I'm going to try to keep this short, because I could go on and
on. I make no apologies for any of these books. I like them
because I like them. They each speak to me in some way and I
make no guarantees they'll speak to anyone else the same way.
That's the terrific thing about books. I'm also not going to
separate children's books from adult books because there's
little distinction for me as a reader. I look for the same
things, feel the same kind of enjoyment, regardless:
A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnette: This is my
favorite book in the whole wide world. It's a comfort read. I
usually pull it out and reread it when I'm sick in bed. I was
never able to warm to Mary Lennox, but I love Sara.
2. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee: I was forced to read
this book in high school and look! Here it is, my number two
favorite book in all the world. It just goes to show you.
3. THE PRINCESS BRIDE by William Goldman: I know, I know.
You've seen the movie. But if you liked the movie, you'll be
head-over-heels in love with the book.
Not convinced? Read this.
4. COLLECTED LYRICS by Edna St. Vincent Millay: You've gotta
love a lyric poet who can use the word "excrement" in a poem
and still keep it lyrical.
5. MANSFIELD PARK by Jane Austen: In spite of what I consider
a seriously flawed ending, this is my favorite Austen novel.
But I always rewrite the ending in my head, with Fanny
accepting Henry Crawford. Feel free to e-mail me for lively debate.
6. THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA and THE KING OF ATTOLIA by Megan
Whalen Turner: Has to be the most complex and mature romance
in YA lit, and Eugenides is a character in a class by himself.
KING is a masterpiece of POV and literary sleight of hand that
rewards with one of the most satisfying endings ever. Although
I have a niggling feeling that Turner will break my heart with
this character yet.
7. BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON by Dorothy L. Sayers: SPOILER ALERT!
Peter finally marries Harriet!
8. THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare:
This is such a perfect, polished little gem of a book. It
achieves so much and covers so much ground in just 223 pages
without sacrificing characterization, detail, setting, warmth,
sink-in-ability. Contains one of my favorite scenes in all the
world is when John Holbrook bursts through the door, covered
in snow, and falls to his knees with his head in Mercy's lap.
9. MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien:
Justin was my first fictional crush! In middle school, I wrote
a sequel to this book where Martin, Timothy and a group of
rats set out to rescue Justin from NIMH. (Because I refused to
accept that he was dead. Oops. Another spoiler alert.)
10. ANNE OF GREEN GABLES and RILLA OF INGLESIDE by L. M.
Montgomery: The first and last are my favorites of the "Anne
Cycle." RILLA presents a beautiful picture of the strength
required of women on the home front during WWI. And plus,
Rilla is a kick, sort of what Anne would have been had she had
loving and indulgent parents.
11. (That's right, this list goes to eleven.) THE EDWARDIANS
by Vita Sackville-West: Liked Downton Abbey? Well, this is the
real deal written by a woman who lived it. There are moments
that are so lovingly and delicately drawn, they actually make
me weepy just thinking about them. Sylvia...on her round of
morning calls...sniff sniff.
favorites: mostly everything else by Jane Austen (although
EMMA's class snobbery worries me somewhat and Marianne
Dashwood needs slapped,) THURSDAY'S CHILDREN by Rumer Godden,
NICHOLAS NICKLEBY by Charles Dickens, I CAPTURE THE CASTLE by
Dodie Smith, THE RIGHT HAND MAN and the Pennington novels by
K. M. Peyton, THE SWING IN THE SUMMERHOUSE by Jane Langton,
WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams, THE DOOR IN THE WALL by
Marguerite deAngeli, GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell,
A RING OF ENDLESS LIGHT by Madeline L'Engle, COURT DUEL by
Sherwood Smith, THE CAPTIVE PRINCE trilogy by C. S. Pacat,
told you I like old movies. Seriously old. I think I've
learned as much about storytelling from movies as I have from
reading. Different things, but important just the same. This
list of favorites shifts occasionally and it's so hard to stop
at ten because I can think of twenty other movies right now
that I love just as much as these, but this is my current top
2. ALL ABOUT EVE
3. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON
5. THE QUIET MAN
7. THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK
8. THE MIRACLE WORKER
9. ROMAN HOLIDAY
10. THE LITTLE FOXES
But I have to talk for a minute about a
more recent film that is quite possibly my favorite movie of
all and that is THE FALL (2006) by director Tarsem Singh
starring Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru. It's funny because it's
a film about the very early days of film making and so it ties
in with my love of old movies. But it is chiefly a film about
the redemptive power of story, the importance of storytelling,
how we connect to each other through story and the very great
responsibility that carries. It is such a powerful film that
it has changed the way I view my role as a writer. Visually
dazzling (no CGI effects!) and rich in symbolism, it is at
heart an intimate story of human connections and I cannot
recommend it highly enough.
film was unfairly dismissed by mainstream critics. I mount a spirited
defense of it here. And more
on the symbolism here.
I also love movies that are...hmm, how shall I put this...not
exactly fine cinema. I don't mean movies that are just plain
awful or movies that are deliberately bad or campy. I mean
movies that were originally a very earnest attempt at quality
film making but that failed utterly or have not stood up to
the test of time. Call them guilty pleasures. My favorite bad
movies (and boy, do I apologize if any of your favorites are
on this list):
AIRPORT (There's a reason this movie spawned a series of
spoofs. Except now the original is funnier than the spoofs.)
2. THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (A movie with a literal and
figurative train-wreck of an ending!)
3. JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1959-You've got to love
a movie that starts with Pat Boone in a kilt and ends with him
wearing a sheep. That's right, a live sheep and nothing but a
sheep, so help me God.)
4. THE JOURNEY (Yul Brynner eats a shot glass in an attempt to
turn on Deborah Kerr.)
5. THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN (Positively illuminated by
blue-eyed Christopher Plummer in a long black wig and a
loincloth as Atahualpa, the last Inca Emperor. A double-dip
treat of gooey guilty pleasure.)
iPod has a serious identity crisis because my musical tastes
are all over the place. I think it's beyond the point where
I can claim it as brilliantly eclectic. A musical mess is
more like it but I'm happy. Here's what I like:
Vitali: Chaccone in G (The saddest, most emotionally
over-the-top piece of music ever. If you are moved to find
it, try to get the Jascha Heifetz version with the organ
accompaniment. Sometimes this is done with piano or no
accompaniment and it doesn't have near the impact.)
The last twenty minutes of Act 1, Puccini's LA BOHEME
The Te Deum from Puccini's TOSCA (Call me a sicko, but I
find Scarpia rather exciting. Yeah, baby,mi
fai dimenticar Ideo to you, too.)
"Thunder Road" Bruce Springsteen (Yes, I am that old.)
The Allegretto, the second movement from Beethoven's Seventh
"Young Americans" David Bowie
The Great Fugue by Bach (For some reason, this piece of
music makes me feel like my problems are very small. I
should listen to it more often.)
"All the Things You Are" Rogers and Hart (Currently have
four versions and counting of this song on my iPod. It's a
"Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" performed by Doris Day (Okay, so
I like Doris Day. Is that so wrong?)
"Something's Gotta Give" sung by Frank Sinatra (even though
my son objects to the line about how somewhere, somehow,
someone's gonna get kissed as a form of sexual harassment. I
raised him right, what can I say.)
These are my favorite quotes. When
things are going well, I like this one:
people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
things are not going well, I try to like this one:
dig--And if I come to ledges, blast." Edna St. Vincent Millay
pretty much all of the time, I like this one:
a man an inch and right away, he thinks he's a ruler." Maxwell
as a writer, you gotta love the immortal Luther Heggs, who
said: "When you work with words, words are your work."
are my favorite paintings. (Oh come on. Everyone has a
favorite painting, right? If you don't have one, GET ONE!)
This is St. Sebastian Tended by St. Irene by Georges de la
this is Philip, Lord Wharton by Anthony Van Dyck.
was nineteen when this portrait was painted, the spoiled
darling of London society. (He's much better looking in
person, if you get the chance to see him hanging in the
National Art Gallery in Washington D.C. I visit him every
chance I get. He was purchased from the Hermitage museum back
in the thirties when the Soviets were secretly selling off
scores of Russian art treasures to buy bread for their people.
Andrew Mellon purchased Philip and many other famous paintings
that now make up the core of the collection in the National
Gallery. There was a national outcry in Russia when it was
discovered that Philip was one of the paintings sold. Can you
favorite things to eat are
1. Wilbur Buds
(what the Hershey Kiss wishes it was)
2. Lindor Balls, dark (yes, I have many cavities)
3. Black raspberries (I weep for those of you who live in
regions where there are no black raspberries.)
4. Rice Krispies Treats
5. Amish sugar cakes (these are actually big cookies)
6. Maryland crab cakes
7. Roast turkey with all the trimmings
8. Really good celery
10. Potato chips
1. Green vegetables (celery doesn't count)
3. Not having 20/20 vision
4. Computer glitches
5. The current trend in women's clothing
wish I looked like this:
Okay, this is getting silly now. I'll stop.