What literary blog would be complete without a listing of the author’s favorite books? Now RT will admit to being a hardened bookaholic, with a pile of books besides his bed and a very tough bookstore habit, though over the years he has become *somewhat* easier to pry loose from the stacks. Costs be damned, he is convinced that the physical beauty and great reading afforded by printed books guarantee them continued existence in a digital world (tho perhaps the books will be printed on hemp paper). And he notes with satisfaction that the number of small used book stores surviving even in supposedly marginal areas indicates that America’s brain hasn’t atrophied just yet.

Here then is RT’s list of favorite books:

1) The Gift of Good Land. Wendell Berry.

An amazing book, offering the most thorough and plausible critique of modern life I’ve run across so far–and from the point of view of farming. Whether WB is talking about a trip to the Andes or how an Amish farm manages its land, he always provides insights relevant to those living more citified lives. Buy it, read it, treasure it.

Here is the Amazon Listing.

2) The Complete Gospels. Polebridge Press.

I can’t think of a better introduction to the New Testament. Ornery, persnickity, and just plain radical, this bee in the bonnet of received texts will not be forgotten any time soon. The language is fresh & daring, and the noncanonical gospels will set you to thinking in new ways about the most important person in Western culture.

Here is the AmazonLink.

3) The Bible with Sources Revealed. Richard Friedman.

By the author of Who Wrote Bible, this book divides up the Pentateuch by its several sources, most importantly the J, E, P, D, and R texts of the documentary hypothesis. The translation is straightforward and the color-coded text easy to follow. Once again, new perspectives on an ancient text.

Here is the Amazon Link.

4) The Year of the French. Thomas Flanagan.

A powerful novel about an invasion of Ireland by a small French force in 1798. Beautifully written, tightly plotted, deeply researched, the book focuses on Irish culture in County Mayo, and in particular on the poet Owen MacCarthy and the ways he helps carry Irish traditions into the modern era.  A historical novel you won’t soon forget.

Here is the Amazon Link.

See my review in the October 2010 RT archives.

5) The Mars Trilogy. Kim Stanley Robinson.

I was a Sci-Fi buff when I was a teenager; in college, I turned towards poetry and essays. Then, in my mid-30s, The Mars Trilogy came out, one exciting volume after another–Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. They describe the settlement and terraforming of Mars, and I couldn’t put any of these lengthy novels down. The combination of prodigious research, superior (and sometimes outstanding) prose, deft plotting, and epic scope carried me breathless to the end of each. The scenario they paint of the transformation of the most likely candidate for New Earth is so convincing that to this day, I believe that sooner rather than later we will be thickening Mar’s atmosphere and pumping up its ocean of water. The Trilogy also reignited my interest in the exploration of space, which, despite a dearth of funding, is proceeding at an amazing clip.

Here is the Amazon Link.

6) Swan’s Wing. Ursula Synge.

I bought Swan’s Wing at a children’s bookstore soon after I graduated from college, but this is no more a children’s book than The Lord of the Rings. Ursula Synge deftly spins out the fairytale, “The Seven Swans,” telling the subsequent adventures of the brother who was left with one wing in place of an arm. The language is gorgeous, yet true to the feel of medieval Europe, the reverence for the period unmistakable, the inner struggle of the characters intense. Perhaps best of all, the story offers reflections on the nature, rewards, and burdens of the artist’s life. Revealing truths about everyday life through its excursions into the fantastic, Swan’s Wing is one of the best stories I’ve read about the “Dark Ages” and the truths that its demise has obscured.

Here is the Amazon link.

7) A Door into Ocean. Joan Slonczewski.

This sci-fi novel has it all: a well thought out fictional world, plausible characters, and a compelling plot. But what is most impressive about the book is the case the author makes for living in harmony with nature and each other. Powerfully persuasive and a can’t-put-it-down book.

Here is the Amazon link.

See RT’s full review in the RT archives.

  1. October 12, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Hi! I use Friedman’s Torah Commentaries, but silly me, I never bothered to find out what else he wrote. The above sounds like something I would like. And btw, you have an amazing blog!

    • October 13, 2010 at 4:43 pm

      Thanks for the kind comment about my blog. And I’ve never heard of Friedman’s Torah Commentaries, so I’ll keep an eye peeled for them! RT

  2. October 14, 2010 at 3:59 am

    Love the book recommendations. I am currently in a college reading and composition class. My teacher is in her 70’s and is wonderful, she’s all about story. We’re reading Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and The Odyssey and The Tempest and Billy Collins and Barbara Kingsolver’s “Prodigal Summer”. Lovin’ it. I’ll be back!

  3. July 18, 2011 at 4:44 am

    The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson is one of my favorite book series. Excellent taste!

    • July 20, 2011 at 4:06 pm

      allicette: thx for your note & your excellent photography! RT

  4. Jason Preater
    January 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Now I have some good book choices to go and look for. Thanks!

  5. January 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    JP: thx for the enthusiasm! RT

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