Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books Of.

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1. Agatha Christie I own a lot of cozy mysteries: almost all the Cadfaels, a lot of Ngaio Marsh, plenty of Dorothy Gilman, a fair amount of Margery Allingham, almost all of Dorothy L Sayers, a few Laurie R King’s (until I decided to get rid of them because the series was descending in a way that started annoying so much I couldn’t appreciate the first ones as much anymore, nor could I see the point in keeping a few books in a series I would never finish) … but unquestionably, it is the Queen of Crime who holds the top spot on my shelves. Her books literally spill off the shelf that holds them.

2. Brian Jacques. I own the entire Redwall series, and have doubles of some of them (paperback and hardcover), plus I have the three Flying Dutchman books. I’ve packed away most of the paperbacks for now, while we’re in a small apartment with limited shelf space, but I still have the hardcovers displayed. The quality of the Redwall series might have gone slightly downhill with the later books, but I still love them all. (Except the Legend of Luke – as much as I love Martin and Gonff, the disjointed nature of that book was a disappointment – and Loamhedge, which leaves me cold every time I read it, though I can’t pinpoint why, exactly.)

3. Lloyd Alexander. I don’t own all of Lloyd’s books – yet – but they do take up significant space on my shelves. As well they should. The Prydain Chronicles, all save The High King, which I’m saving to buy as celebration for finishing Magic in Disguise, are in place of honor on my living room shelves, along with The Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord Peter Wimsey books.

5. LM Montgomery. I have almost all Maud’s books, including the short story collections. I don’t have the Pat books, because I hate them, and I’m missing one or two short story collections, but I still have enough to take up plenty of room. (And Cathy, I have the chunk of sandstone you sent me from PEI sitting atop the box set of Anne books!)

6. Maud Hart Lovelace. All the Deep Valley books! All the Betsy-Tacy books (including hardcovers of the first two on the kids’ shelves), Emily of Deep Valley, and the joint edition of Winona’s Pony Cart and Carney’s House Party. If she’d written more about Deep Valley, I’d own those, too.

7. Elizabeth Enright. I have all of her books except the picture books. Like with Lovelace, if she’d written more, I’d own them too.

8. Michael A Stackpole. Technically these are in my boxes, not my shelves. When I (sadly) sold off most of my Star Wars EU collection, I kept all the Stackpole, Allston, and Zahn novels. Out of those three, I only have original novels from Stackpole. I haven’t read anything by him in years, but his books taught me an enormous amount about world-building and writing in tight third-person POV. I owe him a lot.

9. CS Lewis. All the Narnia books – between Carl and I we have three box sets of Narnia, one hardcover and two paperback; we bought a stunningly beautiful illustrated copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at a used bookstore recently to give to Joy for her seventh birthday; I also own a couple Narnia companion books. Then there’s Till We Have Faces (also on my living room shelves), the Space Trilogy, and a goodly selection of his nonfiction work.

10. Miss Read. I’ve been slowly collecting Miss Read’s Thrush Green series over the years; once I complete that, I’ll begin on the Fairacre books. Nothing is better on a chilly fall or winter night than curling up with one of those and a cup of tea. They are my go-to reading for when life is getting overwhelming or bleak.

I realized, writing this list, how rare it is for me to only own one or two books by an author (unless that’s all he or she has written). Usually I don’t buy anything until I find an author I really like, and then I buy everything I can by him or her, rather than scattering my affections across many different authors. There were plenty more I could have added to the list … Austen, Gaskell, Dickens, Eager, Nesbit, Wrede, Cooper, all the cozy authors I mentioned in the first point … really, it would be harder for me to find an author whose books I don’t own a wide selection of than vice versa.

A creature of habit, that’s me.

Check out The Broke and the Bookish for more lists!

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The Importance of Story

Heroes, heroism, and what all that entails, is a fairly common theme on this blog. It wasn’t until I read through Diana Wynne Jones’ essay collection, followed by The Wand in the Word, that I started to understand some of my impulses that drive me to contemplate such ideas, and to search for ways to bring them into my stories without even realizing it.
We as a society, especially here in America, are in desperate need of heroes. Not even real-life heroes, though those are (obviously) important, but heroes of mythical stature, for us to look up to and emulate without even knowing it. America is a funny land: we have absorbed so many cultures to make up this beautiful, multi-facted nation, and yet we haven’t embraced any of their myths – nor do most of us embrace the mythos of the Native Americans, which is beautiful and rich and deep.
Instead of myths and legends reaching back into a shadowy past, showing us heroes and heroines and quests and striving for a goal more noble, we have generations of Americans raised on Disney princesses and Power Rangers as children, vampires and dystopias as teenagers, gossip magazines and reality television as young adults. Not all of those things are bad – but they aren’t anything close to enough.
We have no King Arthur, no rich carpet of legend rolling out beneath our feet, for us to tread upon and absorb without even knowing it. The closest thing we have in this country to a cultural mythos are comic book heroes, and while those have their own value, they don’t have the weight of age behind them.
That’s not something I can change. I don’t have a TARDIS, I can’t pop back in time to create another Beowulf.
But I, personally, have a strong sense of the importance of heroes. As a kid, I fought imaginary dragons in my back yard. I believed in standing up for the underdog, even in my kindergarten class, wearing a pretty dress with my hair in two long braids, not letting anyone bully Thomas because he didn’t fit in. How did that happen (aside from my parents’ teaching)?
The books I read, the Stories I learned. What books did I grow up reading? Books by Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Brian Jacques, Edward Eager, E Nesbit, L Frank Baum …
People say fantasy doesn’t matter? That fantasy books aren’t Real Books?
It is fantasy, myth, legend, the hero seeking to save others, the beauty of the quest through danger to achieve salvation, that will rescue this world from falling into utter darkness.
In the end, fantasy books are the most Real Books out there. They just might be the most important books you will ever read.
They are certainly the most important books I will ever write.

Two Giants

I’ve been re-reading the Redwall series ever since Brian Jacques’ death. Thankfully, I own all of them but the most recent, so the biggest challenge in reading them has come from trying to remember the original published order instead of the chronological order I had them in on my shelves. Thank goodness for internet resources!

With the passing of Diana Wynne Jones, I’ve decided to intersperse the Redwall books (and the Flying Dutchman books, which I also own) with some of hers. I was going to start re-reading the Chrestomanci books, but I don’t own any of those, and somebody else at our library must have had the same idea, for the first two were checked out today when I looked. As was Howl’s Moving Castle, which was my second choice.

So I’m reading Enchanted Glass right now, and I have the collection of short stories Unexpected Magic to read as well. It’ll do until I can get my hands on the Chrestomanci books.

I came to Jones late – not until last year or the year before as a matter of fact. I’m not sure how I missed her as a kid – with my affection for Lloyd Alexander, E Nesbit, and others of like ilk, she would have been right up my alley.

Be that as it may, I have thoroughly enjoyed her books ever since I discovered them. Sometimes I have a hard time wrapping my head around what’s happening, and often the endings leave me feeling vaguely confused (or, in the case of Fire and Hemlock, completely and totally confused, and having to re-read the ending several times over to make any sense of it). But I like that. It’s not the same frustration I feel when I read Robin McKinley, and the first half is thrilling, I get bogged down in the second, and by the end I am so in the dark I barely remember the story I’m reading at all (though oddly enough I keep going back to McKinley, so there must be something compelling about that sort of writing, too).

I like having to think while I read. I like the sense of satisfaction when I’ve figured out the hidden twist (I was so very tickled when reading The Game because I got it before All Was Revealed); and I like, sometimes, knowing that the writer completely pulled the wool over my eyes.

The Redwall books are my comfort books. Not only have I read them a million times, they all follow the same pattern. I know exactly what is going to happen in each one, and reading them gives me a comforting sense that everything is right with the world, and whatever isn’t will work out eventually.

I’m so very, very sad that these two marvelous writers had to die at all, especially so close to each other, but I think that reading their books intertwined with each other is actually going to be very good, and very helpful for me as a writer, because it will be me a much clearer sense of their very different styles, and what each style accomplishes, and what I need to do in order to achieve a certain atmosphere for my books.

And hopefully in studying their styles I will start to break myself of my habit of over-using adjectives – something I didn’t even realize I did until I was working on the last few chapters of my LMM fanfic the other day, and discovered that I peppered it with adjectives all over the place. Not too bad for LMM fic, since she was also adjective-happy, but not a habit I want to indulge in for my own writings!

Are you familiar with Jacques and Wynne Jones? What do their books do for you? What are your “comfort” books, and what are your “mind-stretching” books? Which do you prefer in the Redwall series, hares or otters? And finally, what are some of your bad writing habits that you have a hard time shaking?

Farewell, Brian Jacques

I just barely saw the news – not five minutes ago – that Brian Jacques died after a heart attack this weekend.

I am crying and still don’t quite believe it. The man who created Martin, Mariel, Gonff, and all the rest, gone? It seems impossible. He should be immortal.

And in a way, he is. He lives on through his books, his beloved characters. His stories about tiny little creatures fighting for justice, freedom, and love against larger, more ferocious adversaries will ring true in the hearts of all who love such ideals, for as long as books endure. His legacy is a great one, indeed.

Less well known than Redwall, but just as good (in my opinion) was his Flying Dutchman series, featuring a boy named Ben and his faithful dog Ned, traveling the world as immortal creatures, righting wrongs and comforting those without hope wherever and whenever they went.

I will miss, terribly, anticipating a new book from him every year. Yet I am so thankful for all the books that he did write, that we are left with. There have been many writers who have tried to imitate his style, but none can match him. The world is a sadder place with this Weaver of Tales gone, but thankfully the tales themselves live on.

May your adventures in the next world be as grand as they were here, sir. And I know that wherever you journey through the Dark Forest, you will be accompanied by a grand troupe of mice, moles, hedgehogs, badgers, hares, squirrels, and otters, all laughing, valiant, and hungry.

You will be missed.

ETA: Mossflower was the first Jacques book I ever read, and it’s the one I recommend to everyone to begin with. It’s not first chronologically or in published order, but in my opinion, it sets the stage beautifully for the rest of the series. Plus, it features Martin, Gonff, and Dinny – who could ask for anything more?