is a deep philosophical meaning behind the content. For example, the three main characters are Equality, Liberty, and Fraternity (the French motto). And as a Russian immigrant in the early 20’s, Ayn Rand came from dystopian roots, in a way. This book, written in 1937, is often grouped with other dystopian works such as 1984, We, and Brave New World.
At 109 pages, it packs a wallop. I put it on my TBR list every year. I’ve owned many copies of this book with various covers, in paperback, and hardback, and have given away copies. I highly recommend this book.
As you can see the list is varied. Non-Fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Dystopian. My music and movies are the same way. I doubt this list changes much over the next 10 years. I’ve been reading a lot more the past two years than the last 20 combined. I haven’t read anything lately that has struck my fancy in the way these books have. In fact, I’ve had a lot of DNF’s (did not finish) because they weren’t striking a chord. Stuff that everyone raves about too, which still… maybe I am an outcast…
Can you name your favorite book? Or top 5?
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Like stories in the Fantasy Sword & Sorcery realm? Check out my current work in progress Darkness of the Northern Sky.
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