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Most of the following suggestions are for less-well-known books that I have enjoyed. This is not a comprehensive reading list. If you enjoy reading, you might enjoy some of the books I describe below. If there is something I've listed which you particularly enjoy, let me know, and I can probably suggest other book which you might like.
Piers Anthony, author of the popular Xanth series, has written some less well known books that I enjoyed:
The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas - The book is a whole lot better than the movie. Take care to find an unabridged version, with good illustrations. The costumes of the period are different enough that the pictures definitely add to the story.
Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott - Knights in shining armor, and maidens in distress, in the time of King Richard. This is an excellent, detailed, book taking place while the Norman invasion of England was still fresh in peoples' minds. If you enjoy Ivanhoe, go to the library and search out other books by the same author.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the entire Sherlock Holmes series - Sherlock Holmes is a "Consulting Detective." Be sure to begin with A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, which introduce and explain Holmes and Watson. As for the rest of the stories, try to find an edition which includes the original illustrations from The Strand. (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was first published, one story at a time, in the London magazine The Strand.) I particularly enjoy noting little bits and pieces of life in London from a century ago.
Erle Stanley Gardner, the Perry Mason Series - Search out the earliest books. Like with the Sherlock Holmes series, they explain and develop the characters. And as with the Holmes stories, I particularly enjoy the unintended glimpses into how life was a half-century ago. Somebody else has a web page listing when the earliest Perry Mason books (click here) were published, so take note of the earliest titles and start there. Here is another good Erle Stanley Gardner Page, which also lists the books by publishing date.
Various classics are classics for a reason. I remember enjoying Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court, The Prince and the Pauper, The Call of the Wild, White Fang. Be sure you find them in unabridged editions, or you'll miss half of the enjoyment.
Jack London, author of The Call of the Wild and White Fang, wrote many other excellent books and short stories. A favorite short story of mine is To Build a Fire.
I'm not generally a fan of poetry, but I do enjoy the work of Robert W. Service. His poetry describes the Yukon of the Alaskan Gold Rush, just like Jack London. Much of his poetry is available online at the The Robert W. Service Home Page. My favorite is The Ballad of the Ice-Worm Cocktail.
Run Silent, Run Deep, by Cmdr. Edward Beach - One of my two all-time favorite books. This is a story of submarine warfare in the Pacific during World War II, told from the point of view of the submarine's captain. The book is fiction, but based on the author's personal experience. The book does have two sequels, but they are a bit more difficult to find. The author has also written several interesting non-fiction books. There is a movie of the same name, and it does follow the book very closely... but the book is better.
The Virginian, by Owen Wister - The other of my two all-time favorite books. I don't like Westerns too often. (I did enjoy Shane.) This story takes place in Wyoming of the 1880's, and is the classic Western. Try to find an edition of the book that includes the original line drawings by C.M. Russell. I could go on and on about this book, but... Just Read It.
Alistair MacLean wrote a couple of dozen books, and I greatly enjoy them all. Several of them have been turned into movies (Breakheart Pass, The Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra, Where Eagles Dare, and I can't think of any others at the moment).
The Hunt For Red October, by Tom Clancy - the best submarine book since Run Silent, Run Deep. This is my favorite Clancy book, followed by Patriot Games. But do read Run Silent, Run Deep first, if at all possible. It will give you a far greater appreciation of The Hunt For Red October. And again, forget the movie; the book is far far better.
I might also suggest Whip by Martin Caidin. It's the fictional story of a World War II medium-bomber squadron, though it's really about their leader Bill Russell, nicknamed Whip. It's a fascinating, compelling, story, though it has a bit of rough language - perfectly normal for its South Pacific wartime setting, but the language is there.
Ben Hur, by Lew Wallace - You may have seen the movie, which contains the best chariot race of all time. The book is long and rather slow to start, but well worth it. The story takes place at the time of Christ. Ben Hur is discredited and sentenced to a galley, but eventually becomes the chariot racer for an Arab's team of horses.
The Silver Chalice, by Thomas Costain - Also set in the time of Christ, it's about a silversmith's apprentice. He eventually creates the chalice (the framework holding the cup) used in Christ's Last Supper. Costain, if I recall rightly, wrote several other excellent historical novels.
Andre Norton wrote over a hundred science fiction novels, which were more popular a generation below. I particularly enjoyed the pair Beast Master and Lord of Thunder; the Witch W orld series of five or six books, and The Time Traders. Most are out of print, so you might have to borrow them from me! Click here for my outline and detailed description of the Witch World series.
Isaac Asimov likewise wrote a slew of science fiction. My favorite is the Foundation Trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation). Others to check are The Caves of Steel, The Stars Like Dust, and The Currents of Space. Each of these is related to other of his books, so if you like one, check for sequels and such.
The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey - Science fiction story of a rocket ship with a strong personality. McCaffrey is immensely popular, and if you don't mind the adult content present in most of her books, I highly recommend the original two Dragonrider trilogies (The Dragonriders of Pern and The Harper Hall Trilogy). She's now written something over nineteen jillion Dragonrider books, and some are better than others. Crystal Singer and its sequel Killashandra are excellent. There is a third book, Crystal Line, but I don't remember much about it.
Dick Francis has become one of my favorite authors. His books are all mysteries related in some way to British horse racing. Very few are related to each other, so just find Francis in the library and start reading!
Little Big Man - It's been a long time since I read the book, but I do remember enjoying it. It's about a white man who lives with American Indians. There was a movie made from the book, with Dustin Hoffman, but I don't think I ever watched it. (When I enjoy a book, I prefer not to ruin it by being disappointed in the movie made from the book!)
Dune, by Frank Herbert - I had to read it a couple of times before I was able to follow all of the subtleties, but it was well worth it. Dune is one of my favorite books. There were several sequels, but they weren't as good as the first book, in my opinion.
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkein - The classic epic adventure with dragons and wizards and dwarves and elves. If you do like The Hobbit, continue on to the trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Tolkein, incidentally, was a devout Christian and personal friend of C.S. Lewis (if I remember my history correctly!).
The Amazing World of John Scarne, by John Scarne - John Scarne used to be the world's foremost authority on gambling, and particularly cheating at gambling, but he was not a gambler himself. He was one of the best sleight-of-hand performers in the world, particularly with a deck of cards. He achieved his fame through hard work from a very early age. He travelled throughout the military during World War II, teaching the soldiers how to keep from getting cheated at card and dice games. Scarne was a brilliant mathematician as well. While several of his books on games and gambling are still in print, this autobiography will likely be difficult to find. You might need to borrow my copy! While Scarne does tend to be boastful in all of his books, and this one is no exception, I very much enjoyed reading it. Do you remember the movie The Sting with Robert Redford? There is a fancy card-dealing sequence in the movie, just a few seconds. It's John Scarne doing the dealing. NEW: I put together so much material that I've created a complete web site dedicated to The Amazing World of John Scarne.
The Horatio Hornblower series, by C.S. Forester - Start with Beat To Quarters, and when you realize how much you enjoy that book, search out the rest in the series. They should be in any public library. I suggest reading them in the order published. Hornblower, in the series, progresses from Midshipman to Admiral, in the British Navy, in the days of sailing ships, cannons, Napoleon, and Spanish treasure galleons. Visit the C.S. Forester Society Home Page for detailed information on the book series, including the exact time periods each book covers, publishing date, etc. The Forester Society also provides access to out-of-print short stories not available in the standard series.
If there's any chance at all you would enjoy a good sea story, take a look at the Aubrey/Maturn series by Patrick O'Brian. Master and Commander is the first book of 20 or so. I can find the whole series in the general Fiction section of both the local library and the local bookstores. Aubrey is a ship-captain, and Maturin the ship's surgeon, of the British Royal Navy around 1801. Check The Grapes for a list of Aubrey/Maturin discussion groups.
I particularly enjoy the nautical language of Forester and O'Brian. The trouble is, though, some of the terms have become obscure, or taken on different meanings. How far, for example, is a cable's length, or a fathom? "By and large" has a very specific technical meaning to the Royal Navy of 1801 - I discovered that in the last chapter of Master and Commander. I did some poking around, and found some web sites that help... here they are:
This page (reading.html) is maintained by Ed Barnard. Last update April 4, 2000. There have been 59674 visitors since April 3, 1999.