DEBORAH CROMBIE: There are THOSE books. The books you read that you know as soon as you've read a few chapters, or even a few pages, are going to be books that you can't imagine NOT having read and that will forever be part of you in some indefinable way.
We've talked before (more than once, as it's a subject obviously dear to our hearts) about books we read as children that impacted us profoundly, both as writers (for we who are writers) and as people.
But what about books we've read as adults that we knew, instantly, were special? One of those for me was Possession by A.S. Byatt. For my daughter, Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. These special books could be classics that we've just now got round to reading. Or something recommended by a friend, or a book review, put on a list or in a TBR pile and left to gather dust.
And then one day, something brings it to mind, or you run out of things that you have to read (which for working writers, doesn't happen very often.) You pick up this book. You begin. Soon you know you will be seduced, transported, and changed. And you think, "How could I NOT have read this???"
This happened to me recently with two novels by Connie Willis, Blackout and All Clear. Blackout was published in 2010, and was recommended to me by my friend Kate Charles. I thought, "Oh, sounds interesting," but somehow just never got around to picking it up. Then I saw another mention, somewhere, and thought, yes, I really must read that. I bought it (in paperback, thank goodness) started reading, and KNEW. And everyone I talked to about this fabulous book said, "You haven't read Connie Willis???" Where had I been, behind a rock??? I soon discovered that Blackout and its sequel, All Clear (which won the Hugo and the Nebula and heaven knows what else, it's that good) were actually one very long novel. So be forewarned, if you haven't read these books, you should buy All Clear before you finish Blackout because you will HAVE to know how the story turns out and what happens to the characters (three time-traveling historians from 2060 Oxford who go back to WWII and get stuck in the Blitz.) I have still to read Willis's earlier time-traveling-Oxford-historians books, but I will.
So, dear REDS, what have you read that you now can't imagine having NOT read?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Wow, Debs, those sound fabulous. I was preening because I have long proselytized about Mark Helprin's A Winter's Tale, which I thought HAH when it was made into a big budget movie, then worried because NO WAY was that gonna work, and apparently it didn't. But the
book is FABULOUS and I could read it a million times.
And I came late to Philip Pullman's amazing Golden Compass books--love them. Huh. Guess I am drawn to novels that cannot be made into successful movies.
RHYS BOWEN: Debs, I'm also a huge fan of Possession, and have re-read it several times. Also adore Connie Willis. My latest find is Kate Morton. I loved her Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper. And Hank, I was also so impressed with The Winter's Tale. Not sure about seeing the movie.
I found the movies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were disappointing. To me they didn't capture the flavor of the books, the whole concept of little people taking on tasks far beyond them, but still remaining their simple, loveable selves.
HALLIE EPHRON: Great question. At the top of my list would be Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. Talk about a 12-hankie ending. And that's another book that did not translate well to the screen. Also Carol Shields's The Stone Diaries Anything by Barbara Pym (Excellent Women.) Olive Kitteridge. Women's fiction, all of them.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Like Hank, I absolutely adore A Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin — so I'm pretty wary about seeing the movie. (It's gotten pretty terrible reviews, although I don't let reviews dictate what I see and don't see....)
One of my favorite books in the entire world is The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, part of the trilogy His Dark Materials. The movie should have been fantastic — it had a huge budget, big stars, great special effects — and yet, alas, wasn't. Sometimes things are just better in your head than on the screen.
One series of books I think has been adapted well to the (small) screen are George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones. I think the HBO series might actually have more nuance and shades of gray than the books.... (Maybe not — have only read the first book, but three seasons of the TV series...)
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I've long waved the flag for the fabulous Lois McMaster Bujold, whose Vorkosigan series is both a fabulous read and a master class in blending genres - just writes science fiction interwoven with mystery/romance/comedy of manners, all populated by the most real characters ever. No signs of a movie for these books, alas, although Vorkosiverse fen (plural of fans for the non-skiffy among us) are very excited about the possibility of the talented and hunky Peter Dinklage as the hero, Miles Vorkosigan.
It is interesting how some of the best books don't translate well onto the screen, isn't it? And when I think of movies that have improved on the book, the book is invariably almost unreadable:Last of the Mohican's, Bridges of Madison County, etc.
DEBS: I never ceased to be amazed by the things that we seven diverse writers (and readers) have in common. Hank, I was thinking about how much you love A Winter's Tale when I wrote the intro to this post. Do you know that I read it when it was first published, and can you believe it's been forty years??? I had a hardcover copy, which disappeared, sadly, in some book purge or other. I've just now bought the paperback, which should be easier to read, weight wise:-) I hope I can time find to re-read it.
Hallie, I LOVED The Time Traveler's Wife. The movie--yuck.
Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is up there, too, but it has a very special and weird emotional place for me. When I was stranded in London the week after 9/11, no phone, no internet, no contact with family or friends in the US. I bought a copy of The Golden Compass. Then the next two books. I read non-stop. Those books were what got me through that week.
Julia, I got to read a Vorkosigan book in manuscript as a first reader! How cool is that? They are wonderful, and one day (some day...) I'm going to read the series straight through.
And then somehow this discussion morphed into books that did or didn't translate to the screen, but I think that is a whole other blog! Or two. Or three!
So, READERS, what books have you come across, perhaps unexpectedly, that have impacted you so profoundly that you can't imagine having NOT read them?