I was challenged to list the top 10 books that made a lasting impression on my life. Here’s my list:
- Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner: The first assigned reading I stayed up all night reading. Wallace Stegner is the voice of the American West. And I am still half in love with Oliver Ward. (And Jamie Fraser.)
- Peace like a River by Leif Enger: The best opening pages I have ever read, and I am SUCH a sucker for a good quest novel. Throw in the American west, and you’ve got me- hook, line, and sinker.
- No Great Mischief by Alastair McLeod: A tragic and beautiful account of family ties, the presence of the past, and a destroyed Scotland preserved in Canada.
- Where Rivers Change Direction by Mark Spragg: a bald and lyrical memoir of growing up on a dude ranch on Wyoming’s continental divide, where rivers changes direction.
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie: introduced me to magical realism, post colonialism, and the history of India all in one fell swoop.
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck: After a rash of escapist novels and a binge of television watching, reminded me why I read literature in the first place.
- All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy: love and duty and justice and the romance of the cowboy all meet in the American West.
- The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon: Scotland, history, time travel, grand adventure, escapism, romance, character development eight books strong. ‘Nuff said.
- The Amelia Peabody Mysteries Series by Elizabeth Peters: About the time I got over my fantasy of becoming the female Indiana Jones, I discovered Amelia Peabody and it started all over again…
- City of Thieves by David Benioff: The best based on a true story/great quest novel/war novel/ work of fiction I have ever read. This book has it all.
Plus, since this task is nearly impossible, and Terra/BooksforHer gave me license to cheat, lets just make it fifteen:
- Cowboys are my Weakness by Pam Houston: If I was going to teach lit students the concept of “voice,” this is what I’d use. Mature lit students, that is.
- Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: A stunner of a character, a portrait of an age, and a twist or two.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: It is THE well-known classic for a reason.
- Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History by Michel-Rolph Trouillot: for reminding me why I am a historian
- AND The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand: for giving voice to the philosophy of history I didn’t even know I had.
In case anyone really cares.