Sorry I am getting my post up a bit late. I spent last night visiting with a writer friend – as we do each Wednesday – working on our own novels, so didn’t have time to delve into today’s second Armchair BEA topic. That is, as the title suggests, sharing my favorite novels that fall into the “literary fiction” category.
Before I share my list, I must share a few thoughts. Mini-soapbox rant warning alert! I understand categorization, and appreciate the need to label books (and other things) in order to maintain organization, help in search engines, or give a swift impression of what a novel is about. Sometimes, however, the need to strictly label every book just does not work. Or, worse yet, ends up with people coming up with crazy “rules” or definitions, usually in conflict with what someone else says! Personal case in point was my now-ex-editor flat out telling me that a “historical fiction” novel can ONLY be labeled so if the main character was a real person in history. Even though this strict definition is not held by anyone else – including the Historical Novel Society – she insisted it was the case. Therefore, per her firm conviction, none of my novels are historical fiction and, to quote, “no one in the industry considers them as historical fiction.” The fact that the Historical Novel Society states clearly otherwise, and has positively reviewed a couple of my books, meant nothing to my publisher, and because of their attitude, marketing of my books suffered to some degree.
This is, IMO, one of the problems with forcing every novel into some neat box.
When I consider my book case stuffed with novels, some do leap out as belonging primarily in a particular genre. Frequently they do overlap into a sub-genre as well. Such as Lord of the Rings clearly being a fantasy while also now classic literature. No one aside from my ex-editor would say that James Michener’s Centennial isn’t historical fiction, but it is also a “western.” The Harry Potter books are classified as both fantasy and young-adult, and what about the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon which is, in my opinion, much more of a historical fiction than a romance (although there is no doubt the romance of Jamie and Claire is a central plot point.)
That confusion is why this list of my favorite literary fiction is probably a jumbled mess of mixing genres! All I know is that these are the novels that have impacted me the most, are the ones I read over and over, and have been purchased several times when the previous copy fell to pieces.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Stand by Stephen King – yeah, I mentioned it yesterday, but it is THAT good!
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Testimony of Two Men by Taylor Caldwell – The character of Dr. Jonathan Ferrar was a prime inspiration for my Dr. George Darcy
Captains and the Kings by Taylor Caldwell – actually, I love every book by Taylor Caldwell, but these two are my absolute favorites
Pillars of the Earth, Key to Rebecca, Lie Down With Lions, and many others by Ken Follett
The Kent Family Chronicles (8 books), North and South trilogy, California Gold, and others by John Jakes – I learned more about American history from John Jakes then in school!
Shogun, Tai-Pan, and King Rat by James Clavell
Centennial by James Michener – many of his other titles too
The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum by Robert Ludlum – Seriously, don’t even think about asking my opinion of the hideous movie versions!
Roots by Alex Haley
I could name many others, to be sure. I love Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, and John Grisham novels. I am a BIG Agatha Christie fan, although I suppose she falls in the “mystery” genre! I also adore all the mysteries of Robert Van Gulik, a Chinese author of the Judge Dee novels from the 1950-60s. Random titles, such as The Midwife by Gay Courter, Memoirs of a Geisha by Robert Golden, and Life of Pi by Yann Martel come to mind, not so much as ultimate favorites, but ones I enjoyed enough to be on my forever-keeper list.
And I better stop or I will never get this blog posted! What are your favorite literary fiction novels…. however you want to define it!