Wednesday, December 7, 2016

#FreeWriteChallenge Day 22 - Packing Books to Read in Ten Years

A Box of Incredible—Or Books
(Which is the Same Thing)

Today’s topic is “If you packed a box of books for yourself so you could read them ten years into the future, what would you pick?”

Hmmm ... Just how big is this box, anyway?

I’m a big reader. I read new books all the time. I’m an editor, so I get the chance to read books before they’re even published. I also like to review, specifically for other indie authors, so I am always reading something I’ve never read before.

I like to re-read a lot as well. There are some books that give me a certain feel, put me in a certain kind of mood and I like to revisit them. Sometimes I re-read an entire book, other times I go back to certain passages or chapters. Every single book on this list is one that I’ve read before. Some of them only once, others have been picked up on numerous occasions. These are the books I’ll want with me in ten years. I warn you, it’s not a short list, and I haven’t written it out in any kind of order.

Anyone who’s known me for even a short while knows that I have a huge soft spot in my heart taken up by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. It sounds almost cliché to say this is my favorite book, but, well, it is. When things go all pear shaped in my world, I grab this book. It makes things right for me again. It’s been there for me during some of my most difficult times. I’ve also read Go Set a Watchman, and, while it isn’t as special to me as Mockingbird, it will be in the box as well.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l’Engle. I haven’t read this one in a few years, not since my daughter’s English curriculum listed it as a book she had to read for eighth grade. I was heartbroken when she didn’t devour this novel as I had at her age. She had to work hard to finish it. I read it along with her and loved it as much then as I had in middle school. I’m thinking I’ll enjoy it all over again ten years from now.

On Folly Beach by Karen White. I’m a big Karen White fan. She writes southern fiction which is a genre I love to read. There are many books written by this author that I am very fond of, but this is one I continually go back to. She has two story lines going on at the same time, both set in Charleston, South Carolina, but one set during WWII and one set in the present. I love the way she weaves them, then brings them together at the end.

Billy Purgatory: I Am the Devil Bird and Billy Purgatory and the Curse of the Satanic Five by Jesse James Freeman. It’s hard to explain just how much I love these books. In one of my reviews I called them ‘crazy wonderful’. I still think that encompasses these novels pretty accurately. Billy’s world is one I find myself visiting on a regular basis. It’s unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. The writing in these novels is unapologetic, filled with emotion, humor and limitless imagination. I absolutely love the feel of these books and can’t wait for more from this extraordinarily talented author.

The Blood Ties series by Jennifer Armintrout is one that I’ve read many, many times. This story is dark and somewhat violent, which is not something that usually draws me, but there are many aspects to this tale that I find intriguing. Armintrout has written some very complex characters here, and, while it’s very unlike most of the other books I like to read, sometimes this is exactly the kind of thing that I’m in the mood for.  

The Scandalous Summer of Sissy le Blanc by Loraine Despres will always be one of my favorite novels. This is another southern fiction book, set in Louisiana in 1956. Sissy has been controlled by people and circumstances her entire life. She’s tired of being passive, tired of having everything decided for her … and one summer she goes about changing all of that. It’s a sweet and sassy story filled with a few unexpected surprises and all kinds of scandalous fun.  

The Scott Wolfe series by S.L. Shelton. This was another surprise for me. I’m not one for spy thrillers—or I never used to be—until I read S.L. Shelton. He is a talented manipulator. He has the unique ability to make me sad, piss me off, stress me out and make me happy with his novels … and I’m so grateful that he does. My favorite book of the series is Predator’s Game, which is number six, but I love them all. Every single installment is amazing, and together they make a stellar series. 

Hedged is another novel written by S.L. Shelton that I'll need with me in ten years. This is a crime thriller and not a part of the Scott Wolfe series. There are a lot of reasons why this book is special to me. It’s just as spectacular as Shelton’s other novels, but altogether different.

The Dulcie O’Neil series by H.P. Mallory. I’m not even sure how to categorize these books. Paranormal Romance perhaps? It’s all about a kick ass fairy who’s a Regulator. (That’s a law-enforcement agent who monitors the creatures of the Netherworld and keeps them from making trouble in the mortal world.) Why do I like it? Well, H.P. Mallory has a sense of humor for one thing. She also writes smart, strong female characters. That’s a combination I find very entertaining. This is only one series Mallory has written. I’ve enjoyed them all, but there’s just something different about Dulcie.

Rick Riordian’s Percy Jackson series. I’m a sucker for Greek mythology. I have been since I was young. My dad’s family is Greek and I grew up hearing many of the stories from  Mt. Olympus. I even write them myself. My son introduced me to this series back when he was about six or seven. He’s read all of them as have I. Admittedly, I probably like them more than he does, but that’s not surprising. I’m a fan of a lot of YA books. There’s something so beguiling about this series, and it doesn’t seem to wear off, no matter how many times I read it.

I was introduced to Sarah Addison Allen about six years ago. I'm not sure I can choose just one of her books to put in the box, so I won't. I'll take them all. She's another southern fiction writer that I enjoy. Her books are a little different than most that I've read. There's always an element of magic mixed in with her stories, along with romance and small country charm. If I want to read something uplifting, any of Allen's novels satisfy that need. 

And that brings me to my all-time favorite author, James Lee Burke. In my opinion, Burke is a literary god. Dramatic? Probably, but we all like what we like, right? (As a side note—another author on this list, Jesse James Freeman, reminds me a lot of Burke. They both have a lyrical quality to their writing that captivates and enchants me.) He’s written thirty-seven novels, but the twenty I love the most make up his Dave Robicheaux series. I don’t think Burke can be described as a southern fiction writer—at least not exclusively. This series takes place in Iberia Parish, Louisiana, but this is not the only setting for his novels. It centers around a police detective who is a recovering alcoholic. He’s always fighting demons; either from his time in Vietnam, the criminals he puts behind bars or other sordid people and places from his past. This character, Dave Robicheaux, is deeply flawed, but he’s written in such a realistic way. He reminds me a little of my dad. I love him and I hate him—which is something I recognize, but don’t really want to contemplate too much—and the books are oftentimes dark and emotional. Burke has the ability to transport me into his novels. I get lost in them. His writing makes me happy—even when his subject matter is decidedly unhappy—and satisfies me in ways few other writers can.

That will have to be one very large box, indeed. Probably a reinforced trunk with an easy lock so that I can dip into it many times between now and that ten-year mark.