TOO MANY BOOKS TO READ BEFORE I SLEEP – Marilyn Armstrong

Half a dozen times during the past few months, I’ve seen the sunrise and heard the birds wake and sing the morning in.

Another Kindle and the Anker blue-tooth speaker.

I have sometimes gotten up very early to see the sunrise and take pictures. It is the thing I do that is most “me.” I am awake into the early hours because I am in the grip of a good book and can’t put it down.

I’m addicted to books.

Although I go through phases where I read a lot of one genre, I move through many genres over the course of time. I have spent years reading history, indulging my enthusiasm for the middle ages and especially that weirdest of times,  the 14th century. Perhaps I am specifically fascinated by this period because it was a fulcrum of civilization, the emergence of central governments, a free peasantry and what ultimately became the middle class.

There was the Black Death, the schism when two Popes reigned, one in Avignon, the other in Rome: a calamity for the Catholic world. There was an endless war. Brigands roaming throughout the European countryside, burning, raping, despoiling.  Destroying what sad remnants of communities had survived the other catastrophes of those years.

Inflation rendered money worthless. Many regions were entirely depopulated leaving no one to tend fields and grow crops. Famine followed.

I thought the 20th century, with all its horrors, could never top the 14th, but I was wrong. Because the 14th-century didn’t destroy the planet. It merely thinned out humanity. Which might not, on second thought, have been such a bad idea.

In this era, we are busy destroying the actual planet on which we live and which we need to survive as a species. If you’ve been reading too much science fiction, this is a good time to remember that this sphere is the only one we’ve got. We have nascent technology that might eventually take us into the universe where new planets might be waiting, but we aren’t there yet nor will we get there before the bad air and fire destroys everything we care about.

Meanwhile, to keep my sanity, I read thrillers, mysteries, police procedurals, and courtroom dramas. I read about lawyers, district attorneys, victims, criminals, and prisons. Then, when I need to escape even further, I turn to science fiction and fantasy. I immerse myself in other worlds, different realities, and the pursuit of magic.

I am, for the moment, caught between favorite authors. All of my favorite writers are in the writing process, creating their next books, though some are finished and publication dates are set in the near or not too far future.

I thought I’d make a shortlist for you of some of my favorite authors and a few of my favorite books. I encourage you to make suggestions for books I might like. I’m always looking for new authors and genres.

Barbara Tuchman is my favorite writer of history, but Doris Kearns Goodwin is close behind. Favorite history books include A Distant Mirror, The Guns of Augustand Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Team of Rivals which became Spielberg’s movie, “Lincoln,” or her equally brilliant work on Franklin Delano Roosevelt No Ordinary Time are masterpieces.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraha...

The entire Hollows series by Kim Harrison for the finest of the urban fantasy genre. She has a new one coming out this summer. I can hardly wait!

Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, the Chicago gumshoe who can throw a mean spell, but carries a loaded gun, just in case. He has finally written the final book in the series called Peace Talks.

I hope it isn’t really the final book because I have rarely loved a series as much as I’ve loved Harry Dresden. It’s set to come out in July.

I have been waiting for this book for almost eight years. It is already considered a best-seller even though it hasn’t been published yet. I guess I’m not the only one who has been waiting.

Connie Willis‘ time travel books including The Doomsday Book, Blackout, All Clear, and To Say Nothing of the Dog (the only humorous one in this bunch, but they are all wonderful!) are among the best books of this genre ever written. She has also written some of the most hilarious science fiction stories, especially All Seated on the Ground, and Bellwether, and many more novels and novellas.

Unlike most readers, I read her more serious ambitious books first and was surprised to discover she was best known for her lighter, humorous fiction. Both are wonderful and you can’t go wrong with any of them. I should mention that some of her older books are only available on Kindle and/or audio.

And, speaking of time travel, Stephen King‘s 11-22-63 is exceptional. It’s not a new book, but it is beautifully well-written. Not a horror story, but true time-travel science fiction. The prose is sometimes so beautiful it brings tears to your eyes.

Recently, I discovered Carol Berg. I completed the final of her various series last night … and am now holding my breath in anticipation of her next book. If you want to start with one of her books that aren’t part of a longer series, try Song of the Beast, especially if you like dragons!

I love almost everything written by James Lee Burke and he has written many books, all fiction. If Faulkner had written detective stories, he’d be James Lee Burke. His Dave Robicheaux series is a long-running favorite, but his other books are great too.

The writing of Anne Golon is an amazing series of historical novels about a fictional woman named Angelique. They take place during the time of Louis XIV. This series is has been one of the most significant influences on my life, not only literary but personally.  Angelique lived the life she chose and never accepted defeat. She gave me an interest in history that I carry with me to this day. She never gave up, she never backed down, no matter how bad things became, she always found a way forward.

The English-language versions of the books are many years out of print, but until her death a couple of years ago, she was still writing. Unfortunately, her recent ones are available only in French (maybe German too, but I’m not sure). I have managed to find many good copies of her books second-hand. I wish I could get her newer books in a language I can read. There was a time when I actually could read French, but that was long ago and far away.

I would be remiss in not mentioning Laurie King whose modern version of Sherlock Holmes, now retired and married to, as Mom used to say “a nice Jewish girl,” is a fantastic series. She writes a few other series too, but her Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes series remains my favorite.

Of course, there is my personal favorite author, Gretchen Archer, whose Davis Way Crime Capers are funny, serious, hilarious, tense … all of the things you want in a “curl up and read until your eyes fall out of your head” series of novels. Start with her first novel, Double Whammy and move on from there. You absolutely can’t go wrong!

96-ColdDays-2

I cannot close this without referencing two authors that have given me great joy, the incomparable Douglas Adams, and Jasper Fforde.

I still mourn Douglas Adams. He should have had many more years. Douglas, you died way too soon. Jasper Fforde writes with similar lunacy in a fantasy world where fiction is real and reality isn’t quite. His Thursday Next series is brilliant.

Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series is wonderful and if he ever gets around to it, there should be at least one more book in the series. But he has been writing other books — mostly horror stories which I don’t like as much as his earlier works, movie scripts — as well as Lucifer (a series of brilliant graphic novels which contained the original idea for the TV series “Lucifer”).

This doesn’t even begin to cover everything. It would take me days to begin to remember everything … and way more pages than anyone would have the patience to read … but this is a tickler for you. Maybe you too are searching for something fresh to read,  and new worlds to discover.

These are some of my favorite authors. I’d love to hear about yours!



Categories: Books, Literature, Marilyn Armstrong, Reviews

Tags: , , , ,

27 replies

  1. Kate Atkinson MBE is an English writer of novels, plays and short stories. She is known for creating the Jackson Brodie series of detective novels, which has been adapted into the BBC series Case Histories.
    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
    Themes of fate, family life and renewal are brilliantly explored in this story of a life lived in wartime Britain
    I have not read the life after Life book
    I am into the Jackson Brodie series, they are interesting, she brings characters from other books in the series in and leaves others incomplete story lines so you are not sure if they will reappear or that is it. It took me a little time to get used to her style as she writes character chapters, that involve different stories applicable to each character, and for me it how some things tie in to each other. I find I want to know everything and find it very hard not to keep reading all night.

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  2. and now I have even more authors to read…so many interesting series that you have listed I will add them to my list and see if my library has them. I am currently hooked on Kate Atkinson Brittish writer

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  3. Travel books fascinate me. Do you have any to recommend perhaps? I love the alternative historical fiction of Harry Turtledove.

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    • I read a lot of Harry Turtledove too, though, by the time he started to mix history and sci-fi as another branch of alternative history, I got restless. I loved the first five or six volumes, but the later ones went in too many directions. I read history but not much travel, probably because we don’t travel and it would just frustrate me since I used to LOVE traveling. We’ve just gotten too old to deal with airports and tiny little seats and far too many rules. It’s not fun anymore.

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  4. Great bookshelf!
    I read all kinds of books too, and I love going to extremes 😉

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  5. You read different genre’s to me, Marilyn, as I rarely read thrillers, murder mysteries, detective books or court room dramas. My favourite books are about people and their lives so I read a lot of classics and family dramas. I like Charles Dickens, the Bronte’s and books by Indie authors, Sally Cronin, Sue Vincent, James Cudney and others. I also read horror and supernatural books and Stephen King was a great favourite of mine. I haven’t enjoyed his recent books as much and I have wondered whether he has a phantom writer doing the writing for him now that he is older. Although I have never been a fan of cosy mysteries, I have been reading some recently. I like Agatha Christie, James Cudney and some others too.

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    • I’m good with crime and mystery as long as it doesn’t get grisly. I like the arguments in court, between the jurors. Judges rulings. I hate violence and gore, so most of what I read are procedurals which are largely made up of legal arguments. I also don’t like really weird stuff, so most of King’s books were not my style, but a few were. He’s an amazing writer, but sometimes his style is just not my thing. But you know, in the end, I’ll read anything if it’s really good, though these days, I need it as audio. This is difficult because a lot of Indie books never go on audio. Bad eyes just are what they are.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, our greatgranny also can’t read much anymore because of her eyes. We have also set her up with audio. Some authors like James Cudney have large print books for older people. I don’t know if that would help you. I also don’t like over the top grizzly or gory either and will actively avoid books like that.

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        • I think I have 65 years of eye strain and having had a lot of surgery including losing both breasts and a rebuilt heart, so holding a heavy book is difficult. Big print books are heavy. I have a few, but I can only read them while sitting at a table so the book rests on a surface and since I’m addicted to reading in bed, it’s frustrating. The Kindle lets you enlarge text, but it’s hard to get a Kindle big enough to show more than a couple of paragraphs when you enlarge text.

          Nonetheless, I do read in small amounts if it’s the only way I can get a book although I’ve noticed that I read for a while and then give up. it has been quite a while — close to a year — since I read an entire book. I’ve gotten through some short stories and novellas, but longer stuff, not so much.

          I am beginning to have trouble reading my own writing. I don’t miss reading text nearly as much as I miss being able to edit!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Have you read When Wikileaks Met Google by Julian Assange? It’s very interesting.
    Leslie

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  7. anne golon sounds great, the bit I read, have you tried Peter Carey, Barbara Kingsolver, they both read so well. Thanks for the tips Marilyn, may your health be strong, amen

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    • Is Peter Carey any relation to Mike Carey? Haven’t check out Barbara Kingsolver, but I will. I’m definitely in the market for new authors!

      Liked by 1 person

      • not sure Marilyn, peter Carey is an Aussie, Barbara Kingsolver is a great writer, I am sure you will love her writing, she has a magic about so, but all the great ones have that.

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        • Oh, well the Mike Carey I’ve read is British, so probably no relation.

          Liked by 1 person

          • If you were writing a letter to a publishing house Marilyn, how would you put it, I have to get myself a good agent and publisher this year, and I have been putting if off, being artistic and business minded doesn’t mix that well, when the words just flow….be blessed

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            • I’m the wrong person to ask. I was very bad at marketing.

              But to get started, first: Buy a copy of the most recent “Writer’s Guide to Publishing” (I think that’s its title — if not, that’s close to it). They put a new one out every other year. You need the most recent version because who is who changes greatly from year to year. The book lists names and addresses of every publishing house and what kinds of books they will publish as well as every agent and the kind of books they will represent. It is an expensive book, but you need it, if for no other reason than the information on what you need to put into your “sales” letters as well as the names and addresses of agents and publishing houses.

              There is also a huge section at the beginning of the book that tells you what you need to send and how you need to write your letters, package your material, and so on. It’s mandatory reading. My book was not the kind of book that makes money for publishers. In a different (earlier) generation, it might have gotten a reading, but these days, with so few publication companies, it didn’t have a chance.

              Truth is, you need an agent. Without an agent, your manuscript won’t get read no matter how good it is. One of the ways of getting an agent is to join a writing group, cozy up to the head of the group and if he or she likes your material, you might get his or her publisher to look at your work. I didn’t do that because I hate organized groups, even though I KNOW that’s how many people I know got their agents. That is what I should have done and probably, that’s what you should do too.

              But here is a warning: PUBLISHERS DO NOT LIKE MATURE WRITERS. Even older writers who have been writing best-sellers start to have problems getting their books published. They all want young writers who will be around to produce a lot of books and preferably, all the same., There’s a definite prejudice against mature and new authors. It’s not personal. Stupid, but they are convinced this is good business. I think it’s awful and it’s ruining the publishing world.

              Liked by 1 person

              • thanks Marilyn, you go into great detail. It is a wonder in the world, how small groups can have such influence, it’s part of the paralysis many feel, when they try to stand up to oppression, there are so few with so much influence, but its changing fast, and the signs that are appearing, from the Heavens above, seem to be telling us, that the world as we know it, has passed it’s sell by date, may it hurry up with the changes, amen

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