My favorite novels from 55+ years of reading

I livew in my own little world

The first school I attended was Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah (picture below, ca. 2011, from Google Street View).

Lake View Elementary School, Brigham City UT

The school library was separated into grade sections. I had read the complete Grade 1 section by Christmas of my first year and had to get the Principal’s approval to start reading the Grade 2 section. By the end of Grade 3, I had read the complete collection in the school library, except for the encyclopedias and atlases.

San Diego TrolleyPart of my reading success was my reading speed. The other part was my willingness to read anywhere, and that I still do. I have reading material with me whenever and wherever I go. Waiting on car maintenance at the shop? I read. Standing in line at the post office or grocery store? I read. Sitting in the doctor or dentist’s office? I read. Riding the Trolley? I read.

Time and Again by Jack FinneyCurrently, I am reading Time and Again, a 1970 work by Jack Finney about time travel. Being quite an interesting book with an interesting premise and plot, it is a good read, but my senior English teacher in high school would be appalled by his love of the dangling participle. (Oh, how I had fun writing that sentence….)

I chose it because of Stephen King’s recommendation on the last page of his book, 11/22/63, which now ranks as my favorite Stephen King book of all time.

At the request of an unknown person from a craiglist advertisement, here is a list of my favorite novels, books that I specifically remember from my life of reading, in alphabetical order:

  • 11/22/63 by Stephen KingAny book by Stephen King (or Richard Bachman). Stephen King has never failed to immerse me in his writing, to take me to other places, to make me think about the known and unknown, to wonder. The books that particularly stand out for me are 11/22/63, The Dark Tower series, The Stand, and Under the Dome.
  • The Box-Car Children by Gertrude C. Warner. When I read this at the age of 9, I already had it in my mind that my mom and stepdad didn’t love me. I could identify with these orphans.
  • Charlotte's Web by E. B. WhiteCharlotte’s Web by E. B. White. This book taught me an appreciation  for all life, regardless of how small (and some might say, “icky”) it might be. As my wise old grandmother told me when I was reading this book: “All life has a right to live.” To this day, when I find a spider visiting me inside, I capture it in a cup and simply move it outside so it can go on living, perhaps even becoming part of the food chain for life that is bigger than it.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. This is the only book that I have read multiple times—1973 as a high school senior, 1984 (to see how close Orwell came), and in 2013 after watching “The Hunger Games.”
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I wanted my own secret garden, a place where I could go to get away from the bullies at school and parents who did not love me. This book was the start of my lifelong interest in gardening, an interest that continued to develop under the tutelage of my wise old grandmother after she adopted me.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I did not read this book until 1995 after I had left Texas and moved to California. I was in the process of changing my life, and this book helped me change my perspective and understanding of the many different people around me.

As an aside, I do believe I’m back!

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8 thoughts on “My favorite novels from 55+ years of reading

  1. TamrahJo

    I’m working through the 100 top classics of all time, I somehow missed, going through school (apparently, I went through during the New English, period, as well as the New Math – still can’t do fractions properly, have to convert to a percentage to get the job done in my brain – – LOL) – Just read To Kill a Mockingbird, last winter, but have to say, Dickens is so deliciously sarcastic – – LOL – so far, my favorite is The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit – funny, how humans don’t evolve very quickly – – LOL

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I tried working through the 100 top classics of all time using Time magazine’s list of books from 1923 to 2005. I failed, quitting at #4, The Catcher in the Rye. I will read 50 pages before calling it quits. I figure if the author can’t get my attention in 50 pages, then something’s wrong. Besides, as my wise old grandmother told me, “Know when to quit.” And, of course, Kenny Rogers sang, “Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” So if I’m not enjoying a book after 50 pages, it’s on to the next one.

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      1. TamrahJo

        Yeah, there have been a few requested from library, that I gave up on by page 5 – -LOL – – sigh – – list put on hold till winter/reading season rolls back around – right now, most of my ‘reading’ time spent on how-to for home improvement/gardening/landscaping stuff – – LOL

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        1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

          If I were to give up on page 5, I would not still be reading “Time and Again” by Jack Finney. But with Stephen King’s recommendation as his all-time favorite time travel book, I really really really want to give it a chance. I’m on page 307, and I’m really glad I gave it a chance. I can’t wait until the ending. In fact, I think I hear the hot tub and Jack Finney calling now……….

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  2. writeknit

    OMG – our favorite reading lists are almost parallel! I too am a super fan of Stephen King. The Boxcar books were also a staple of my childhood. My list would include Nancy Drew (loved mysteries and still do), Jodi Picoult and Dean Koontz.

    Hands down, if I had to pick only one book to say was my favorite, it is To Kill a Mocking Bird. It is the only book I have re-read several time.

    Thanks for the literary smiles this morning 🙂

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I did all the Drew mysteries, and all of Koontz. Koontz has a lot of contemporaries that I love—Dan Brown, Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy, and John Grisham come immediately to mind. I’m not familiar with Picoult but both “19 Minutes” and “Change of Heart” sound like my kind of books. I put them on my reading list.

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