Today I wanted to share some of my favorite books.
My all-time favorite novel is Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. I discovered it when I was in high school and since then I think I've read it about ten times. Every time, I am enthralled by Heinlein's rich futuristic world that somehow encapsulates the nuances of the 60's (at least, how I envision the 60's). For me, the book is also special because it marks the first time I was able to see, as someone who aspired to become a writer, how a book could contain a powerful universal message without sacrificing the story.
Next on my list a two-way tie for second place, between J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Black Company by Glen Cook. These two novels are the bookends in my fantasy pantheon.
Tolkien's epic opus is a piece of remarkable scope. I've heard it said by professionals in the industry that a book/trilogy like LotR couldn't be published today. It's too ambitious. Too different, or it was at the time of its publication. And yet, nearly every fantasy author I know claims it as an important influence. I try to read the triology every few years. It's almost like a pilgrimage. While I don't write anything like the late Mr. Tolkien, I can appreciate the richness of his language, and the dedication to devote such a large part of one's life to an imaginary world.
The Black Company, by contrast, is a series of such grit and nastiness that it can almost be considered the anti-Tolkien. I call it fantastic realism, and it's a school of thought I follow with vigor. On the surface, TBC is almost simplistic. The names of the characters (Goblin, Croaker, Silent, Lady) and setting (cities such as Opal and Charm) are so plain as to be descriptive, but deep currents stir beneath the surface. Intrigue plagues the Company from start to finish and you can never be quite sure where anyone's loyalties lie, which makes for a delicious read.
That's it for today. Stay posted for some of my favorite (and least) movies.
Edit: I forgot one of my favorite books from outside the genre.
In Anna Karenina (better than his more-famous War and Peace in my humble opinion), Tolstoy explores themes of marriage and fidelity. His command of language and pure human emotion is out of this world. It's really a book that a writer has to hate on some level, because you realize as you're reading it that you will never write anything half this good. But then, Tolstoy is a master.