Friday, August 31, 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Orson Scott Card Experience

As I mentioned the other day, Becky is hosting a challenge that officially begins in January 2008 called the Cardathon Challenge which focuses on books written by, introduced by, edited by, or reviewed by my favorite author, Orson Scott Card. As a part of this challenge, she made the suggestion that fans of Orson Scott Card share their stories of how they came to know and love this author, and I thought that it was such a neat idea! So here's my story.

My first "meeting" with Orson Scott Card was in 2001. I was taking a Science Fiction literature course while in college and my professor has assigned Ender's Game as one of the novels for the course. I had heard of Orson Scott Card and Ender's Game, but had never read anything of his and had no idea what to expect from this book. I was hooked from the first chapter of this book as I first met Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, a character that I would come to love, a character that will always be, in my opinion, one of the best characters ever written. I continued to read, literally blown away at Card's ability to write one of the best novel's I had ever read. I was fascinated by the depth of his characters. This book was about war, brutality, an alien species, the power of the human mind, the innocence and loss of innocence of children, yet it didn't have a strictly sci-fi was a human drama, it played with emotions, it was a beautiful story and a heartbreaking story. When I didn't think the book could get any better, it did. The last couple of chapters were my favorite and with this one book, Card was sealed as my favorite author.

I went on to read it's immediate sequel, Speaker for the Dead, which to this day remains my favorite book. I can't even put into words what Orson Scott Card has achieved with Speaker for the Dead. It's a book of many colors. It's certainly a sci-fi book, but it's also a book of philosophy, a book of religion, a book of politics, and it echoes some of the beautiful themes of ancient tragedies. Speaker for the Dead takes us into another world, in a different time, with a couple of different species. And we meet Ender at an older age when he is the Speaker for the Dead. The new world is settled by Portuguese colonists and is called Lusitania, and on this world we meet the Pequininos, or the "Piggies," quite possibly my favorite alien race ever written. Slowly, we the reader are allowed into the piggies' beautiful and strange culture and rituals as Card's masterpiece unfolds. The other two sequels, Xenocide and Children of the Mind are also wonderful books and rank high on my list of favorite books of Orson Scott Card's.

I have many favorite Card books and could go on and on, but I won't. Needless to say, he has written something for everyone. He's written sci-fi, fantasy, urban fantasy, fairy tales, horror, biblical fiction, historical fiction, plays, political fiction, etc. His bibliography is huge and one that I still haven't tackled completely after all these years, but I'm coming close ;) His series are wonderful. The three main series that he has written are his Ender series, the Homecoming Series (another favorite), and the Alvin Maker series which is absolutely amazing.

My favorite thing about Card and what sets him apart for me is his character development. He has the ability to write the most amazing characters I have ever read. I've written about this before and it's something that you can't truly appreciate until you've read one of his works. In nearly every review of his books, I see people mention this. I always feel so attached to his characters and it's so hard to let go when it's time to. I was very saddened when I reached the end of the Homecoming series, because I knew that was really the end. At least I know that with the Alvin Maker series, there's one more book, and in addition to War of Gifts, there are two more books in the works for the Ender series! One is called Shadows in Flight, and the other is Ender in Exile.

Since I've discovered Orson Scott Card, his website has become a daily visit of mine. The Hatrack community is amazing! The forums are great. People are extremely friendly over there, and I've had the pleasure of talking with Orson Scott Card himself 3 or 4 times as he actually posts occasionally on the forums. I was giddy as could be the first time I asked him a question on his forums and got a response! In fact the question was in regards to the future release of any type of new fantasy project and he responded that there was a new contemporary fantasy project in the works based on a magical world created in one of his earlier works that he was revisiting! So now that I'm looking back on that (that was in April of 2006), I'm thinking that may be the Mithermages series coming out in 2008!

As a last mention, this has become the most meaningful Card story for me. As you all know, our home was pretty much lost to Hurricane Katrina and we still haven't been able to rebuild. I've lived in a trailer, a hotel, a condo, a cruise ship, a duplex, and now we're finally renting a whole house :D Around last Christmas, Subterranean Press released their edition of Orson Scott Card's novel, Saints...which I will be reading as part of this challenge. It's a beautiful cover by the way. I asked for the book for Christmas and Orson Scott Card agreed to personalize all of the copies, as in "To Chris...Orson Scott Card." Our first Christmas after Katrina was spent in a trailer, our second was in a duplex...neither was home, so they were a little rough. I unwrapped my book (like a 10 year old boy getting a nintendo) and the book is signed "To Chris: Trying to find home -Orson Scott Card". I asked my mom if she told him to write that, and she said no...she just put my name on the order form. I'm sure it has something to do with the story which I haven't read, but I thought that it was the perfect coincidence and ray of light that I needed from this author that I've always felt so close to. So, Mr. Card...thanks for everything ;)

April through August 2005 Recommendations

David Liss's A Conspiracy of Paper (mystery)
Peter Dickinson and Robin McKinley's Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits (fantasy; short stories)
Clive Cussler's novel Sahara
David Skibbins's Eight of Swords
Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce (children's literature)
Jane Fonda: My Life So Far (memoir)
Cut and Run by Ridley Pearson (thriller)
David Crystal's The Stories of English (nonfiction)
Any book--ANY--by Ray Bradbury [Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, I Sing the Body Electric, The October Country, or Something Wicked This Way Comes]
Sam Weller, The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury: Predicting the Past, Remembering the Future (biography; nonfiction)
Michael Connelly, The Closers
Kate Burridge Blooming English
Richard Peck's Invitations to the World (memoir; nonfiction)
The Ring Bear, written by David Michael Slater and illustrated by S.G. Brooks (picture book)
Robert A. Heinlein: Citizen of the Galaxy; Tunnel in the Sky; Farnham's Freehold; The Door into Summer; Glory Road; The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress; Starman Jones; Starship Troopers; Star Beast. (science fiction)
Hilari Bell's The Wizard Test
Shannon Hale: Goose Girl, Enna Burning, Princess Academy (young adult lit)
Hilari Bell's The Goblin Wood (young adult lit)
Diana Wynne Jones Conrad's Fate; Howl's Moving Castle; Castle in the Air (young adult lit; fantasy)
Lawrence Block's Grifter's Game
David Dodge's Plunder of the Sun
Hand-me-down, by Lee Nichols

Monday, August 27, 2007

Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield

OSC's review of Thirteenth Tale

OSC Recommends 2006 Edition (Gift-Buying)

OSC's Book of the Years, 2006


Novel of the Year

For the book lover, you simply can't do better than The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield. This gorgeously written gothic is literary without being pedantic or difficult; on the contrary, you forget how good the writing is, you care so much about these strange and wonderful characters.

Best Teen Novels

Neal Shusterman's Everlost is the story of the spirits of dead children, trapped in this world until they find a way to "get where they were going." Sad and hopeful at the same time, Shusterman turns it into a fantasy adventure with such truth and emotional power that you could safely get this book as a gift for an adult. No better teen novel was published this year.

But don't stop with Everlost. David Lubar's Hidden Talents will make an extraordinarily good gift -- a sort of much-more-believable version of Heroes, starring teenagers trapped in a last-resort high school.

Both these novels are contemporary fantasies; for wonderful fantasies in a medieval setting, Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia series -- The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia -- are a perfect gift set, which will set teen (and younger) readers dreaming.

Best Family Novel

If you like to read books together as a family, here's the best choice this year: Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull. It's the story of a brother and sister who discover that their grandparents are guardians of a preserve for mythical creatures, where some pretty terrible things can happen -- especially when the kids don't think they have to obey the rules of this place.

Best Adult Fantasy Series

Lynn Flewelling's The Bone Doll's Twin, Hidden Warrior, and The Oracle's Queen are brilliantly original and moving. This story still haunts me, months after reading the books. There's plenty of gritty realism to make this a book for adults and mature teenagers, but what it definitely is not is "escapist." This book drags you through so much emotionally painful territory that you're almost relieved when it's done and you can escape to your safe regular life.

And if you're buying a gift for someone who reads far too fast for three volumes to be enough, then you have to go on to Kate Elliott's "Crown of Stars" series: King's Dragons, Prince of Dogs, The Burning Stone, Child of Flame, The Gathering Storm, In the Ruins, and Crown of Stars. This series has the sprawl -- and the realistic level of detail, and the extravagant invention -- of George R.R. Martin's ongoing (and unfinished, curse him!) series (most recent volume: A Feast for Crows). It also has a metaphysical layer all its own.

Both the Flewelling and the Elliott books have female protagonists. Usually this means you can't give them to males to read. All I can say is: I'm male. I loved these books. So if you give them as a gift to a (mature) teenage boy, and he balks ("You gave me books about a girl?"), you can say, "Orson Scott Card told me that these books work brilliantly for men and women readers."

And if he still doesn't believe you, bring out the big guns: "Card said that this book was perfect for men who are secure in their sexual identity."

Or you can just give him Prospero's Children by Jan Siegel. This standalone novel (it has sequels, but you aren't required to read them) has a contemporary English setting, where ancient magic comes to surface in the lives of a brother and sister who find themselves trapped in a strange and dangerous house, surrounded by enemies that nobody else can see. The story begins slowly, with an overwritten prologue, but it takes off soon enough.

Best Science Fiction Novel Not By Me

Without question, that would be Eifelheim, by Michael F. Flynn. This story of alien visitors to a medieval German village, and the modern scientists trying to piece together what really happened, will fill your mind with unforgettable images.

Best Period Mystery Series

If you have a friend or family member who loves a good character-based mystery, but is put off by rough language and dark and ugly situations, then the perfect gift this year will be the whole Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear: Maisie Dobbs, Birds of a Feather, Pardonable Lies, and now the new novel, Messenger of Truth.

I haven't finished Messenger yet, but halfway through, I can say it's every bit as good as the first three -- and that's very, very good. The first three are available in paperback; Messenger, in hardcover only.

Ongoing Mystery Series

The nice thing about Echo Park by Michael Connelly, S Is for Silence by Sue Grafton, Winter's Child by North Carolina's own Margaret Maron, Crusader's Cross by James Lee Burke, The Two-Minute Rule by Robert Crais, and Blue Screen, Sea Change, and Hundred-Dollar Baby by Robert B. Parker is that you can enjoy any of these books without having read a single previous book in the series. Unlike fantasy series, mystery series books are usually designed to stand completely alone. These do.

They are also gritty sometimes and use language that some younger and some older people might object to. I find them all to be in perfectly good taste, but tastes differ, so think of whom you're giving the gift to before deciding.

For a mystery series that is definitely aimed at women readers (and men secure in their sexual identity), I suggest Jane Stanton Hitchcock's Social Crimes: A Novel and One Dangerous Lady. Both books take high society apart, making it both delightful and repellant at the same time. I enjoyed them both enormously, and except for the jarring repeated use of the F-word by one character, these would make a great gift for anyone with a taste for satire, witty writing, and glamor.

Old Books

In case you want to get someone a book that has already stood the test of time, and you're pretty sure they've already gone through all the normal list -- Austen, the Brontes, Eliot, Hardy, Dickens, Twain, Melville, Thackeray -- may I suggest that you get a copy of C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces.

This retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth is definitely not a Christian allegory (the attribute that for me makes the Perelandra books almost unreadably bad); instead it's a great reenvisioning of a classic story, the kind of book that moves you and also makes you think. At the end, there are many characters you love, and one that has made you so frustrated you want to scream at her -- except that she's already screaming at herself.


Best American History

It's beautifully written, crystal clear, absolutely fair to everybody, and tragic in its scope and themes: Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.

Best Ancient History

Never has a careful, scholarly work about ancient history been so pertinent to contemporary concerns: Bryan Ward-Perkins, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization.

Best Personal History

The author tells a highly personal story of his obsession with some unexplained ruins in Nova Scotia, and reveals how he came to the conclusion that they were built by Chinese explorers and settlers before Columbus, and were the source of many of the wild stories about the Seven Cities of Gold. By the end, I was convinced that at least it was worth investigating further. And it's entertaining from beginning to end: Paul Chiasson, The Island of Seven Cities: Where the Chinese Settled When They Discovered America

Best Current Events

Mark Steyn is more conservative on a lot of issues than I am, but in America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, he makes a solid case for the demographic disaster that lies ahead for western civilization. Plus, he's a witty writer, making the book both entertaining and terrifying. Kind of like Stephen King with facts.

Best Commentaries on Contemporary Culture

Larry Miller is a comedian. Spoiled Rotten America is very funny. It's also a serious look at many aspects of life -- inside and outside the family. I don't always agree with him, but by the end of the book I felt like I'd had a great conversation with a really smart guy.

John M. Ellis, in his book Literature Lost: Social Agendas and the Corruption of the Humanities, laments the way "literary theory" (i.e., politically correct elitist groupthink) has taken over so much of the American university, making the possibility of a genuine education less and less likely.

Best Science Books

I'm no physicist and unlikely to become one. Lee Smolin, in his book The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next, does the best job I've ever seen of explaining high-level physics to a lay audience. He also documents -- in a personal, fascinating story -- how "string theory" came to be dominant in the field of physics without ever actually corresponding with the real world or explaining anything.

(If you read this book and Literature Lost, you'll get a pretty good overview of why it seems that universities are sliding into a completely voluntary dark age.)

For any language lover there could be no better Christmas gift than Steven Pinker's Words and Rules. Pinker, author of the must-read book The Language Instinct, is an important working scientist and a gifted popularizer of the latest work in linguistics. By the end of this book, you'll understand why grammar works as it does -- and you'll enjoy yourself along the way.

Best Practical Advice

I can't vouch for everything in Mark Hyman's Ultra Metabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss, but as we have worked to make our diet (and our lives) conform more and more closely to principles outlined in this book, we feel healthier and stronger than ever before.

Best Child-Rearing

I've written at length about these three books, which I think are indispensable to anyone who is raising children:

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, with Diane Eyer, Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How Our Children Really Learn -- and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less: This book is must reading for anyone who is raising, has raised, or thinks he or she might raise children sometime in the future. It helps you relax about their level of development at any particular age, so you can enjoy them more and torment them less.

It might make a wonderfully subversive (and yet educational!) gift to give either or both of the next two books to teenagers and gifted pre-teens. They'll get some idea of how scholarly arguments are made -- and they'll also be armed for discussions with their teachers about the level of homework they receive.

But if you don't dare give these books to kids, certainly you could give them to parents: Alfie Kohn, The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing; and Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It.

Most Fun

OK, maybe these could have gone in the "contemporary culture" category, or in a memoir category, or something else. But the fact is, they're just plain fun to read, filled with cool trivia, and written by a couple of witty and really smart guys: Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!; and Ken Jennings, Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs. I promise you, you will be thanked for these books!

2006 Recommendations

The Art of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders, & Deceivers,
by Kevin D. Mitnick & William L. Simon
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (children's book)
Kidnapped by Jan Burke (mystery)
Carl Hiaasen's Nature Girl
Alex Butterworth and Ray Laurence: Pompeii: The Living City (nonfiction)
The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World by Kati Marton
The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330 by Ian Mortimer
Sue Stauffacher's novels Donuthead and Donutheart
Flotsam by David Wiesner (picture book)
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (memoir)
Robert B. Parker's new Spenser novel, Hundred-Dollar Baby (mystery)
Botanist Colin Tudge has written a thick book called The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter.(nonfiction)
Luc Reid's Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures is meant as a guidebook for us novelists so we can create plausible characters who participate in them. (nonfiction)
Barry Strauss's wonderful book The Trojan War. (nonfiction/history)
Michael Connelly's Crime Beat Also Echo Park. Essentially you can choose ANY Michael Connelly novel for the challenge. (mysteries)
Everlost by Neal Shusterman (young adult lit)
Birth by Tina Cassidy (nonfiction)
Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs by Ken Jennings
Bob Newhart's I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This! (memoir)
Gail Carson Levine's Fairest. Ella Enchanted is also eligible for the challenge. (young adult lit)
Lynn Flewelling's powerful fantasy trilogy, The Bone Doll's Twin, Hidden Warrior, and The Oracle's Queen. I can't recommend this trilogy highly enough, as entertainment and as literature (for mature readers -- think of it as PG-13). (fantasy)
Bill Carter's book Desperate Networks (nonfiction)
Created By: Inside the Minds of TV's Top Show Creators, by Steven Priggé (nonfiction)
Robin Hobb's "Soldier Son Trilogy,"
Margaret Maron's newest Deborah Knott mystery, Winter's Child,
Paul Chiasson's The Island of Seven Cities: Where the Chinese Settled When They Discovered America (nonfiction)
Jan Siegel's Prospero's Children (fantasy)
Alpha Oops: The Day Z Went First, by Alethea Kontis, with illustrations by Bob Kolar (picture book)
David Pirie's mystery novel The Patient's Eyes
Sidney Sheldon: The Other Side of Me (memoir)
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, Nathaniel Philbrick (nonfiction)
John Lukacs's slim book June 1941: Hitler and Stalin
Haiku U. is subtitled: From Aristotle to Zola, 100 Great Books in 17 Syllables.
The Evasion-English Dictionary has a more serious intent, but is also marvelously entertaining. Author Maggie Balistreri has written a deft and all-too-truthful decoding of what is really meant by common words and phrases
Lawrence Block's Hit Parade
Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars series
1. King's Dragons

2. Prince of Dogs

3. The Burning Stone

4. Child of Flame

5. The Gathering Storm

6. In the Ruins

7. Crown of Stars
Robert M. Sapolsky's A Primate's Memoir
Shirley C. Strum, Almost Human
Robert B. Parker's new novel, Blue Screen,
Justin Kaplan's lite history book When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods and Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age Also George F. Hourani's history book, Arab Seafaring.
Fablehaven, Brandon Mull
Mary Oliver's A Poetry Handbook.
Home of the Brave: Honoring the Unsung Heroes in the War on Terror. (nonfiction)
Here, There Be Dragons, by James A. Owen [I'm also including the sequels to this novel!] (young adult lit)(fantasy)
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table; Comfort Me with Apples and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise. by Ruth Reichl (memoirs)
Flip by David Lubar (young adult lit)
Elswyth Thane's "Williamsburg novels"also here
Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Wizards of the Game by David Lubar (young adult lit)
In the Land of the Lawn Weenies. (young adult lit) [It's safe to say that any Lubar title is eligible for the challenge.]
AAny Robert Crais novel
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Mary Higgins Clark, Two Little Girls In Blue (mystery)
Jane Stanton Hitchcock's novel One Dangerous Lady; Trick of the Eye and Social Crimes: A Novel.(mystery)
Eifelheim, by Michael F. Flynn, may turn out to be the best science fiction novel this year.
Edward Rutherford's The Princes of Ireland and The Rebels of Ireland
White Trash Cooking (Ernest Matthew Mickler) and There have been three White Trash Cooking sequels: White Trash Cooking II: Recipes for Gatherin's, More White Trash Cooking, and The Treasury of White Trash Cooking. Also, Ruby Ann Boxcar has a series of books called Ruby Ann's Down Home Trailer Park Cookbook, Ruby Ann's Down Home Trailer Park Holiday Cookbook, and Ruby Ann's Down Home Trailer Park Guide to Livin' Real Good.
Megan Whelan Turner's The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia (young adult lit, fantasy)
James Lee Burke's Crusader's Cross (mystery)
The Philosopher and the Druids: A Journey among the Ancient Celts, by Philip Freeman and Barry Cunliffe's The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek
John M. Ellis's Literature Lost: Social Agendas and the Corruption of the Humanities.
A new biography of Lewis, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis, by Alan Jacobs, is one of the best biographies I have ever read.
General George Washington: A Military Life is a fascinating assessment of George Washington's military abilities. Author Edward Lengel does a superb job of making the campaigns and battles, the strategy and tactics crystal clear -- even if you're listening to the audiobook in a car.
Sue Grafton's "Alphabet Mysteries" series

January and February 2007 Recommendations

Brad Meltzer's The Book of Fate (thriller) and The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom (nonfiction)
Any of the 'Maisy Dobbs' mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear. A full listing can be found here on the author's official site.(mysteries)
Crown of Stars series by Kate Elliott As well as her Crossroads series. Find out more here (fantasies)
Nelson DeMille's Wild Fire (thriller)
Any of John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey series. You may find a complete listing here(mysteries)
Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison as well as The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison. (Both young adult)
True Talents by DAvid Lubar and Hidden Talents by David Lubar. (young adult)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (young adult)
Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme, by Chris Roberts, is an entertaining look at the origins, both documented and speculative, behind the most common nursery rhymes.(nonfiction)

Bridge to Terabithia

The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

March 2007 Recommendations

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill (mystery/thriller)
The Watchman by Robert Crais (mystery)
Teacher Man by Frank McCourt(memoir)

Inda, Sherwood Smith

Inda by Sherwood Smith. Official author site:
OSC's review of Inda

Invention of Hugo Cabret

OSC reviews Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret

April (2007) Recommendations

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly and Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman. As Obsession is part of a series, I'll expand the list of eligible books to include the whole series. You can find out more here.

The Measure of A Man by Sidney Poitier

The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery, by D.T. Max (be warned, heartbreaking and depressing book)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susannah Clarke

Both Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and The Ladies of Grace Adieu are eligible for the challenge.

The Great Snape Debate

The Innocent Man, John Grisham (same link as above)

Jane Austen in Scarsdale: Or Love, Death and the SATs by Paula Marantz Cohen

Jane Austen in Scarsdale: Or Love, Death, and the SATs by Paula Marantz Cohen

A few historical, nonfiction sort of books that Card warns isn't for the typical reader (same link as above) but that he enjoyed (some very enthusiastically)

Michael Grant's The Rise of the Greeks

Christopher Kelly's marvelous Ruling the Later Roman Empire

Roman Britain, by Guy de la Bedoyere

Jane McIntosh's book, Handbook to Life in Prehistoric Europe

Susan Wise Bauer's The History of the Ancient World from the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome

The Albanians: An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present, by Edwin E. Jacques. (with caution)

Card's American Novel Course

These books appeared as required readings for his college course:

Young Adult

Robert Cormier, I Am the Cheese

David Lubar, Hidden Talents

Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

Louis Sachar, Holes


William Goldman, The Princess Bride


John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

Richard Russo, Nobody's Fool

Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups


Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress

Sharyn McCrumb, If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O

Chick Lit

Lauren Weisberger, The Devil Wears Prada

Adriana Trigiani, Big Stone Gap

Jane Stanton Hitchcock, Social Crimes

Olive Ann Burns, Cold Sassy Tree

Science Fiction

Octavia Butler, Dawn


Stephen King, The Dead Zone


Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October

Legal Thriller

John Grisham, The Rainmaker

In addition to these required novels, I had students read other books from a list I provided and report on them, in detail, to the class. So the students were exposed to other books by the same authors, allowing them to have a good idea of what else these writers (and a handful of others) produced.

So Cormier was also represented by The Chocolate War and Fade, Goldman by Boys and Girls Together, Russo by Mohawk, Tyler by Breathing Lessons, McCrumb by St. Dale and Bimbos of the Death Sun, Butler by Wild Seed and Parable of the Sower, King by Misery and The Stand, and Grisham by The Client. We also got a good look at In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner.

The Hobbit; LOTR

Card has mentioned in many, many posts the classic Tolkien novels, The Hobbit and the three books that make up The Lord of the Rings. He has reviewed them all at least once on audiobook, and he covers the movies as well. I'm sure he has at one point in time addressed the books themselves.

The BBC radio dramatization of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (BBC LOTR) is audio drama at its finest. An extraordinary cast of actors bring Tolkien's story to life, letting it all unfold as scenes, with only a little narration here and there.


June Recommendations

Mars Needs Moms! by Berkeley Breathed.Read more at her official site. (Picture book)

'Isms and 'Ologies: The 453 Basic Tenets You've Only Pretended to Understand, by Arthur Goldwag (nonfiction)

Cluny: In Search of God's Lost Empire, by Edwin Mullins (nonfiction; not so highly recommended--too long)

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. (Fantasy) Card writes, "If you're a reader of fantasy or simply someone who appreciates a truly epic-scale work of fiction, don't go through this summer without having read it."

The Overlook, Michael Connelly (Thriller/Mysteries)

Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe novels. Card mentions reading/listening to five of the mysteries series. But all of them are eligible for this challenge. You may find listings here or here.

Other July Titles--Mostly Nonfiction

OSC recommended a lot of titles in his beach reads segment. Including:

Sand In My Bra
More Sand in My Bra
The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill

The first two appear to be humor/comedy. The last is a book of quotes by/about Churchill.

Boarding House Reach: North Carolina's Entrepreneurial Women by Alice E. Sink and Nickie Doyal.

My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student by Rebekah Nathan.

The Kids' Book Club Book: Reading Ideas, Recipes, Activities, and Smart Tips for Organizing Terrific Kids' Book Clubs by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp.

Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right: How One Side Lost Its Mind and the Other Lost Its Nerve by Bernard Goldberg

Any Walter Farting Dog Books

The series is by William Kotzwinkle. OSC warns these are better read aloud than silently.

Richard Lederer, Literary Trivia

OSC mentions Richard Lederer's Literary Trivia. But I'm going to *cheat* a little since this is my kind of humor and open the challenge up to all his books.

Anguished English
More Anguished English
Fractured English
The Bride of Anguished English
The Revenge of Anguished English
The Cunning Linguist

For more titles, go here

Yes, even board books

OSC on Olivier Dunrea

Gossie and Gertie
Ollie the Stomper

The Dangerous Book for Boys, Iggulden


Evil Genes, Barbara Oakley


Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend by Barbara Oakley

Mark L. Van Name, One Jump Ahead

I'm going to go ahead and include the sequel, Slanted Jack, that will be released in June 2008.

Read OSC's thoughts

All 'Harry Potters' are eligible

OSC is a big fan, so all seven of the Harry Potter books are 'eligible' books for this challenge.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Assorted Historical Fiction Mix,

James Michener, The Source
Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur
Lloyd Douglas, The Robe
Taylor Caldwell, Dear and Glorious Physician

And any of these by Mary Renault:
The King Must Die
The Bull From the Sea
The Praise Singer
The Last of the Wine
The Mask of Apollo
Fire From Heaven,
The Persian Boy
Funeral Games


Steven Saylor,

OSC discussed Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series (Roman Blood, The House of the Vestals, A Gladiator Only Dies Once, Arms of Nemesis, Catilina's Riddle, The Venus Throw, A Murder on the Appian Way, Rubicon, Last Seen in Massilia, A Mist of Prophecies, The Judgment of Caesar, and The Triumph of Caesar) and the New York Times bestseller, Roma. I am willing to say that any Steven Saylor novel will count for this challenge.

Visit Saylor's website:

To read OSC's thoughts

Spare Change, Robert B. Parker

Read OSC's review
I'm also going to allow any other "Sunny Randall" story mysteries by Parker.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

To read OSC's review Stardust: the book and movie