Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Series of Books

The problem with a top ten book list is that it doesn't make room for series. How do you decide which Harry Potter book to include when all seven books are required for full enjoyment? Here's my list of favorite series...
  • Poldark by Winston Graham - 12 books
    • My most favorite books of all! I have read the first 7 books about once a year since I was 17 years old. A historical fiction saga of the life of Ross Poldark, it takes place in Cornwall, England from 1783 through 1820. I thought this series had only 7 books but as I was browsing the clearance racks at a Crown Bookstore in the mid-1980s I found Book 9!! Jackpot! Mr. Graham eventually completed the 12th book about a year before he died at the age of 95. The BBC/PBS miniseries from the 1970s is good but it takes great liberties with the plot.
  • Harry Potter by J.K Rowling - 7 books
    • I read the first book after my husband received it as a Father's Day gift from his mom. She heard it was similar to A Wrinkle in Time, the classic by Madeleine L'Engle, and thought he would like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. At that time it was not yet the phenomenon it soon became. I bought the next 2 books and then the universal frenzy began. As each book came out my family followed this rule: whoever was the fastest reader went first. For a long time I got to go first, then my son, then my husband. By the end it went: son, me, husband. (The movies are pretty good too.)
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - 7 books so far
    • A series that defies categorization: a little bit of romance, time travel, historical fiction. These are HUGE detailed works, about an English woman who steps through ancient standing stones in Scotland just after WWII and finds herself living about 200 years earlier. Her romance with Jamie, the Scots laird she meets, drives the story. By book 7 they are living in America before the Revolutionary War. There are at least 2 more books to follow.
  • A Song of Ice & Fire by George R.R. Martin - 4 books so far
    • The epic fantasy series will be an HBO series starting next year. Each season will be based on one book. The fictional world of Westeros is filled with kings, intrigue, sex, murders, sword fights, narrow escapes, captures, executions, and dragons. The last book came out in 2005 and readers are anxiously awaiting book 5.
  • The Tripods by John Christopher - 4 books
    • I first read these during my junior high years so probably my first experience of a dystopian or post-apocalyptic story (a fave genre of mine). In this case, the alien tripods have taken over control of Earth (they used TV to brainwash the people of course!) with the help of caps placed on everyone as they reach age 14. Caps make people docile and compliant. The main characters, 13 year old boys, set out to meet the human resistance cell living in the Alps. The boys infiltrate the tripod cities, and plot the end of human enslavement. 
  • Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde - 5 books so far
    • In an alternate timeline (i.e. England is still fighting the Crimean War in the 1980s when the actual war ran from 1853-1856; dodos, mammoths & Neanderthals have been genetically recreated) book characters are real and Jurisfiction agents can enter the books to solve crimes against literature. It's very hard to describe these books and make them sound sane, but they are funny, witty and perfect for someone who enjoys books as much as I do. Mr. Fforde also has a couple of other series: Nursery Crimes, where nursery rhyme characters are real and Detective Jack Sprat is on the case; and Shades of Grey, a society where people are sorted into classes depending on their ability to see colors.
  • Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares - 4 books
    • A sweet tale of four friends and their magical pair of blue jeans that fits each girl no matter their size or height. Very popular with teen girls until the whole vampire thing started. The movies are cute.
  • The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice - 12 books, give or take
    • I really only love the first 3 books because they purport a "history" of how vampires came to be. And it's historical fiction with vampires in it! Ms. Rice's vampires are nothing like the current crop of teen vampires. Her books are full of sex and death. Plus, because she lived in both San Francisco and New Orleans at various times, much of her story takes place in those locales, which is great because those are the 2 big cities I know best. The Mayfair Witches series (3 books) is good too and some of the later of the 12 books overlap with those tales.
  • Earth's Children by Jean Auel - 5 books so far
    • The story of Ayla, a Cro-Magnon girl who grows up with Neanderthals, is wonderful. The flaw is that it has taken 30 years for these 5 books to be released! The 1st came out in 1980 and the last in 2003. The series still seems incomplete (there are always hints of Ayla's great destiny but nothing has happened yet to indicate that fate has been realized) but there is no word on when or whether any other books will arrive. The other flaw involves Ayla's significant other, Jondalar: These two have sex all the time and I would be perfectly happy if I never had to read, "Jondalar, ohh, Jondalar!" again. Really, characters, get a cave!
  • Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews - 5 books
    • Ms Andrews died before the series was complete but that didn't stop the publishers! There are dozens and dozens of other books attributed to Ms Andrews written by others, no doubt for the sake of the almighty dollar. Anyway, her books are all potboilers, Gothic in tone, and full of evil, mainly in the form of some forbidden love, notably in an incestuous relationship. Flowers and its sequels feature more than one taboo relationship (uncle-niece, brother-sister, etc...) but still, I read these books during my impressionable teens and I still love them.
  • Masters of Rome by Colleen McCullough - 7 books
    • From these historical novels I learned that there was Roman history before Julius Caesar even arrived on the scene! Marius and Sulla were real Roman generals and set the stage for much of what Caesar would accomplish. And Caesar is covered too!
  • Barker/Llewelyn by Will Thomas - 5 books
    • Cyrus Barker is a Scottish private enquiry agent, or a detective. Thomas Llewelyn is his Welsh assistant. The stories take place in the mid-1880s and involve mysteries in London's seamy underbelly. Barker would have been played by Sean Connery had the role existed about 30 years ago. 
  • Others:
    • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Timeless and comforting.
    • Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: But I like the movies better. Sorry, purists.
    • Foundation by Isaac Asimov: Its all men in the old science fiction novels but that doesn't mean the stories aren't classics
    • Bio of a Space Tyrant by Piers Anthony: Another sci-fi series but a little more modern
    • Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace: I've only read these once (and plan to read them again soon) but I love them because they are so dear to my best friend, Lady Chardonnay. But has she read Poldark?! Hmph. (I kid! It's hard enough to find time to read the books we want to without trying to read what everyone else thinks we should!)
    • Septimus Heap by Angie Sage: A children's fantasy series that I read this year and really enjoyed. Looking forward to the next books!
Maybe it's time to hit a new category: movies and hang my head in shame for loving "The Wedding Singer" so much, or music, where my Cassidy Boys fetish will surface??

1 comment:

  1. You know, you do make a good point - I will read the first Poldark book, since you've read both Betsy-Tacy and The Cheerleader. (title, please!) But I did read one of your formative books, though I have no memory of it whatsoever- isn't there a French boy, and she meets him one summer? Or she's overseas for a year? Or she's about to leave, and he's her last chance at love? Any of this ring a bell? (You can see it made a big impression.)

    I think it's hard to read other people's formative books when you yourself are past that age, and "get" what they got - I only read "Flowers" when you loaned me your treasured (pristine) copy, and it made me barf.

    Hey, there's a blog topic for you (not "books that make you barf"): Your ability/determination to keep even your best-loved books looking unread and perfect, and what that says about your mental health. I say this with love. Also as one whose books look like they all came from the dump. Actually, my "Class Reunion" did come from the dump, but it had Annabel on it, I HAD to have it! I know you understand this, my Chris.

    Man, I will do anything to avoid editing a state profile of child wellness in Kansas, apparently. Not that leaving you a comment is all that low on my "anything" scale. (The bottom rung, I think: scrubbing the floor area around the toilet by hand, ughy-pew.)

    Miss you! Love you!

    L.C.

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