Asterisks denote rereads
O Pioneers, My Antonia, Harry Potter, and Where the Red Fern Grows remain favorites. Among books you won’t find in stores (yet) I recommend The Kill Seekers by Marc Hobbs (science fiction) and Angela’s Wife by Jonni Petit (the true story of a transgender woman and her family). Go Set a Watchman had extremely mixed reviews, but I thought it beautiful portrayed the fragility of our expectations. Lastly, everyone should read The Picture of Dorian Grey, which is both imaginative and frightening, as well as 1984 by George Orwell. While you’re at it, reread Animal Farm, which is still relevant decades later.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris had me in absolute tears from laughing (When You Are Engulfed in Flames was great too). I reread the Snicket books in preparation for the Netflix adaption. Although the author leaves some major questions unanswered, I’ll always love the dark humor. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is enjoyable, as was Storm of Swords and The Grapes of Wrath. Finally, The Fault in Our Stars remains John Green’s best with its atypical approach to teen romance.
I don’t have any specific reading goals for 2017 other than my minimum thirty and adding more classics to my repertoire. Also, I hope 2017 will be the year I FINALLY start and finish Lord of the Rings. But, given the nature of the world today, I’m hoping to fall in love with some dystopia: new if it’s good, but preferably books that were before their time (i.e. I’ve had several recommendations for The Handmaid’s Tale). If you have something in mind, in this genre or anything else, I’m interested. Please let me know in the comments!
If I inquired about your cultural heroes, smart money is you’d rattle off a list so long I’d regret asking in the first place. Don’t worry. I’d be guilty of the same charge. Then suppose I asked you to pare it down to five, or gave you a category, like scientist or filmmaker? Even then you’d have many. But who would win the most kudos for their craft?
Today, the category is author, and the person is Richard Adams. I put him at the top not because of his recent passing or because he gets top billing as my favorite author. In fact, the latter isn’t necessarily true. Still, for me and most animal fiction authors, Adams was the totem pole base for creatives who wrote for adults, children, or no one in particular. He was not the first to personify animals, not by centuries. But he was the first to do so by preserving the integrity of animal nature. He did not seek allegory in the way George Orwell told Animal Farm (although this was brilliant in its own respect). Watership Down was perhaps equally political, but with the aim of surrounding us in a fresh universe, reading more like an epic than a fable. Adams would batter through rejection and incredulous publishers to lay a new foundation in literature, with other bricks following suit, including Shardik and The Plague Dogs.
Some years back I wrote to Adams. He was elderly, retired, and off the grid for fan mail. After tracking down a few publishers I managed to find an in-the-care-of address. I’ll never know if it made it his way (despite promises from a very kind editor that my letter was in good hands). But as is the impulse of admirers, we want our heroes to know we love them. Love, of course, is a loose word. I knew Mr. Adams no further than his rabbits and a Wikipedia page. Yet in the sense that our creations are a piece of us—ones that we so tenderly share with the world—I do believe I loved Mr. Adams very much indeed.
“All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.”