That Book


My rather large collection of books could politely be called “eclectic.” Impolitely, you might accuse their owner (me) of suffering from a multiple-personality disorder, because there’s no way that some of those suckers should exist in the same universe, let alone the same bookshelf. Fact is, I sample giddily from many different genres and a wide variety of authors. In my library you’ll find everything from high-brow literary tomes to … well, paperbacks that feature words like “heaving” and “throbbing.”

I’m not proud of that.

Though I sometimes try to organize my collection, several of the books have apparently become migratory over the years. For the life of me, I can’t explain how Jeffry Eugenides’ Middlesex ended up next to Retired Racing Greyhounds For Dummies. And just the other day, I found my lost copy of The Hunger Games hiding beneath Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

Among the stacks and shelves there are some books that I seem to gravitate back to again and again and again. Sometimes I do that because they’re brilliant, although many of them certainly are not. Sometimes, it’s because of a neat plot twist or marvelous dialogue. Sometimes, I have to admit, it’s because a book crosses my mind and I can’t believe just how awful it was … so I go back and read it again to verify that YES, it really was that awful. It’s like a perpetual state of denial. (I regularly go back to certain restaurants for the same reason.)

The point is that every so often I get a craving for that book. That specific book. And heaven help me if I can’t find it, because I will tear the place apart until I do. They’re like my comfort food for the brain. They’re like popcorn. Only made out of paper. And you don’t eat them. Okay, so it was a bad metaphor.

Anyway, I thought that it might be interesting to occasionally share a few selections from my That Book list,  along with a very brief explanation or at least a mea culpa. Mind you, the criterion for these books is that they are still in my reading rotation after at least five years. Some of them I’ve had for over twenty years.

I hope you’ll tell me about your version of the That Book list too! Seriously, don’t leave me hanging out here all alone with only my embarrassment for company! Please?

In no particular order:

One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

In Soviet Russia, book writes author! Seriously, Solzhenitsyn spent years incarcerated in a Soviet prison camp, and it shines through in this stark ‘day in the life’ account.  I must have read it a hundred times and I still feel a sense of suspense as to whether Ivan will somehow manage to get on the sick list.

Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett

Granny Weatherwax is possibly the greatest character in the history of characters, and Nanny Ogg can be Robin to my Batman any old day. The Time Of The Thing With The Bulls is side-splittingly funny. Honestly, pretty much all of Pratchett’s Discworld novels (those published prior to 2009) are destined to remain on my That Book list.

Debt Of Honor Tom Clancy

In my experience, books written by Tom Clancy must breed with each other. Seems like you can’t hit a garage sale or thrift shop without finding several Clancy books lurking on the shelves and looking furtive. I also have to say that Clancy’s series around character Jack Ryan used to be pretty good, until he ran out of ideas or started using a ghostwriter or something. Then they sucked.Out of all of them, I give this one the nod because it has a good balance with a fairly credible story and a nice ensemble cast of characters.

All Quiet On The Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

A tale of young German soldiers in the trenches of World War I, this book is even less uplifting than Ivan Denisovich, which just should not be possible. But it’s an insightful and unflinching masterpiece of writing. If it didn’t hit a required reading list for you in High School, and even if it did, I do sincerely recommend it.

Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

As a rule, I don’t like anything hinting of Chick-Lit. I just can’t relate to the genre at all. But I like Bridget Jones a lot! I love the self-deprecation of the writing and the great dialogue. (Although sometimes I get lost in the British-ness of it all.) Bridget’s meticulously kept daily log of lost/gained weight, cigarettes smoked, and alcohol units consumed just cracks me up.

A Good Day to Die (Star Trek: I.K.S. Gorkon, Book 1) – Keith R.A. Decandido

Yes, this is one I ought to be ashamed of.

It’s a Star Trek book.

Actually, it’s a book about Klingons.

Klingons with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Captain Klag throws his head back and laughs heartily. Doctor B’Oraq tugs on her braid which happens to be adorned with a pin of her family crest. Commander Kurak grasps her right wrist with her left hand when she’s irritated … which is always. Lieutenant Leskit’s Cardassian neck-bone necklace rattles when he moves. These things happen EVERY SINGLE TIME one of these characters appears in any scene in any book of the I.K.S. Gorkon series. It’s a wonder there’s room for a plot. But doggone it, I do love that Klingon perspective and for some reason, I just … keep re-reading this series.

How about you? What’s on your That Book list?

Categories: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “That Book

  1. Ooohhh… I have too many!!

    1. Anything by Patricia Veryan. She’s ‘just’ a romance writer, but somehow her characters within a series interweave, compliment, and generally click with each other. Somehow her heroines are just a little more real; somehow her heroes are almost human, yet impossibly wonderful. Besides, she makes sure there is a nice amount of humor. I go back to her books constantly.

    2. The Wild Magic series by Tamora Pierce. I keep picking up those books, over and over again. What can I say– her mane (main?) character is what I always wanted to be when I was growing up.

    3. Patrick McManus: Kerplop! . Because every single writer in the world should be able to write without taking life (or herself) too seriously. Including me.

    4. Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James. It’s old, the vernacular can be challenging, but I’ve always loved the story and the way Will writes the very soul of Smoky and his cowboy into the tale.

    5. Treasury of Children’s Poetry. From nursery rhymes to Tennyson, it’s a simple book that reminds me of the most important part of writing– be brief, be meaningful, be magical.

    • Sue

      Oh wow, I LOVED Smoky The Cowhorse when I was younger! Can’t imagine when or where my copy disappeared, but I should reinvest. One of these days maybe I’ll share my “THAT BOOK” list from my teen years. It was considerably different, but horse loving geeks would probably get a kick out of it.

      I’ve also really enjoyed several of the Tamora Pierce books too, and I’ve reread several, but they don’t meet the “five year” criteria. 🙂

      • I am, unfortunately, addicted to YA books. I do have some adult stuff, but for the most part I always return to my misspent youth.

  2. Deborah the Closet Monster

    I hardly ever return to books, although I’ve kept a few in case I do; The Silver Kiss (from youth) and The Princess Bride spring to mind.

    As for the “hardly ever” part? I say that because I’m actually rereading a book I only read at the beginning of January. If I Stay is so captivating, I was finding it hard to focus on the other books I’m trying to read. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to focus on the new ones after finishing this reread!

    Your comment about having to confirm something is as bad as you remember made me laugh. I do this as well, and always find myself wondering why I can’t just leave bad enough alone.

  3. Sue

    Hi Deborah!

    I read The Princess Bride when I was around 18, but I should read it again. At the time, I found it a little confusing. (And-cough-not-like-the-movie-cough.)

    Is If I Stay by Gayle Foreman? I just looked it up on Amazon out of curiosity, and I agree it sounds like quite a pager turner. I’ll have to put it on my to-read list. Thanks for the tip!


  4. Oh, I adore the Terry Pratchett Discworld witch subset of novels. I have reread them countless times. My all-time-favorite is LORDS AND LADIES. It is brilliant, and written on so many levels of understanding I get something different out of it each time.

    I have also read SIGHT HOUND by Pam Houston repeatedly. It’s a novel about a dog who is dying, but it’s told from multiple perspectives including the dog himself, the other animals who live in his home (the chapter from the cat’s perspective is my all time favorite chapter anywhere in any book ever) his people, the vet, etc. It was the book that first inspired me to write from an animal’s perspective.

    And probably my favorite non-fiction book that I’ve read so many times it’s fallen apart and had to be replaced countless times is MERTON’S PALACE OF NOWHERE by James Finley. It is about the spirituality of the late Father Thomas Merton and is one of the greatest books on mysticism every written IMHO.

    • Sue

      Hi Devin!

      Lords and Ladies IS brilliant. And I like Carpe Jugulum too. They both have a bit of darkness to them, but are still hysterically funny and…well, there’s no such thing as too much Granny Weatherwax.

      I’ll have to look into the other books you mentioned when I get a chance. My To-Read list is sure growing!

  5. kathils

    CJ Cheryh Pride of Chanur series, Anne McCaffrey Dragonriders series, um. . . . The Hobbit, and some Dr. Suess. Yes, seriously.

    • Sue

      Hi kathils!

      My daughter just finished reading The Hobbit for a school assignment, so we’re deep in Middle Earth fever here. I liked the whole LOTR series, but The Hobbit and The Return of the King were my favorites. The Two Towers was haaaard going.

      I still read the Dragonriders of Pern series and the Harper Hall trilogy. In fact, a lot of my first writing-for-feedback was Pern fan fiction. Good times!

  6. Well, Mine are simple, Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, The book Thief by Marcus Zusak, Red Hot Property Devin O’Branagan, The Monster At the End of the Book by Loveable Furry Old Grover, Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt. and Big Bear to the Rescue by Richard Margolis

    • Sue

      Hi Sally!

      Can’t forget the Devin O’Branagan books. 🙂 I don’t read much Koontz, but I certainly have read my Grover! I loved that book when I was a kid. Best ending ever!


  7. Hiya Sue,

    Beautiful page. The Pic at the top is stunning, and reminds me for some reason of Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage. Not a compulsive read of mine…

    I’ve always had a thing for anti-heroes.

    Some of mine are Weis and Hickman’s Dragonlance books; Time of the Twins, War or the Twins,
    and Test of the Twins. Raistlin was a great anti-hero.

    The first and probably my favorite would be Michael Moorcock’s Elric Saga. Elric of Melibone was a truly tragic character. Easy to love, sympathize with, or even pity.

    My all-time compulsive read though is actually totally different. Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I just love Arthur Dent.

  8. Sue

    Welcome, Matthew!

    I used to read the Dragonlance books when I was in school, but totally lost track of them. I haven’t thought about Raistlin in years and years! I do remember Douglas Adams well though. Nothing like a little Vogon poetry to lighten up your planet’s imminent Armageddon. (And my favorite line in the whole book? “Ford, you’re turning into a penguin. Stop it.” Cracks me up every time!)

    The picture at the top of the page is actually the cover for my novella, The Bluff, and I liked it so much that I thought it would be great as the theme picture for this blog too. I’ll be glad to pass along your compliment to the photographer. I’m sure he’ll be pleased. 🙂

  9. Ha! Yes, a great line. I’m not sure that I could pick out a single favorite. So many in there… I just couldn’t choose. I guess that’s probably why it’s one of my compulsive reads though. 🙂 I just love it, everything from digital watches all the way down to Arthur’s illustrious career in sandwich making are treasure to me.

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