Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tuesday Twelve

No, it’s not a Thursday thirteen, but then it’s not Thursday either. I’m blogging on a Tuesday so I’m working with the material I’ve got. I decided to do the twelve works of fiction I think have been most influential on my life and writing:

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien – I read it while in college in the early 70s and it blew me away with the richness and scope of its worlds, the variety of its characters, and the intricately woven plot.

2. All of the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout – My father had these in his library and I devoured them in my early teens. I blame them for my lifelong interest in mysteries.

3. All of Agatha Christie’s books – ditto the above.

4. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke – The first science fiction novel I can remember reading, also during my teenage years. It was a mind-bending experience and was responsible for my enduring interest in that genre.

5. Madam Will You Talk, Mary Stewart – the rest of her books also, but this was the first one I read and I fell in love with the romantic suspense genre.

6. The Devil Vicar (later re-released as The Vicar of Moura - blech!), Virginia Coffman. A little-known and forgotten novel that introduced me to the world of Gothic romances, somewhere in my teenage years. Creepy atmosphere, strong heroine with a sense of humor, charming but tortured hero--with secrets, of course. Another genre to love.

7. Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen – Wow, real literature could include romance, humor, and irony, and just be fun to read!

8. Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens – Loved the characters, the tone, the plot, and the fact that Dickens didn’t feel obliged to make it a tragedy. Sparked my discovery that I really liked the Victorian novelists.

9. Can You Forgive Her?, Anthony Trollope – Led to my reading all the Trollope novels I could get my hands on. Great characters, amazing plot depth, a feeling of real truth in the people and situations.

10. MacBeth, William Shakespeare. Read it in high school lit class where we were blessed with Mrs. Kane, an English teacher who knew how to make literature come alive. She read it aloud and we saw a performance of it that finally showed me what everyone saw in Shakespeare. Magnificent characters, terrible dilemmas, wrong choices, and dire consequences. And witches and ghosts, too. Who knew Shakespeare wrote paranormal?

11. Ammie, Come Home, Barbara Michaels. It was the first of her books I read but I then tore through all the others I could get my hands on. Gothic with a more modern twist. Strong, intelligent female characters who didn’t do stupid things for the sake of the plot. Brooding heroes with real problems. And paranormal elements! Ammie, Come Home remains one of the scariest ghost stories I’ve ever read, but it’s combined with a lovely romance (actually two, but one is less developed) featuring interesting and very different characters.

12. Only a Whisper, Gail Wilson. I’d all but given up on reading series romances until I found this gem. It breaks a lot of rules. The heroine (and readers) don’t get to see the hero’s face until halfway through the story. The h/h aren’t together for stretches of the book. The hero is morally ambiguous for a lot of the story. With all that, the story still grabbed me by the throat almost from the first word and refused to let go until it reached its marvelous ending. I’d rate it among the best romances I’ve ever read.

What books helped shape your current reading and writing?

-- Karen McCullough

10 comments:

TJ Michaels said...

Man this is a tough one - I read so many great books growing up it's difficult to widdle them down to just a few. Let me think...

TJ
www.tjmichaels.com

Anita Birt said...

I adored Anne of Green Gables. I loved the Maxie books my mother wrote. All of John Buchan's mysteries, The Thirty-Nine Steps, The Dancing Floor,Prester John, etc. Kim by Rudyard Kipling.
Macbeth, Julius Caesar.

Now I read widely romance, mystery, science (not fiction!)And three newspapers every single day! Gotta keep up

Jacquelyn Frank said...

Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little house books. Mostly LIW. I was convinced I was her, reincarnated. I still read those books over and over. Especially The Long Winter. You could just FEEL the family starving and freezing and the horrible monotony....and then the handsome Almanzo Wilder saves the town!! WOOHOO!!

Lise said...

Gaudy Night (Dorothy L. Sayres); To Kill A Mockingbird; The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter; Scruples; The Scarlet Letter; The Wolf and the Dove; The Awakening (Kate Chopin); The Daughter of Time (by Josephine Tey); The Sound and the Fury; Tennessee Williams' plays; Shakespeare's Plays (yep, I know that's 10). Also, John D. McDonald mysteries. Modesty

Karen McCullough said...

TJ, I had a tough time with it, too. Hard to wittle them down and I know I left a few off that probably should have been on there.

Anita, I've never read Anne of Green Gables, but so many people have recommended them, I think I need to. Your mother wrote books, too? How neat!

Jacki, I almost put Nancy Drew on my list, too. I devoured Nancy and the Hardy boys. And, oh yes, Almonzo!

Lise, I almost put Gaudy Night on my list, too. I loved all the Lord Peter books. In fact, I want to re-read them all now.

mary ann chulick said...

I love Anne of Green Gables too. I think I have all of them, which I collected at garage sales before they were available in paperback.
I don't see Ammie Come Home mentioned very often, but that's a great book. I read that one as a Reader's Digest condensed when I was a teen.

Ann Bruce said...

Am I the only philistine who hasn't read Jane Austen?

*sigh*

I'm more of a comic book reader, myself. I throw in the occasional Camus or Daniel Pennac to brush up on the French.

Maureen Fisher said...

I have always been a voracious reader. My first memory is of my grandmother holding me on her knee, reading to me. At age seven, I read Winnie the Pooh in a single sitting. A painfully shy child, I escaped into the fantasy world of books. Later, as an adult in a stressful profession, I turned to my loyal friends, books, to unwind--all manner of mysteries, thrillers, historicals, and adventures. I devoured them all. But my main escape from life’s challenges is, and always has been, romance fiction. The moment I opened my first Barbara Cartland novel, I knew I had found my genre.

Call it total escapism. In a world of growing uncertainty, constantly bombarded with news about disasters, tragedies, wars, murders, deaths, and corruption, I crave an antidote. A world of wonder, a world of falling in love, of unlimited possibilities, of overcoming impossible odds, and of living happily ever after is more to my liking. What better way to escape than to curl up in front of a fire with a cup of tea and a good romance novel?reen.com

Karen McCullough said...

Reen -- Katherine Kingston had a blog entry here last week called "Nora Says it All" in which she quotes two lines from one of Nora Roberts' novels that make exactly the point you're making. And that's why I love reading so much, too, and why I choose to read genre fiction most of the time. Real life is hard and sometimes we need a break from it.

N.J.Walters said...

That's tough. When I was a kid, I read the Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon books. Also, comics. My father used to buy us Classic Illustrated and Classic Illustrated Junior comics.

My dad also got me hooked on The Sackett series by Louis Lamour. Love those westerns.