Saturday, October 17, 2020

Favorites in Reading

This month's topic is about what my favorite book is or books of all time are and my favorite genre. (You can include children’s books or non-fiction or even magazines). I have read a lot since first learning how to read and find it impossible to identify just one story as a supreme favorite. The titles of many books come to mind from ages ago like Boxcar Children, My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, and Black Beauty. Looking back, maybe my mother loved horses, too. She never talked about them, but why else did she buy My Friend Flicka and Thunderhead? They were her favorites, too, and I still have her copies. (Wish I could go back and ask her now!) Just mentioning them makes want to go and reread them.

The first book I read by myself remains on my favorite list as explained in an earlier post. I think I made a mistake though. I thought Miss Hillman was my teacher, but she was my third-grade teacher and I read On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Suess Geisel) in first-grade (Miss Wilkins? Time changes memory.) It was released in 1955. I think what first attracted me was the zebra on the cover. Zebras are like horses and I was a horse-crazed little girl. The story was also very imaginative in concept, wording, and illustration. 
I continued reading and eventually, probably about sixth or seventh grade, came across Will James' novel Smoky the Cowhorse (yep, another horse theme book) at the Fenton Public Library. At the time I was walking the mile or two there and back at least once a week. I was in love with that mouse-grey horse and cried through the horrible parts of his sad history. The story won the John Newberry Medal in 1927. The Newberry Award is still given for a distinguished contribution to children's literature. James, the author, was a French Canadian artist whose writing covered the American West's cowboy culture, and Smoky the novel, held many of his illustrations. This story has taken a current trend in how horses are treated, not only at rodeos but also at our racetracks. 

When I reached fifteen in the ninth grade I started working after school in a local drugstore. For the previous three years I had worked in my family's pet store selling tropical fish and hampsters, and cleaning tanks, but didn't get paid. At the drugstore, I mostly worked behind the soda counter serving coffee, ice cream treats, and some simple to fix sandwiches. I enjoyed the work, and I was earning some money and guess what? The drug store had a sales rack for paperback books. That bookrack introduced me to romance, both current and historical, and to the genre of fantasy. Soon I was reading another of my all-time favorite novels. Andre Norton's Witch World series mesmerized me. The first volume was written in 1963 but I became familiar with the following stories so I searched and found a copy of the first story.

The drugstore's book rack introduced me to many romance authors, but one of my favorites was Georgette Heyer. She could take a reader back to another time. It showed a judgemental public was not just a modern phenomenon. I remember reading many of the titles but the one that left a lasting impression was  Devil's Cub, which I probably read in tenth grade. The hero loved his horses, too. Devil's Cub was a Georgian era time-frame story written in 1932. Heyer wrote many historical romance stories mostly in the Georgian and Regency eras, but she also wrote mystery thrillers. I mentioned this title before in the charming villains' post, and it is a story I've reread many times. I think Heyer started the trend for Regency romances which still continues today. 

My next favorite was an eleventh-grade reading assignment--Pride and Prejudice, a book written in 1813. At learning the assignment I had severe apprehension about how I could read, or even like, so old a story. I was even assigned to give a presentation on one chapter. For once though, I loved an assigned story so much, it helped me overcome my reluctance to talk before a group. Each student was given a paperback copy, but I wanted a more permanent copy, so I drove to Flint and bought a leather-bound copy at a book store. My daughter has it now. It surprised me several years later that my (male) college instructor for the class masterpieces in English literature talked about this story. He claimed to have read it twenty-seven times. I'm not certain I've read it that many times, not even half of that. I have, however, seen all the TV and movie shows. Some are good renditions, but I get very upset when they change things.

My last listing is the Lymond Chronicles of six novels about the Scot Francis Crawford of Lymond. Another historical novel, but this one is about the era and not so much romance, although there is some. Scottish novelist Dorothy Dunnet also wrote mysteries. This is a wonderful series published between 1961 and 1975.  Again, I found it as a paperback in the drug store. From my drugstore bookrack experience, I had become enamored of all store bookracks, although I kept my habit of haunting libraries, too. 

According to RR Bowker, at least 275 thousand books (all genres, both fiction and non-fiction) are published each year. That is an overwhelming number. Who knows what great books I've missed?  

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  1. Hi Rhobin, Some of the romance writers are showing a lot of consistency. Interesting that you mention Francis Lymond as they are favourites of my husband. I remember Black Beauty which made me cry as a child. Great topic, thank you. Anne

  2. Rhobin, Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen are also on my list. And I remember reading and loving Andre Norton as I child. Thanks so much for the memory! Many people have told my how much they love Dorothy Dunnett, but I've never read any of hers. I will put her books on my Christmas list. Thanks for the great topice!

  3. Another Heyer fan - awesome. I liked Devil's Cub as well. Actually I liked all her books and it was one of her historicals that showed me the real people behind the names I'd been forced to memorize with no feeling in high school history classes.

  4. Gah! Yet another Regency fan! I must be an anomaly--it's okay, I'm used to being the "odd man out." The books I write could get burning crosses on my front lawn, because they have naughty scenes in them--but my brother and his wife read at least one of my books and pronounced me to be "hopelessly vanilla." So I stopped giving them free copies of my books. LOL.

    When I tell people I'm an author, they're interested until they ask me what I write. When I say "Romance," they look like they just stepped in dog poo, and move away from me, muttering, "I don't know anyone who reads THAT kind of stuff." "Erm, actually I have an English degree, graduated with honors, and I'm very well-read, along with being a Mensa member. And yes, LOTS of people read romance." So I'm used to the opprobrium from others, and to being different. But I plow on anyway.

    Great topic, but I think I'm the only one who chose just ONE book! Maybe I misread the prompt? But my post was plenty long as it was, so it's all good.

  5. Thank you for this month's topic, Rhobin. I'm amazed at how many of us have similar reading tastes! I've been reminded of some authors and introduced to newer ones. Along with Flicka and Smokey, I also enjoyed Mary Elwyn Patchett's Brumby series. As a kid, anything to do with horses had me hooked. And for all the naysayers of romance? Stats still show it to be the genre that most drives the publishing market.

  6. Interesting way to organize your answer, Rhobin: progression through the school years and on. This shows how we change and grow in everything, including the books we read.

  7. I'd forgotten all about Smokey! I did enjoy all those 'horse series' novels, too.