I had to break this down between adult and children’s/YA fiction because it was too hard to come up with a combined list that was short enough for a blog post.
Larry McMurtry, 1985
It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living. I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you live.”
“A man who wouldn’t cheat for a poke don’t want one bad enough.”
“Pea Eye loped up and unfolded himself in the direction of the ground. ‘Your getting off a horse reminds me of an old crane landing in a mud puddle,’ Augustus said.
I almost hate to recommend this one, because it spoiled me for so many books afterwards. This book was so great that Sandy and I competed for reading it, so one of us bought a second copy. So funny, so sad, so thrilling, so horrific, so romantic. It’s got it all. I wish I had not read it so that I could read it again for the first time.
In general, I weathered even the worst sermons pretty well. They had the great virtue of causing my mind to wander. Some of the best things I have ever thought of I have thought of during bad sermons. Or I would look out the windows. In winter, when the windows were closed, the church seemed to admit the light strictly on its own terms, as if uneasy about the frank sunshine of this benighted world. In summer, when the sashes were raised, I watched with a great, eager pleasure the town and the fields beyond, the clouds, the trees, the movements of the air—but then the sermons would seem more improbable. I have always loved a window, especially an open one.
Wendell Berry is one of my favorite fiction writers and poets. He writes a lot of nonfiction as well, but I relate better to his ideas through his fiction and poetry. I read all of the Port William books with love, but Jayber Crow is probably my favorite. A minor character in the other novels and stories, the barber of Port William tells his own story and the stories of other beloved characters in the community. The Mad Farmer Poems is my favorite collection of his poetry.
David Mitchell, 2004
…Only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!’ Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”
“So do not fritter away your days. Sooner than you fear, you will stand before a mirror in a care home, look at your body, and think, E.T., locked in a ruddy cupboard for a fortnight.”
“Nothing is more tiresome than being told what to admire, and having things pointed at with a stick.
The best way to describe this book is taken from a review I read somewhere – the structure is like a set of Russian dolls. Once you understand that, it’s easier to follow. Many people give up on this one after the second story begins. Please give it a try – they do get some closure. The time frame goes from 1850 to far into the future and then back again in descending order, and the stories range from adventure to murder mystery to humor to sci-fi/fantasy, all linked together by one birthmark in the shape of a comet. I was stunned that they even attempted to make a movie from this book. Considering the challenges, the movie wasn’t bad. I have since read everything Mitchell has published, and this remains my favorite.
“Fair and Tender Ladies”
Lee Smith, 1988
Oh, I was young then, and I walked in my body like a Queen.”
“Then I started crying for it seemed to me then that life is nothing but people leaving.”
“I will remane forever your devoted Ivy Rowe.
Lee Smith is one of my favorite novelists and this is my favorite book by her. Just looking up the quotes for this post made my heart begin to swell for the love of Ivy Rowe. I have an autographed copy and it is one of my most precious possessions.
The Poldark series
Winston Graham, 1945-2002
He thought: if we could only stop here. Not when we get home, not leaving Trenwith, but here, here reaching the top of the hill out of Sawle, dusk wiping out the edges of the land and Demelza walking and humming at my side.”
“Hers would be the perpetual ache of loss and loneliness, slowly dulled with time until it became a part of her character, a faint sourness tinged with withered pride.”
“‘Tedn’t law. Tedn’t right. Tedn’t just. Tedn’t sense. Tedn’t friendly.’
Sadly, I am on the twelfth and last book of the Poldark series, Bella Poldark. I’m going to take my sweet time reading it, too. A lovely Cornish soap opera, this is, but well-written. I stopped watching the newest Poldark series after season one and began reading the books, because I like to form my own vision of the book before seeing a movie or series based on it. Needless to say, I have no problem visualizing Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark, though:
So, on to the next bodice-ripping series,
The Outlander series
Diana Gabaldon, 1991-
Oh, aye, Sassenach. I am your master . . . and you’re mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.
Yes, I know it’s trash. It’s delicious time-traveling trash, though. I stopped reading after the fourth book, “The Drums of Autumn.” That was years ago. These books are so huge that I wanted to read something else in my lifetime. Maybe I wanted you to know that I don’t just read philosophy and self-help books! One day I’ll watch the series, probably.
On the same theme:
Maybe I’m dreaming you. Maybe you’re dreaming me; maybe we only exist in each other’s dreams and every morning when we wake up we forget all about each other.
Audrey Niffenegger, 2003
Betcha didn’t think that I was such a romantic, huh?
The Joy Luck Club
Amy Tan, 1989
So this is what I will do. I will gather together my past and look. I will see a thing that has already happened. The pain that cut my spirit loose. I will hold that pain in my hand until it becomes hard and shiny, more clear. And then my fierceness can come back, my golden side, my black side. I will use this sharp pain to penetrate my daughter’s tough skin and cut her tiger spirit loose. She will fight me, because this is the nature of two tigers. But I will win and give her my spirit, because this is a way a mother loves her daughter.
And everything else by Amy Tan, but I suppose this was my favorite.
The Plague of Doves
Louise Erdrich, 2008
The music was more than music- at least what we are used to hearing. The music was feeling itself. The sound connected instantly with something deep and joyous. Those powerful moments of true knowledge that we have to paper over with daily life. The music tapped the back of our terrors, too. Things we’d lived through and didn’t want to ever repeat. Shredded imaginings, unadmitted longings, fear and also surprisingly pleasures. No, we can’t live at that pitch. But every so often something shatters like ice and we are in the river of our existence. We are aware. And this realization was in the music, somehow, or in the way Shamengwa played it.
One of the most wonderful things about Louise Erdrich is that she has written a constant stream of related books and I haven’t read them all yet. This was the last one I read so I picked it.
Oh, I could go on and on, but I’m going to stop here. I’m sure there is someone fabulous that I missed. The list will never be complete – at least I hope not.