Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Raise Your Hand if You Like Lists

I joined a Mom’s Group at the UU church and we meet about once a month. It’s been nice to get to know the other ladies there, especially since we’ve been so crap about actually going to service every week this winter. I still find it kind of unsettling to be attending any kind of organized religious anything but I think it’s important for the kids to get the experience. Going to church of any kind is a normalizing experience in the US and there are so many young kids in the small congregation. It’s really great seeing how much fun they have.

The common ground for all us moms is that we seem to all be big readers. So we decided that for our next meeting, we’d share our top fives. Obviously I couldn’t come up with just five...

Favorite Standalone Novels
Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
I think this one is self-explanatory. Anyone that’s followed me over to LJ and read my various Farscape and Babylon 5 posts knows how much I love this book. I’ve probably read it at least a dozen times. It’s been a few years and I really need to delve into it again. I always find something new.
Celestial Matters by Richard Garfinkle
Possibly my favorite book of all time. Recently re-reading it again really cemented for me why this is such a tough one to recommend though. I'm pretty much the perfect audience: comparative religion. Ancient Western and Ancient Eastern history. Hard science. Speculative fiction. Lots of hand to hand combat. Space. I mean, who else fits that specific intersections of loves? No really, are you out there? Who else loves this book as much as I do?
The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
Speaking of comparative religion, Ancient Eastern history, and speculative fiction…this is the pinnacle of alternative histories as far as I’m concerned. Let’s say that the Black Death killed 90% of Europe instead of “merely” 30%. That changes everything. And the way we get to travel through multiple eras in this new timeline is by following the same souls as they reincarnate into different characters in each period. It’s incredibly thought-provoking as well as a wonderful story.
Superfudge by Judy Blume
Sure, her other titles get more acclaim. But come on. “Eat it or wear it” is clearly the funniest scene of all time!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is the first book I started re-reading on a regular basis, back in junior high. I haven’t been through it in a number of years but it’s still as vivid in my head as if I just finished it yesterday.

Favorite Series
Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Again, do I really have to explain myself? Long before I had even head of TWoP I joined the HPforGrown-Ups egroup, just for speculation. It was my first online fandom and I still love over-analyzing every aspect of it.
Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
I discovered this series back in the mid-90s thanks to a sort of unofficial book club with my field crew at the time. Someone loaned me the first trilogy and I was hooked. The dragons were awesome enough but then there are fire lizards, too? And everyone can have one? WANT! They’re like kitties, but psychic, and with teleportation. What’s not to like? Plus then the series turned out to have a sci-fi explanation for all the fantasy elements? LOVE!
Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson
This is hard science fiction at its best. There’s a good reason this series is much loved by actual rocket scientists: this is what colonizing Mars would *actually* be like. But on top of the factual basis are some of the most compelling characters and exciting adventures. I wanted to sign up for a Mars mission for a very long time after finishing this.
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
Long before I ever knew what “shipping” was, I used to daydream about Anne and Gilbert finally getting together and living happily ever after. Thanks to a recent complete re-read, I can honestly say this series hold ups to your girlhood memories.
Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire. No seriously. Look him up in the Chicago phone book. He’ll find your lost items but he doesn’t do love potions. Of course each book finds his seemingly innocuous case leading him into something much bigger and more deadly. The world building continues to grow and the sideline characters are being fleshed out in ways not often seen in such a long-running series. The most recently published title, punnily enough, changes everything, and I suspect the series is going to take a rather much more muchier epic tone as Butcher builds to his promised finale trilogy. The publication date of the next book cannot possibly get here fast enough.

Favorite Graphic Novels
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
Don’t give me any of that “But I don’t like comic books” crap. This is illustrated story-telling for literature nerds. Every single panel has a reference to something brilliant from some other source. Every single character is taken from a Victorian novel and set free from the constraints of their native pages to have adventures of their own. Mina Harker, Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Mr. Hyde, and Alan Quatermaine join together under the direction of Mycroft Holmes to fight steampunk baddies. It’s sheer brilliance.
Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar
Tremendously inventive reimagining of the Superman mythos: what if baby Kal-El landed in Soviet Russian instead of Kansas? All the usual suspects show up, from Wonder Woman to Lex Luthor and Lois Lane. Plus a twist ending that will make you gasp.
Hellboy by Mike Mignola
This is dark humor at its best. Hellboy is everything great about film noir and hard boiled detectives, all while also being the actual literal demon of the apocalypse. His personal story arc is moving and compelling and the side characters get their own focus in the continuation spin-off BPRD.
Mixed Vegetables by Ayumi Komura
Don’t let the “backwards” manga format scare you. These characters jump off the page. Hana and Hayato are students at a Toyko culinary high school. Hana dreams of being a sushi chef but her father expects her to take over his pastry shop. Hayato dreams of being a pastry chef but his father expects him to take over his sushi shop. Star-crossed lover antics ensue, along with lots of great follow-your-dreams messages and yes, a happy ending. Yay!
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
The book that made the general public pay attention to comics. Every superhero trope ever set to page is turned on its head. The alternate 80s setting still resonates today. And the characters have as many flaws as we regularly expect from our serialized television dramas. Plus superpowers and aliens and world domination plots.

And now I find myself wondering what other sorts of categories I should do top fives for. Alternate Histories? Non-Fiction? Young Adult? Eighteenth Century Sailing Adventures?