- by Laura Resnick
A good game for readers! Here are 10 (well, okay, a few more than 10) books that have long stayed with me (in a good way).
1. THE LOST PAINTING: THE QUEST FOR A CARAVAGGIO MASTERPIECE by Jonathan Harr. (Nonfiction.) I read this book last winter. After a week, I was still thinking about it, so I read it again. Then I loaned it to my Mom, who read it in one sitting. Charming, engaging nonfiction book about art, art history, art lovers, art collectors, Caravaggio, the Baroque, lost art, art smuggling, Jesuits, art auctions, etc.
2. SACRED GEOGRAPHY by Edward Fox. (Nonfiction.) Riveting account by a British journalist of the politics of archaeology in the Holy Land, the influence of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the rule of law, and the unsolved murder of an American archaeologist who was a teacher at Birzeit University on the West Bank.
3. THE RAZOR’S EDGE by W. Somerset Maugham. (Fiction.) An old favorite, I’ve read this novel four times. I get something different from it each time. It’s the globe-trotting story of an unconventional young man searching for life’s meaning after he survives the fighting of WWI, and of the conventional society people with whom his life occasionally intersects during the 1920s and 1930s.
4. TEN THOUSAND LOVERS by Edeet Ravel. (Fiction.) I read this in 2008, and it stuck with me for a long time. It’s a novel about an Israeli-born Canadian peacenik who returns to Israel and gets into a relationship with an Israeli army interrogator.
5. All four of Sarah Caudwell’s novels. She died not long after completing the fourth one. These are absolutely charming, funny, elegant well-crafted mystery novels set amidst a group of young London barristers, and I enjoy them so much, I re-read them almost every year: THUS WAS ADONIS MURDERED; THE SIRENS SANG OF MURDER; THE SHORTEST WAY TO HADES; THE SIBYL IN HER GRAVE.
6. Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy: THE CRYSTAL CAVE; THE HOLLOW HILLS; THE LAST ENCHANTMENT. In a sub-sub-genre that’s become pretty crowded (Arthurian historical fantasy), this trilogy still stands out as one of my favorite works of fiction. Written by one of my favorite writers–if you don’t know her romantic suspense novels, give them a try, too! (Ex. NINE COACHES WAITING; AIRS ABOVE GROUND; THIS ROUGH MAGIC, etc.) There is a fourth book to the Arthurian set, THIS WICKED DAY, also worth reading.
7. SINAI TAPESTRY and JERUSALEM POKER by Edward Whittemore. These magic realism novels were published in the 1970s, before magic realism became popular, and they were little-known for years, though they’ve finally been discovered and reissued. These are the first two books of the late Edward Whittemore’s Jerusalem Quartet, and I’ve re-read these two novels several times over the years. They’re beautiful, lyrical, haunted, humorous, lunatic stories about larger-than-life characters in the Middle East in the early part of the 20th century.
8. THE WRITER’S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler. (Nonfiction.) Not a “how to” book. A “food for thought” book about archetypal characters, conflicts, and structures that have permeated good storytelling for centuries.
9. LOST CIVILIZATIONS OF THE STONE AGE by Richard Rudgley. (Nonfiction.) I have a mild obsession with the Neolithic period. (But it’s under control! I swear!) Rudgley ‘s engaging, highly readable book explains that the reason we get whacko theories about aliens from outer space teaching the ancients to write and build pyramids is because a poor job has been done of explaining the abundant archaeological evidence of the logical, painstaking, problem-solving experiments and solutions that our ancestors implemented during the millennia of the Neolithic period and early Bronze Age to achieve these developments.
10. A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RICH by Richard Conniff. (Nonfiction.) Conniff examines the customs and lifestyles of the ultra-wealthy by using the same techniques of scientific observation that he brings to his usual work as a naturalist writing about wildlife. The result is a charming, often very funny, and always interesting look at how the lives of billionaires relate to, say, the mating habits of the sandpiper.
So what are some books that will always stay with you?