You’ve Got to Read This!

I invite you to send me a list of your favorite books (fiction and nonfiction), short stories, plays, essays and anything else that is meaningful to you.  I suggest that the list include no more than ten works.  You can either give a descriptive paragraph or simply present the books and their authors without any comments.  You can list old works, new works or a combination.  Most importantly, tell us WHY you have chosen those particular works if you give descriptions.  Send your list to me at, and it will be included in a future post (along with your name).  I reserve the right to reject any submission that I deem inappropriate or too controversial for this blog.

Linda Cooke submitted the following list:

  1. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach—The first paragraph of the introduction to  Stiff pretty much tells you what’s to come and in what manner .  To paraphrase just a bit, the author says, “The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship.  Most of your time is spent on your back, the brain has shut down, the flesh begins to soften, nothing much happens and nothing is expected of you.”  If that doesn’t clue you in just look at several of the chapter titles.  “A Head is a terrible thing to waste,” “Dead Man Driving,” “Holy cadaver,” “Eat me,” and “Remains of the Author.”  Stiff is so funny and so informative.  Roach is one of my favorite science writers.
  2. The Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell—Richard Sharpe is a British rifleman, raised in the ranks by General Sir Arthur Wellesley to be Lieutenant, Sharpe is a dashing , tough, womanizing head of the 95th Rifle regiment.  Throughout l8 books, Sharpe and his sidekick Harper fight against Napoleon from l799 through the Battle of Waterloo.  The books are a wonderful mix of fact and fiction—bloody, graphic, at times funny, and altogether captivating if you like war stories.  Each book covers a particular battle and time.
  3. Run with the Horseman by Ferrol Sams—This is the first of three books by Sams featuring young Porter Osborne, Jr., who lives on a cotton farm in Georgia in the Depression era.  The second and third books follow Porter through college and then into the army as a medic, but the first book may be the best in my opinion.  In Porter’s immediate family are the father, mother, three other children, paternal grandparents, uncle, aunt and uncle and occasional a few others who stay for various periods of time.  And, of course, the black sharecroppers with whom Porter is friends.  Early in the book , Sams says Porter learned from his female relatives the difference between “genteel,” “common,,” and “tacky,” and from his father he learned the difference between “big,” and “little.”  Within the first 20 pages of Run With the Horseman, Porter has a confrontation with the feared mule Peg, and it will make you choke with laughter every time you read it.
  4. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn—The story is told through the letters of a young girl , Ella Minnow Pea,  who lives on the imaginary island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina to her cousin.  The island is named after Nevin Nollop who came up with the phrase, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” which contains all 26 letters of the alphabet and is inscribed on a statue of Nollop.  Due to age and weather, the letters begin to fall off and as they do, the town council forbids the residents to use the missing letter, on pain of extradition (possibly worse.) The fallen letters begin to be missing from Ella’s letters and from the book  until only LMNOP remain and the next to the last letter begins, “No mo Nollop pomp, No mo Nollop poo poo……………………………No, mon, no! The town council has gotten out of control in its punishments until the end of the book when someone accidentally comes up with a new phrase containing all 26 letters and Nollop is saved.   This is called a Novel in Letters, a parable about language, a cunning satire with a lot of farce and comic relief.
  5. The Children’s Blizzard by David LaskinIn l888, the only weather service in the United States  was attached to the Army and it was totally inefficient in forecasting but worse in communication.  When a terrible blizzard hit the Nebraska-Dakota-Kansas-Minnesota-Iowa territories, the temperatures dropped l8 degrees in just 3 minutes.  The previous weather had been reasonably normal, so children had  walked across fields from their sod houses to their schools dressed in light clothing, bare legs, sometimes barefooted.  When the weather became bad, most of the students headed for home , only to get lost in the blinding snow and eventually nearly 500 froze to death before reaching safety.  Eyewitness stories told what happened to the children in general and some individuals in particular.   The author goes into medical details on how freezing affects the human body.  It was a tragic event in a territory which would eventually suffer through the great dust storms. The Children’s Blizzard is the story of a terrible event, morbidly fascinating.

Here are four more without comment:

  1. The City Boy by Herman Wouk
  2. Control of Nature  and Uncommon Carriers by John McPhee
  3. The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper
  4. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

_ _ _

And Barbara Quirk says you have to read these:

  1. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor
  2. The Complete Stories of Eudora Welty
  3. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  4. John Adams by David McCullough
  5. Intimate Enemies by Christina Vella
  6. Rising Tide by John Barry
  7. A Confederate of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  8. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
  9. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  10. Spunk by Zora Neale Hurston
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