Monday, January 18, 2016

Ask the Pals – What's Your Favorite Book of All Time and Why?


This is the first installment of a new feature we'll be running periodically. In it we'll ask BigAl and all the Pals a question and those who are willing will respond with an answer of a couple sentences to a couple paragraphs. (Except for Al. He's likely to go on and on for pages. That guy never shuts up.) You're welcome to suggest possible questions. To do so, email booksandpals(at)yahoo(dot)com with “Ask the Pals” in the subject line and we'll consider your suggestion for a future Ask the Pals post. Once we've had our say, feel free to weigh in with your answer to the same question in the comments.

Pete Barber

I’ve read Frank Herbert’s Dune at least five times. The story has a magnetic pull for me. A Hugo and Nebula award winner, Dune has sold over twelve million copies. I think the novel is more relevant today than it was on its release in 1965. At its heart is an epic adventure that deals with the consequences to a planet’s ecology when humans abuse finite resources for short term gain. In addition, the technologically advanced civilization responsible for asset stripping is threatened by ruthless religious fanatics who are waging a brutal jihad. Any of this sound familiar? Here’s what one of Mr. Herbert’s characters has to say:

You cannot go on forever stealing what you need without regard to those who come after. The physical qualities of a planet are written into its economic and political record. We have the record before us and our course is obvious.

As the central character, Paul Atreides, grows in stature and ability, he is tortured by a constant and desperate internal struggle and eventually forced to choose a path he regrets. Surely one of the most conflicted characters I’ve ever read. I’m not sure I ever liked Paul, but I felt great empathy for him and understood why he made the decisions he did.

The author sets his story in a complex, multifaceted “world,” politically intricate and technologically advanced and yet strangely familiar and often vividly described—here’s a glimpse of the desert at sunset:

The sun dipped lower. Shadows stretched across the salt pan. Lines of wild color spread over the sunset horizon. Color streamed into a toe of darkness, testing the sand. Coal-colored shadows spread, and the thick collapse of night blotted the desert.

Pigeon-holing Dune as sci-fi does the story a great disservice. If you haven’t read the novel then I’m jealous, because you have a treat in store that I can never again experience—the first time is always the best.

Keith Nixon

Absolutely impossible to say as my tastes have changed over the years, but Black & Blue by Ian Rankin sent me down the path of crime novels that's now pretty much all consuming.

?wazithinkin

I don’t have a single favorite book. It all depends on my mood. I loved Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series. Until Echo in the Bone. It kinda pissed me off, so I have tossed her aside and haven’t read the last one. Yes, I can be fickle when you mess with my characters or their writing style changes mid-series.

I really like Patricia Briggs, Jeaniene Frost, and Ilona Andrews. However, I have fallen behind on their series books because I am enjoying too many new Indie authors who write paranormal, urban fantasy, magical realism, or myth related stories.

Oh, I got distracted. My favorite books of all time will always be from Dr.Seuss. Why? He is classic, smart, and endearing. I read them all to my kids and my grandkids. Sure, I could have said The Neverending Story, The Indian in the Cupboard, The Princess Bride, Lord of the Rings, or even Harry Potter. But Dr. Seuss was first and foremost.

BigAl

My normal answer to this question has been To Kill a Mockingbird. I had a lot of reasons for picking that. One is the obvious one, it's a great story with some lessons that we could all learn from, whether you're an ancient old man like me or a teen (how old I was when I read it). It was also a pick I couldn't imagine anyone would argue wasn't a reasonable choice, even if it wasn't what they would pick. Last, it gave me the opportunity to go on a rant about it not being available as an ebook. The last is no longer true. It's been on my Kindle since the release date. I rarely re-read fiction. Plus, my virtual stack of new books to read is always so high that I haven't gotten to it yet. Maybe some day.

Your Turn


What is your pick? And remember to email to the address above with your suggestions for future questions.

23 comments:

Madeleine Sara said...

Good question, over the years this has changed maybe depending on my experiences/ needs at the time. At the moment I would say The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. A gripping edge of the seat read with a very original style and worth a second read.

Laurie Boris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurie Boris said...

Excellent question, although I have so many favorites. First off the top of my head is Anna Karenina, because I feel compelled to reread it at least every couple of years. It's tragic and lovely and quotable, and every time I read it I find some new, breathless gem that didn't connect with me before.

Melissa Bowersock said...

Best book on the planet is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. Irving is streaky and other books of his are not near as good, but this is a classic. I read it every year and have for about the last 20 years.

Malcolm Campbell said...

Dune and To Kill a Mocking Bird had a great impact on me, yet my favorite book is "The Killer Angels" because it had a very human touch in portraying what happened at the battle of Gettysburg. Among other things, the people fighting each other, knew each other. The novel was a Pulitzer Prize winner, but had less commercial success than it should have.

?wazithinkin said...

Madeleine Sara, The Chaos Walking trilogy looks very interesting. I added it to my Wish List.

Laurie Boris, I have had Anna Karenina in my archives ever sine I received my Kindle. I will read it some day. That's the plan anyway.

Melissa Bowersock, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving has been on my Wish List for a while now. BigAl just keeps me too busy.

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks for the comments. I haven't read any of these. Now I need more reading time, too. :)

What I find interesting is that about half of them, I haven't even heard of and I've only read one book by any of the authors. That was "The World According to Garp" and it was a long time ago. (I think when it first came out in paperback, before the Robin Williams movie.)

Lynne Cantwell said...

Good question! When I was a kid, my favorite book was Little Women. Then, starting in 8th grade and through college, it was Jane Eyre. Then I read the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, which is now up to ten books...

BooksAndPals said...

I've at least heard of two of those, Lynne. :)

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

My favorite ST book is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - the way that fits together always takes my breath away.

Which means I have to put Dune into Fantasy, so it can be #1.

Children's books: a book no one has ever heard of, The Other Side of the Moon by Meriol Trevor (who went on to write theology, which indicates the layers that are present). Even though I know what the real other side of the moon is like, I still yearn for hers after over a half century.

On The Beach - post apocalyptic, when that wasn't even a term. Still beautifully readable.

And Jane Eyre. For romance with integrity.

It's hard when you ask for a favorite of someone who has been reading 63 years now. Not fair!

Alicia

PS And Sherlock Holmes (only the original), and the novels of Dorothy Sayers.

Armen said...

Several ways to answer this one. The first book I read - the one that hooked me on reading - was The Hobbit. Most people view it as the least interesting of Tolkien's works, but without it I never would have become an avid reader or an author. I also really enjoyed Joe Haldeman's The Forever War. If I thought longer others would no doubt surface, but those two came up first.

Melinda said...

Some of the ones that made the biggest impression were books I read when I was a kid. Little Woman, Little House on the Prairie (the series, in both cases), Heidi, Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, White Fang - I could go on and on. As an adult a few of the ones on my list were mentioned above. I'll mention a few more, though - Flowers for Algernon, The Red Badge of Courage, The Scarlet Letter, Illusions, Travels with Charley. I have very eclectic tastes! Some more modern favorites are The Paris Wife, The Pilot's Wife, and The Poisonwood Bible.

Laurie Boris said...

Oh. The World According to Garp. That has to be among my top five.

Pete Barber said...

Wow, Al. This idea actually worked! I've sampled a few of the titles mentioned here already, and this post is gonna cause a big hit on my review timetable. Funny how ideas can have unintended consequences :-). I also enjoyed Flowers for Algernon, Melinda. The Forever War started brilliantly for me, Armen, but I did get a bit bogged down with the combat. I absolutely despised Garp. It takes all sorts I guess, Laurie.

?wazithinkin said...

Oh, I did love 'Flowers for Algernon' as well, Melinda and Pete! I can't remember when I read it, I want to say Jr. High but it must have been HS. The only real school related memory I can recall from Jr.H. is our teacher had us dissect and study Simon and Garfunkel's song 'A Bridge over Troubled Water' because we lived in California at that time and the 60's... True story!

BooksAndPals said...

Alicia, I know what you mean. You have me by a few years, but not many and I've always read a ton, from second grade (where I won the contest for reading the most books) until now at ???? a lot of years old. :)

Armen, I agree. I think most avid readers could keep naming books that are in the running for a long time. Kind of like ...

Melinda did. And you hit on a bunch I've read. Where the Red Fern Grows was one my Mom read to my siblings and I multiple times and I also read it myself. My senior year of high school I worked in a restaurant that was owned by one of the producers of the movie. (Strange combination of businesses.) He had some memorabilia hanging on the office wall that I'd often stop by and admire. Another one my Mom read to us was a series - I don't remember if the series or the first book had the title "The Great Brain," but I loved it. Some of those books really inspired my love for reading.

Now Pete and ?wazi, don't make me get out my whip. :)

BooksAndPals said...

Since I'm such a fan of travel narrative, I should also acknowledge Melinda listing the first travel book and the first book by Steinbeck. :) Yes, that's another one I read and liked. It's been a few years, but I was definitely an adult at the time.

?wazithinkin said...

Wait a minute... what did I say to deserve that dang whip, BigAl? That was all Pete, I didn't call him on it though. I'm not a tattle-tail!!! Geez...

BooksAndPals said...

In keeping with the theme of this post, I just saw an article about David Bowie as a reader. It includes a list of his "top 100" books:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/david-bowie-the-man-who-loved-books/

An interesting list. From a quick scan, I've read "1984", "On the Road", and five or six non-fiction books on his list ("In Cold Blood" and several books with history or commentary on popular music.)

owlworks said...

Since it is Oscar Season: The nominees for the bestest, most favorite book ever are: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Catch-22 by Joseph Heller; Little Big Man by Thomas Berger; and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. And the winner is…

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Maybe if Huckleberry Finn just had an airplane instead of a raft.

So it goes…

BooksAndPals said...

Now that's what I call a tough competition owlworks. I'd say Catch 22 won a Major Major award. :)

Brian Keelan said...

Where do I start. After a lot of thought I would have to say Lonesome Dove is my favorite all-time book. That's because Larry McMurtry - who won a Pulitzer Prize for this, so I am not alone - told such a great story and created such wonderful characters: Gus, Call, Deets, Pea-Eye, Clara and the rest.
I saw the movie and then read the book and am still torn as to which one is the best. Don't know of any other stories that can make that claim.

BooksAndPals said...

You're right, Brian. The movie rarely holds up in comparison to the book. At least not IMO. I've found if I watch the movie first it works out much better. I picture the actors who played the parts when I'm reading and, assuming the screenplay roughly follows the book, it is like I'm getting a more detailed story. The other way around and the characters don't look like I imagined, the movie doesn't show the deeper emotions and what is going on in a characters head as well, etc.