That’s Who I Am

I was perusing the archives over at a review website and came across this challenge:

Compile a short list of books specifically meant to help somebody understand you. These are not (necessarily) non-fiction books that catalog your particular disorders or quirks, but books that especially resonate with you, that express a facet of you in book form.

It especially resonated and so I shall now compile my own list.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: I’ve done two productions of this play and it really changed my life in substantial and totally different ways both times. For one thing it brought me to me first love (for which I will always be eternally grateful to the Bard). Also, it gave me my most long lived nickname, and what’s more defining than that?

Tithe by Holly Black: I have some kind of unreasonable pride in the fact that I found her and this book all on my own. I read Spiderwick and I loved it, so I looked at her other stuff and I found Tithe. My world literally changed. This book appeared to me right about the time I realized I wanted to be a novelist and here was this hip young writer who talks like I talk (I’ve met her, you know. *preens*) and writes books like I want to write. This book symbolizes to me a convocation of circumstances that solidified for me, finally, What I Want to Do.

The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters: I started out just picking one but that’s impossible because I love the whole series and at least 5 or 6 of them are some of my favorite books of all time. Cadfael. Hugh. Aline. Radulfus. Olivier (yum). They feel like real people. They make you wish you were in the Middle Ages just so you could pop over to Cadfael’s herb garden and have a spot of his homemade wines. And that’s with a massive civil war and at least one murder in every book. They are that good. More than that, though. Ellis Peters knew her stuff. There’s some deep thinking hidden behind the cosy murder mystery format. On life, on love, on religion. There are deep insights and deep questions that she tackles and some of her answers are so, so good.

The Talisman Ring and These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer: I had to pick two Heyers because really, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Heyer I didn’t like. The woman really was a freaking genius. If I could ever write characters like her then I could call myself a writer. So, The Talisman Ring makes this list because it was the first Heyer I ever read and, like so many that followed, I was rolling around laughing like an idiot. The scene with “Lucy” OMG!!! I nearly died. I’m not even exaggerating. (If you haven’t ever read any Heyer go out, buy some, read it. Now!)

These Old Shades makes this list in part because it is probably one of the most re-readable books I’ve ever read. Justin? Leonie? They never get old. Hilarious and fast-paced. Fun and searingly romantic. Also, I totally want to glomp Justin. I’m not even kidding. If the man wasn’t a fictional character Leonie would be in trouble because I would be all over his Dukeness. Like whoa. 😀

Heyer is important to me because she to me exemplifies a truly virtuoso  author. She can write arch, witty, roll on the floor laughing dialogue like no one’s business. She also, with only a few quick sentences, maybe a flash of dialogue, can establish a character more vividly and firmly in your mind’s eye than any author I’ve probably ever read. And she makes it look flawless and, more important, she makes it looks good.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman: I want to say that this was the first one of his that I read…that doesn’t seem right, though. It might have been Neverwhere. This book, though, oh, where to begin? It is my very favorite book that I have ever read and I bow down to the altar of the peerless Neil Gaiman. The man has talent and pure genius oozing out of his pores AND he’s adorkable with a great accent. The book, though, Shadow, Wednesday, Mr. Nancy- oh!oh! Words fail me to express my love. American Gods is doubly remarkable because (with the exception of a graphic autopsy and a hit and run scene) I have reread this book many times and NEVER SKIMMED ANY PORTION OF IT! And this novel is one heck of a doorstop, let me tell you, no slim little paperback. Rereading this book is a commitment, mentally, emotionally and physically as you lug the thing around. It’s worth it, though, and I’ve read it probably at least five times now. It also lacks many elements that I generally regard as essentials to my reading material: 1) There will be a romance and 1a) It will end happily. Now, not to spoil things but Shadow’s wife is a real piece of work that I long to hit with a shovel. The ending is satisfying but certainly not a Super-Mega HEA. And yet I love this book, and I reread it at least once or twice a year. That’s not just infatuation there, that’s true love.

And now I think a Top Five is more than sufficient, don’t you? Now, what are yours, and why?

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