Real Questions for Real Readers: Name Your Passions

Once again, I've been reading an article where a reporter's gone out and asked a bunch of folks, including some prominent citizens, to name their "most influential book" ever. There were a few choices I recognized and heartily approved of (Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, David Weber's awesome Honor Harrington series), but once again I'm disappointed by the safe, unimaginative choices of too many respondents. (The Oxford Dictionary, really? Some unnamed biography of George Washington? Yawn.) Where are the books that made us fall in love with the written word? The books that inspired a lifelong passion to immerse ourselves in other worlds? Where are the novels that sparked a hunger (in many of us) to craft stories of our own?

And where in heaven's name are the red-headed stepchildren, the genre novels (other than the science fiction classics) that got me so excited about writing?

Also, who could ever choose only one book, out of all the dozens, scores, or hundreds of old favorites?

So here's my amended questionnaire for readers. I'd love to hear your answers if you're inclined to share.

1. Name the first book you remember truly loving? (My choice: Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows what an animal lover I am.)

2. Name a book you hid from parents, teachers, or even your kids, a truly guilty pleasure. (My pick: The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty, because my fundamentalist grandmother would've wanted to have me exorcised if she'd had any clue what I was reading at 13.)

3. Name a book you've read and reread on multiple occasions, a "comfort read" you're always happy to return to. (Mine: I could name many, but I'll go with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, because I've doubtless reread that one most often.)

4. Name a recent read (within the last few years) that made you want to hunt down and devour everything else in the series, all of the author's novels, or books written in a similar vein. (My choice: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.)

5. Name the book you're reading or your most recent read and why you chose it. (Current read: A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin, because a friend talked me into reading the series, beginning with Game of Thrones, and I've been totally sucked in by the characters and the complex world-building.)

6. Bonus question for writers. Which of your own books or manuscripts (published or not) would you most like to reread at the moment and why. (My pick: My first romantic suspense novel, Fatal Error, because I love Susan and Luke and their star-crossed history and the way the lit fuse of their attraction heats up this West Texas-set suspense.)


William Simon said…
Great questions, Colleen!

1) THE TOWER TREASURE by Franklin W. Dixon, #1 in "The Hardy Boys" series. That's the first book I can really remember devouring to the point of obsession.

2) THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, by Ian Fleming. By the age of ten or so, I'd read all the others, but that particular volume mysteriously vanished in the house after my mother read it. Many years later, I found it in the bottom of the laundry hamper in the basement. I thought the whole book was dull as hell. As an adult, there's a two page description of female sexuality that was *quite* daring for the time, and I figured that's why Mom hid that particular book.

3) THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, or anything by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My grandfather gave me HOUND at a young age, and that really ignited a fire for books that has not abated even today. I've got three collections (The Annotated Sherlock Holmes (two volumes that take up 1/3 of the shelf), the Oxford University set, (annotated, notes, maps, etc.) and a set of the Berkeley paperbacks for reading. And re-reading. And re-re-reading. And... well, you get the idea.

4) Anything by Robert Crais. Anything. His first few 'Elvis Cole' novels were fun, but owed an obvious debt to Robert B. Parker's Spenser. With L.A. REQUIEM, Crais took a warp drive leap into his own, and has become, in my opinion, one of the finest writers of the century. Please note, I did not say 'mystery writer', but 'writer'. The man is incredible.

5) THE BOOK CASE by Nelson DeMille. Technically, it's an 'Amazon Short', but it stars his recurring character NYPD Detective John Corey. And I'm loving it!

6) Personal favorite is SOMETIMES, THERE REALLY *ARE* MONSTERS UNDER THE BED is the story I'm proudest of. SPIDER'S DANCE is a favorite, but the history, and story, behind MONSTERS keeps it in my heart as an all time favorite.
Great choices, Will! And Robert Crais is wonderful!

Thanks for recommending MONSTERS, too! Loved your story in LOVE IS MURDER!
Suzan Harden said…
1) The Wonderful Wizard of OZ by L. Frank Baum, the unabridged version I got for my seventh birthday. I remember how shocked I was that the MGM movie left out over half of the story!

2) The Manitou by Graham Masterson. I was about half-way through it when my mother caught me reading it and took it. Never did find it even though I went through the trash. Never finished it either. LOL

3)Anne McCaffrey's original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy.

4)"Something Borrowed" by Jim Butcher, a short story from an anthology I originally bought because of another author. DH and I ripped through the first five Harry Dresden novels within a week.

5) Just finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Terrific series, and I will never doubt Colleen's recommendation ever again!

6) It's been almost ten years since I wrote the first draft of Zombie Love. I still laugh my ass off when I have to re-read it for series continuity.
Hi, Suzan,
I loved reading your picks! I went gaga, too, for the Dragonriders of Pern series. After discovering them in my teens, I went through Anne McCaffrey's books like a hot knife through butter. (Loved The Ship Who Sang, too!)

I haven't read Jim Butcher yet, but will have to give him a try, as I keep hearing amazing things about his work.

Glad you enjoyed The Millenium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) Lizbeth Salander is such a great character! Have you read Game of Thrones yet? I know you'd love it.
Suzan Harden said…
LOL Yes, I read A Games of Thrones not long after it first came out. My cousin Frank literally shoved the hardcover into my hands at his brother's wedding reception and said, "You've GOT to read this!"

This weekend I accidentally dropped a spoiler bomb on someone who's watching the series and hasn't read the books. *facepalm*
LOL, on the spoiler bomb, Suzan. It's so easy to do. I'm (still, as I've been sick and the book be very, very long) reading A STORM OF SWORDS and have to restrain myself not to drop spoilers to my 22 y.o. son and my sister, who are both loving the series but haven't read the books (yet, anyway.) But the series doesn't exactly stick with the books, so I have to remind myself that what I'm reading in Book 3 could be quite different than what we'll see on screen in the next season.

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