May Moore has a theme going dealing with books. This week the focus is on fiction. Now I read a lot. I used to keep track of the books I read and had many years where I read more than 100 novels. Considering how I like big books, that is something.
While I enjoy books on the history of things I’m interested in, in general I like fiction. And while I will read historical fiction and other genres, I really tend to read thrillers. I’m familiar with all the best contemporary writers of thrillers including Jeffrey Deaver, David Baldacci and others. I thought that for this post I would concentrate on a few authors whose books I haven’t given to others. You see I have passed close to 4000 books on to a few different spots–a couple of local high school libraries, a couple of senior residences, and a few friends who have similar reading tastes. The librarian of one of the school libraries laughingly suggested she should name a book collection after me. By her count I had given nearly 3000 books to her library. I started giving the books away when several friends who helped me move told me that they wouldn’t help me again–too many books to move. Plus I was running out of shelf space…lol
Still and all, there are some books I have held onto. Some are scholarly and while not “fun” to read are interesting and informative. But others are fiction–books that I’ve read many times and might very well read again.
So the first of these were written by JRR Tolkien. They are The Hobbit and also The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I first read The Hobbit when I was in grade 2. My father was a big fan of CS Lewis and also Tolkien. So by then I had read through the whole Narnian series and was looking for something new. He gave me The Hobbit to read, and I loved it. The following year he gave me the trilogy as he thought I was ready for it. Another great read. As life progressed I read all of these numerous times.
A short synopsis of the four books deal with the fictional middle earth. Peopled by hobbits, men, elves, monsters, and wizards, the four volumes are connected. Chronologically The Hobbit comes first with Bilbo Baggins (a hobbit) going on an adventure and coming home with a powerful magic ring. The ring has magical powers not the least of which is that it’s wearer becomes invisible. Bilbo keeps this a secret, and the ring features prominently in The Lord of The Rings trilogy. Here Bilbo’s nephew is recruited to accompany a diverse group of men trying to transport the ring to Mordor and destroy it in the fire burning within the mountain. There are many ups and downs over the course of this journey.
While the books are definitely better than the films, the films do a pretty good job of capturing the excitement of the stories.
Another author that I’ve read and reread is James Clavell. Most of his books are very large–the only small one being King Rat. Clavell is most famous for his “Asian” saga. The first of his books that I read was Taipan. I was in a small town working in a prison nearby and didn’t have access to very much in the way of entertainment. Eventually the incredibly small library almost forced me to read a dog-eared copy of Taipan. From that moment on I was hooked.
The Asian Saga consists of the following. I’m going to put them in chronological order relating to the times they represent. They were written in a wholly different order.
Shogun (set in 1600), Tai-Pan (set in 1841), Gai-Jin (set in 1862), King Rat (set in 1945), Noble House (set in 1962), and Whirlwind (set in 1979) are the books that make up the Asian Saga. I’ve read them all several times and indeed once read them all in chronological order–this is a big deal if you know the size of the books! lol
These books started my fascination with Asian history and culture. I read a great deal of fiction and history of the area after my exposure to these. If I had to pick a favourite, it would be either Tai-Pan or Shogun!
Another author who’s work I love is Herman Wouk. I have 6 of his books on my shelves. All are worthy of re-reading, but I’ll highlight just two of them. War and Remembrance & The Winds of War are two novels that are linked and are truly awesome tales dealing with the Second World War.
The Winds of War takes the reader from Germany in 1939 to the end of December 1941. It was made into a truly wonderful TV adaptation in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Historically he tried to be as correct as possible while adding characters and storylines that were addictive to read.
War and Remembrance takes over the story at Pearl Harbour and concludes after Hiroshima. Together these two books are powerful and very difficult to put down. I’ve heard them described as Wouk’s crowning achievement and you need to remember he won a Pulitzer Prize for The Caine Mutiny! So this is saying a lot.
The final author I wish to highlight is Colleen McCullough. I was in a book club and forgot to send a form back in time to prevent the monthly offering from being sent to me. That book was The First Man in Rome. It was an astonishing book. The level of historical accuracy combined with deft story telling made it simply too difficult to put down. The story starts in 110 BC and features Gaius Marius, a General with the goal of becoming first man in Rome. The remaining books continue to tell the story of Rome up to 40 BC. In that time frame we see Gaius Marius, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Julius Caesar, Cicero, Cleopatra, Cato, and Mark Antony. Dramas and conspiracy are the norm and unfold in myriads of ways.
The seven books in the Masters of Rome Series are: The First Man in Rome, The Grass Crown, Fortune’s Favourites, Caesar’s Women, Caesar, The October Horse, and finally Antony & Cleopatra. Like Clavell and Wouk, McCullough writes books with detail and complexity. Her novels are not quick reads, but are very enjoyable and worthwhile reading.
I don’t want to bore you with more, but a couple of authors who could easily be on this list are Leon Uris and CS Lewis. I know all these books are now showing their age. However they are in many ways ageless. I could have talked about contemporary authors who are currently still writing, publishing and adding books for us to read. However I didn’t grow up with them. These three (5) authors and their stories transported me to worlds and events I would not have otherwise been able to visit. Isn’t that what good writing does?
It’s a little ironic that though I read thrillers most of the time, my favourite books listed here are fantasy and historical fiction.
I want to thank May Moore who gently nudged me and encouraged me to write this post. While I reread the Tolkien novels about four years ago, the others I haven’t looked at for many years. Perhaps it’s time to reread them again.