The Booker Award: Favorite Books

We become friends with book characters. We wonder what they’re doing during those times when we’re not reading. They are real to us. The Booker Award is “for those who refuse to live in the real world,” which is a perfect description of all readers everywhere.

There hasn’t been enough time to tackle awards lately, but I felt compelled to post this one because its focus is favorite books. The Booker Award was given to me by Amira. She lives in Maldives and writes from the heart about life. I’m glad we’ve gotten to know each other this way. From one living outside of the real world to another, thank you for thinking of me for this.

The rules are to list five favorite books and to include why we loved them before passing the award on to five others. Most of my all-time favorites are classics, but I’ve tried to think of more modern or obscure favorites for this.

The Passion Dream Book by Whitney Otto

This book is about the passion of art and artists during different renaissance periods. It opens with the Italian Renaissance and a woman who spies on Michelangelo while he creates David. At one point, she picks up a curl of marble from the floor of his studio and pockets it. Then in 1918, her descendant carries the marble curl with her without knowing its history. This main character, Romy, lets her art consume her as she moves from place to place based on the art scene at the time (Hollywood, Harlem, Paris, San Francisco). Here’s one of the many excerpts I love: “Romy has always been what might be called a private rebel, that is, her contrary manner is not apparent but hidden, dormant, closeted until the day arrives when it expresses itself and everyone says, shocked, ‘What’s gotten into her?’ When, of course, it was there all along.”

Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card

I read this a long time ago but it’s stayed with me because of its futuristic and historic vision. In the future, people learn history by watching the past. Once they devise a way to travel back in time, they decide to correct history with the goal of creating a better world. The focus is on Columbus and what would have happened if Europeans hadn’t been able to decimate the New World cultures. I loved everything about this book.

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

This is set in Boston after World War I and shows the time period so well that by the end, I felt like I had lived through all of it with the characters. They struggle with industrialization, class, and race issues while trying to make a difference in an increasingly complicated world.

The book opens with Babe Ruth and he becomes a fun side character. Descriptions of the Great Molasses Flood alone are worth the read.

As It Is In Heaven by Niall Williams

This book has some of the best descriptions of love and loneliness that I’ve ever read. The main character is transformed when he hears a woman play the violin at a small concert in Ireland. Here’s an excerpt describing the main character’s father: “For the measure of his pain in losing Anne Nolan was the measure of his love; perhaps if he had loved her less he might have endured the world better afterwards; perhaps it was never intended that we give ourselves so much to one person that the vanishing of their face makes us feel the world is only a shadow. So, as he sat there in his armchair looking towards the street, he prayed that his son would feel the emptiness of the kitchen like a pain, and somehow realize he must not love too deeply.”

The Falling Woman by Pat Murphy

I just read this one a little while ago. It’s about an archaeologist who sees the shadows of ancient people everywhere around her. While researching a Mayan field site in Mexico, the shadows become more real to her than the people in her life. Here’s an excerpt: “Do not look for revelations in the ancient ruins. You will find here only what you bring: bits of memory, wisps of the past as thin as clouds in the summer, fragments of stone that are carved with symbols that sometimes almost make sense.”

Now it’s time to pass the award to:

4am Writer
Carrie Rubin
Kasia James
The Edmonton Tourist

I’m always looking for more book suggestions…

What are some books that have stayed with you through the years? Have you read any of the books listed here? What did you think of them?

A Few Favorite Books and Why I Love Them

Melk Benedictine Abbey Library

Image via Wikipedia

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks / And all the sweet serenity of books.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.”  
– Jorge Luis Borges

Libraries are filled with endless possibilities. Whenever I walk into one, I wish I could read every book. Yet no matter how many books I manage to read, my list of all-time favorites has stayed pretty much the same for a while now. Here’s the list so far:

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
The Stand by Stephen King
Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
Contact by Carl Sagan
Ireland: A Novel by Frank Delaney
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card
The Given Day: A Novel by Dennis Lehane
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Even though they’re fiction, I’ve learned something from all of these books. Others have been entertaining to read but it’s always a little disappointing to me if I feel like I haven’t learned anything by the end of a book, whether it’s something about a certain time period or the universe or people or even myself.

I love books that pay attention to language and the sound of language. One of the pleasures of reading is to stumble on a perfect sentence or paragraph that illuminates everything. The Grapes of Wrath and All the King’s Men are full of phrases like that. They’re masterpieces and I’m in awe of the authors every time I read those books. Cannery Row is much shorter but it’s still a masterpiece. I love the descriptions of people, from the very first paragraph on.

Maybe I’m a little obsessed with the apocalypse, but Earth Abides is a book that helped me learn more about myself. Different traditions or customs slip away in the post-apocalyptic world, and I was surprised at how upset I’d get whenever the characters let that happen. Then I’d catch myself and wonder why it was so upsetting. It made me realize how ingrained a culture can become. The Stand is also about the apocalypse but its greatness is more in the way the characters are described.

I love Contact for everything it says about the universe and people. Ireland: A Novel weaves history and myths into an already interesting story and the storyteller character is perfect. Pastwatch shows the effects history has on people while imagining a different world if only some events could be revisited and corrected. The Given Day: A Novel describes the time period after World War I so well that I felt like I lived through it with the characters. The descriptions of the Great Molasses Flood alone are worth the read.

People seem to either love or hate A Confederacy of Dunces. I thought it was one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Everyone in this book is a true character and I love how they all affect each other in different ways.

What are some of your favorites and what kinds of things do you look for in a favorite book?