Recs: 15 Books

Ganked from Darius on Facebook, but I really like this one – and it lets me plug some favorites – so I’m putting it here, too!

Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. List 15 books you’ve read that will always stick with you. They should be the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what books my friends choose. Accept that my choice, and maybe yours too, would be different on any given day!(To do this, go to your Notes tab on your Profile page, paste rules in a new Note, cast your 15 picks, and tag people in the Note, upper right-hand side.)

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald | When I was in high school and college, I went through a hardcore Fitzgerald phase – reading every bit of his writing that I could snag from the full-fledged (and unfinished) novels to the short stories. Gatsby is one of those books I read every once and a while to put things in perspective and keep myself (relatively) honest. His craftsmanship also reminds me that being accessible and being “literary” don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

2. Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan | A haunting and desperately romantic novella that is (sadly) rarely mentioned when people talk about “classic sci-fi and fantasy” works of the 20th century.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen | Not the “and Zombies” version. ^_^

4. Leave Her to Heaven by Ben Ames Williams | The movie adaptation of this book is one of my favorite films of all time. A film noir that, deceptively, happens to be shot in full color, it’s obsessive and brooding and filled with “Oh, no, she didn’t” moments. The source is even more pulpy, and Williams’ writing – which alternately strings you along and reels you in – makes it one of those books you can’t put down.

5. Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott | I read these both during summer of 1984, while staying at my grandfather’s house, and before Little Women. The characters were always much more real and relatable to me.

6. Maison Ikkoku by Rumiko Takahashi | I may have started buying manga because of Sailor Moon, et al, but the series that made me fall in love with manga was Maison Ikkoku. Touchingly humorous, romantic and bumbling, it has one of the greatest endings of all time.

7. Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham | The U.S. comic that got me back into comics, the first volume of Fables accomplishes something others have tried to do – insert fairy tale characters into a present-day setting – and does it dynamically and with style. (And that’s before we even get started talking about James Jean’s amazing cover art…)

8. To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway | I remember reading somewhere that Hemingway thought it was his worst book. It may not be one of his classics that you study in school, but I enjoyed it – probably, partially because 0f its Key West setting.

9. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas | Because both of them serialized their works, and because both them were masters of building up to and leaving those cliffhangers at the ends of chapters, Dumas and Charles Dickens will always be closely tied together in my brain. Dumas gets the edge, though, because I love the sense of adventure that is part of his stories’ DNA.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee | One of my other “most” favorite books. Besides being well-written and entertaining, To Kill a Mockingbird reinforces how words can make a difference. A little part of me still aspires to be an “Atticus Finch.”

11. Basara by Yumi Tamura | For those of you not versed in the terminology of Japanese comics, “shoujo” manga are comic stories written for girls, usually ranging in age from pre-teen to late teens. While Basara might just be my favorite shoujo manga, it’s also the one that blows away whatever pre-existing concept you might have about what that designation means. It’s epic and almost Shakespearean in scope, it’s passionate, and its characters are complicated, messy and REAL. The fact I wrote as much about this as I did about Gatsby – and mentioned Shakespeare – should tell you something.

12. Happy Mania by Moyoco Anno | Sick of Sex in the City and how things always (kinda) resolve for its protagonists? Overdose on romance novels or shoujo manga? This is the perfect palette cleanser, and it features a lead who might just be the most obnoxious “hot mess on the prowl for a man” to be portrayed in prose or comic fiction. That said, it’s acidly smart and funny – and it’s guaranteed to make you feel better about any of your own romantic gaffes.

13. The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope | An old-school romantic adventure whose sequel is conveniently out of print. (That’s a good thing; at one point, I did look up the summary on Wikipedia, and it undid what I loved so much about the ending – the characters’ sense of honor.) My memory of this book is also heavily tinged by how much I love 1930s film with Ronald Coleman, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and David Niven.

14. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling | I’m (finally) reading the last book, but I didn’t even try to shield myself from spoilers.

15. The World Book Encyclopedia | My mom, brother and I spent the summer of 1984 at my grandfather’s. I wasn’t used to the Florida heat – it was a major shock to my system – so I read every single book in the house. After I was done with that, I proceeded to read the entire encyclopedia. I was an interesting child.