Sometimes I take a lot of heat for calling this out as my favorite book of all time. I guess some people don’t like Steinbeck. But I don’t care. It has everything, including my favorite character: Samuel Hamilton. This is one of the few books that I have read almost 4 or 5 times. I usually wait a few years in between, to try and keep it fresh. To me, it is like a best friend that I don’t see very often; always out there, waiting to wrap me in a warm embrace.
This was my first experience with Kingsolver, and it left a mark. She is so talented, and such a tight writer, with literally each word serving a purpose. I was so moved by this tale of a missionary’s family in Africa that not only could I NOT put it down while I was reading it, I literally couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks after finishing it. I felt like I had been to Africa. She takes you there. It is beyond good.
I read this with a book club group so long ago, and it has remained right up there for me. It is timeless and beautiful, sweeping and still particular. Inman is so real; so sympathetic to the reader that it is impossible not to become completely enmeshed in his struggle to get back home. Ultimately, to me, this is a love story. Beyond the horrors of the civil war and the tragedies that are everywhere, he and Ada are just two people trying to make it work. Forget about it. It’s excellent. Simply epic.
Irving is so quirky. He is literally the only writer who could make you believe that a dancing bear in a brothel is completely normal (although that happens in The Hotel New Hampshire). To me, this is his gift. He is one of my favorites, and of all of his books, Owen Meany is the one I love the most. Cider House Rules is up there, and worth mentioning, but this one has so much heart. It reaches out from the pages and grabs you, pulling you into the strange world of these two kids. If you have never tried Irving outside of The World According to Garp, start here. You won’t be disappointed.
I just discovered this a few weeks ago and fell madly in love with it. If I could write like this I think I could die happy. I like it so much it bumped my previous pick for this slot, Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. Olive runs through this deeply intuitive novel like a rich flow of blood, pulsing with life and vitality. She is real, for better or worse, heart breaking to see at times. Like her or not, it is impossible to deny how engrossing she can be. Go to the store and buy a copy immediately. You’ll see what I mean.