Friday, June 10, 2011

A Bibliophile’s Top Five

Hi, I’m Joe, and I am a Bibliophile.  I have been talking a lot about books this week, so I thought I would share with you my favorite five authors.  I have loved books nearly all of my life.  I had an older cousin who each year for Christmas would give all of the younger cousins a book.  These books became some of my most treasured gifts.  They are still on my bookshelf at my parent’s house.  The books he gave me transported me to the world of he fairy tales of my youth: Jack’s beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood’s forest, etc.  They transported me to the fairy tells of Russia and the Ice Princess.  And I remember falling in love with Scheherazade and her tales of Arabian Nights.  Mark Twain took me on journeys with Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Prince Edward and the pauper boy, and the Connecticut Yankee who found himself at King Arthur's Court.
Then there was the summer that I discovered Sidney Sheldon novels.  I read every one of his books that summer.  The remarkable thing is that I haven’t read one since.  I think I got it out of my system, LOL, but what an adventure that had been.  I think I was 12 or 13 that summer.  Of course, being a southerner, then came the legal dramas of John Grisham.  I fell in love with fast-paced thrillers and have since then. 
Mark ChildressThen I read the book that was THE book for me.  My aunt had checked it out of the library and I read the first few pages and was hooked.  I had to have that book.  My aunt went to the bookstore and bought me an autographed copy.  It is very much a treasured possession.  You are probably asking what book it is?  Have I got your curiosity up?  Well the book was Mark Childress’s Crazy in Alabama.  Now if you have never read the book, or if perchance you saw the movie, then you are probably thinking WTF!  This book spoke to me like no other.  The town is actually based on my hometown even down to using real people from the town in it.  The Southern speech patterns were dead on and so was the lingo.  Childress had actually spent part of his years growing up not far from where I did.  It was like picking up a book in which the characters instantly became your neighbors, except that this was in the 1990s and the book took place in the 1960s.  I was in awe and began to read more that Mark Childress had written.  V for Victor, A World Made of Fire, though I never actually read Tender.  I loved his books though and as each new book came out, I read it.  I currently have his newest book Georgia Bottoms in my stack of books to read over the next few weeks.  By far, Mark Childress is my favorite author.
Greg HerrenI guess next on my list is the New Orleans writer Greg Herren.  Herren also occasionally writes as Todd Gregory. In fact as I started writing this post, I was reading a book by Todd Gregory, Games Frat Boys Play which is sort of a sequel to his other novel Every Frat Boy Wants It.  When I first read Every Frat Boy Wants It a few years ago, I immediately thought that the author’s tone and cadence were much like that of Greg Herren.  According to their biographies, they were both New Orleans authors.  It was only recently that I read on Herren’s blog (Queer and Loathing in America, or Dealing with the Stupids) that I found out that my suspicions were correct.  Greg Herren has a unique style which I love and there are a few things in nearly all of his books that give him away: his apparent disdain for the Churches of Christ, the frequent mention of my graduate school, and a few other oddities that I have picked up from reading his books.  Currently, I have read nearly everything he has written that I can put my hands on (with the exception of his blog, which I haven’t read all of yet).  I have read all of the Chanse MacLeod Mysteries and all of his Scotty Bradley Mysteries, with the exception of the most recent one, Who Dat Whodunnit, which I only got in the mail a few days ago and is currently in my stack of books to read.  If you have never read any books by Greg Herren, the mysteries are a fun read, and the Todd Gregory books are hot, steamy, sexy romps.  His novellas and short stories are also well worth reading.
leon_donnaNumber three on my list would have to be Donna Leon, a American expatriate living in Venice, Italy who write about the fictional Venetian Commissario Guido Brunetti. Unlike Childress or Herrin, Leon’s books are a slower read, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.  The books are intricate, somewhat slow paced, much like the Italian bureaucracy it describes.  The are a delight to read, not only for the descriptions of Venice or or for Brunetti himself, but for the beauty of Leon’s writing.  Donna Leon is  winner of the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, among other awards, Leon was born in New Jersey and has lived in Venice for thirty years.  Donna Leon is the ideal author for people who vaguely long for a ‘good mystery.’ That Leon is also a brilliant writer should only add to the consistently comforting appeal of her Venetian procedurals featuring Commissario Guido Brunneti. Leon allows her warmhearted detective to take what solace he can from the beauty of his city and the homely domestic rituals that give him the strength to go on
Sarah-Durant-AuthorMy next author is another woman, which is Sarah Durant.  Her books, The Birth of Venus (2003), In the Company of the Courtesan (2006), and Sacred Hearts (2009) are some of the best historical fiction that I have ever read.  The main characters are strong women who are not your typical heroines, but they draw you into their lives that are weaved through the fabric of the Italian Renaissance.  Durant is another absolutely beautiful writer and is also a writer than you cannot put the book down until you have finished it.  Her next book, Blood & Beauty: The Borgias, is not scheduled for release until July 2012, but I already can’t wait to read it.  Sarah Dunant’s tireless research has resulted in vivid reconstructions of women's secret histories in the characters of a Florentine Noblewoman, a Venetian Courtesan and with Sacred Hearts the spellbinding and fascinating lives of the Sisters of Santa Caterina.
LarsonErikThe fifth and final author of my favorites list is not a fiction author at all, but a writer of non-fiction, Erik Larson.  I picked up his book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (2003)  in 2005, I remember because it was right after Hurricane Katrina, and I was living in the dorms because my house had been destroyed. There had been so much buzz about the book, that I thought I would check it out for myself.  I started reading this book and could not put it down.  I mean that quite literally, I could not stop reading until I finished it.  I then read his 2006 book Thunderstruck and though I could put this one down, I was never the less blown away at how richly Larson was able to write about history.  Later, I finally picked up Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History from 1999.  Since it was written before The Devil in the White City I had not expected much from it.  I was vastly mistaken. It was every bit as good as The Devil in the White City and in my opinion better than Thunderstruck.  His newest book, In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and An American Family in Hitler's Berlin (2011) is in my most wanted books list right behind David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.
By far this is not a total list of the authors I love. I must mention Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, and many others. And of course for history, no author can as richly describe a point in time as Barbara Tuchman can, whose first few pages of her acclaimed book The Guns of August are the greatest and most vivid writing I have ever experienced. I also cant’ forget some of my favorite contemporary novelists: Harry Turtledove (The Great War Series), Will Adams, Jason Goodwin, Steve Berry, and so many others.  The authors that I have mentioned, especially the contemporary ones are the ones that I cannot go without reading and acquiring their newest books.  Hi, I’m Joe, and I am a Bibliophile.

Who are your top five favorite writers?

9 comments:

Uncutplus said...

Reynolds Price
Thomas Hardy
Ernest Hemingway
David McCullough
John Fowles
Paul Theroux
John Updike
Clyde Edgerton

...sorry, couldn't stop at five!

Loki's Log said...

Awesome post man. Haven't read some of your favorites but have just ordered a few. Here are my favorite five:

T.C. Boyle
Tom Perotta
Larry Brown
Michael Perry
Junot Diaz
Frank Conroy
J.K. Rowling

Well ok, my top seven:)

JoeBlow said...

Great authors, Uncutplus. I have read something by each of them except John Fowles and Paul Theroux. I'll have to check them out. I'm enjoying McCullough's new book right now.

LOL, It was hard for me to stop at just five, but these five are the ones that I have to read as soon as a new book comes out, and I can get my hands on it. I'm going to have to look into your favorites too. That is part of the reason I asked. I love to find new authors. Let me know how you like the books you ordered.

Mark Childress said...

Why thank you, Joe Blow. I'm glad you like my books. Let me know what you think about "Georgia."

JoeBlow said...

You are most welcome, Mark. I loved "Georgia Bottoms" and laughed until I hurt. I have to say though that the end, nearly broke my heart. Few books leave me in a daze when I finish them like "Georgia" did, though "One Mississippi" affected me the same way. I do love your books and can't wait to see what you come up with next.

Joe

Loki's Log said...

Joe

I just finished a very long flight to Asia and thank God I had Mark Childress's Georgia Bottoms to keep me company. It was such a great read -- humorous with just a bit of pathos -- southern. I loved that his characters were very real and didn't come across as characatures as you'll find in some southern literature. I can't wait to read his other works thanks fort the tip.

JoeBlow said...

Loki, I'm so glad that you liked it. I felt the same way. I would suggest that you read "Crazy in Alabama" next. It is more similar to "Georgia Bottoms." Though I have loved all of the ones I have read, those are my two favorites.

Uncutplus said...

Joe and Loki,

Because of you two, I just read Georgia Bottoms and you were correct that it is excellent Southern fiction!

JoeBlow said...

Uncutplus, I am glad that you liked it. Childress is such a fun writer to read, he always makes them a joy.