Since I’m in a mild panic busy studying for my Pediatric Advance Life Support (PALS) certification, I decided I’d share a list of the top ten science fiction novels I love to re-read. I am deliberately excluding pure fantasy from this list. Now, making this list was not easy. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of books to choose from. Yes, I’ve read a lot of science fiction.
Trying to narrow the list down to ten I learned a couple of things. I’ve read a lot of what is considered classic science fiction, but there’s an awful lot that I’ve not read. I’ve read many of the Nebula and Hugo award winners, but not nearly all of them. And there are books that I like for specific reasons such as I love the characters, or the world, or the emotional feel of the book. However, when push came to shove, some of the books are on my list because they spoke to me. Sometimes, when I’m not burning a hole in my brain otherwise occupied, I may write lists of books with great characters, books with worlds and settings that felt real to me, or books that gave me a huge emotional payoff. But today’s list is of favorites, in no particular order, but books I have and will read again and again because I want to.
The Top Ten Science Fiction Novels I Love to Re-read
Dune by Frank Herbert
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Downbelow Station by CJ Cherryh
Pride of Chanur by CJ Cherryh
Dawn by Octavia Butler
The Watchers by Dean Koontz
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Coma by Robin Cook
Any of the Tom Swift books (and I make no apologies!)
So that’s my top ten science fiction novels that I love to re-read. And if you study those books, I’m guessing you’ll learn a little more about me. But enough of that.
What about you? You can choose any genre you like, but limit your list to just one genre or sub-genre.
I have belonged to a local writer’s group for many years now. In this group, we have a colorful mosaic of like-, yet, different-minded folk. There are young and mature members, males and females. Some members write with a literary style, some have a dense, elaborate style, some are more minimalist. Yet, we have a meeting of the minds in that we are all striving to improve our work. More than that, we take disparate ideas from science, art, and poetry, and like alchemists, blend them into something different, something called science fiction.
It is my great pleasure to share with you the works of two of my writer’s group members: Karin L. Frank and Jan S. Gephardt. Not only have they had a meeting of minds that yielded science fiction, they added science, art, and poetry to the alchemist bowl resulting in a rare gem, a chapbook called A Meeting of Minds: Poems from the Two Cultures.
Karin’s bio sets the tone:
Karin L. Frank (KL Frank) wrote her first story at the age of four and submitted it to her kindergarten teacher. No literary review accepted it but it was published on the family refrigerator.
Karin has since gone on to many adventures. She writes insightful, literary poetry and science fiction. Recently she has published a chapbook of science fiction poetry, A Meeting of Minds: Poems from the Two Cultures. When she went looking for an illustrator to provide the art for her book, she had to look no farther than our writer’s group and Jan S. Gephardt.
Jan is an artist, writer, and educator. She has been involved in fine arts, education, marketing, and many other adventures during the time that I’ve known her. Jan participates in multiple blogs, but her blog home is Jan S. Gephardt’s Art Dog Observations and Jan S. Gephardt’s Art Dog Studio. As an artist, I believe her finest work to be her paper sculptures. You can see one (imperfectly, photos don’t do it justice) here and at her shop on DeviantArt. Her pen and ink drawings are wonderfully detailed (I have one hanging in my office!) and reflect Karin’s words with a different kind of poetry.
Jan was quicker than I to post a blog review of Karin’s delightful chapbook. So here is a portion of Jan’s blog and a little peek into the blending of poetry, art, science, and fiction:
Thursday, July 5, 2012
A Meeting of Minds . . . and Media
Karin L. Frank’s chapbook, A Meeting of Minds, is full of beautiful, intellectual poetry . . . and
also my artwork!
Last winter I had a pleasant opportunity to create a series of ink drawings to illustrate a poetry chapbook by a friend of mine, Karin L. Frank.
My first thought, when my friend approached me, was, “a poetry chapbook? Seriously?”
Ah, but then I read the poems.
Several had already been published in other—as in, “mainstream”—print media, such as the Kansas City Star or Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction.
I’d already known that my friend wrote interesting science fiction (prose), but the marriage of sophisticated science concepts with the poetry art form produced something rich and extraordinary indeed.
Karin titled her chapbook A Meeting of Minds: Poems from the Two Cultures, a reference to C. P. Snow’s concept of the sciences and the humanities as being two different “cultures” in “the intellectual life of the whole of Western Society.”
My holistic view of the world sees the two as integrally linked as the sides of a coin—not a strange thought to science fiction readers and writers. But the rest of Western society appears to see more of a chasm between the two . . . . READ MORE
The strokes of the pen, of ink into words, of dots and lines into images is a transmutation that results in more than a bar of gold, it’s a fascinating Meeting of Minds.
Photos and illustrations are the property of Jan S. Gephardt and Karin L. Frank. You may not use or reproduce the images in this post without permission from the owners of the copyrights.
Thank you, Jan and Karin, for allowing me the privilege of sharing your work. And thank you, readers, for following this blog, for commenting when you have time. I cherish your words and the opportunity for us to have . . . a meeting of minds.
I am grateful for all books. There are tons of books that I have loved. Then, there are those that I reread every year or two: Misty of Chincoteague, Little Women, and Dune. And then there is the book that made me believe: A Wrinkle in Time the Movie that Wasn’t.
For me, these books are like good friends who share a hug, a laugh, a feeling of hope or inspiration. There is a little of the wise mentor in each of the books. Each book showed me new ways to perceive the world around me. Each of these books spoke to me so strongly that I experienced more than a good read.
Grateful For These Books
Misty of Chincoteague
Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague spoke to me as a little girl longing for a horse of her own. My imagination enriched the story with layers of characterization and detail. Then, when I read it as an adult I found the story sweet, but disappointingly not as profound as I had remembered. But this book belongs on this list, because of the way the words on the page blossomed in my mind. I hope one day to write a story that has the power to compel a reader to make it more than it is.
I read Little Women by Louise Alcott as a preteen. The characters, their lives, their dreams pervaded my own preteen life. I identified with Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth and adopted some of their mannerisms. I wished for hair as long as Jo’s so I could cut it off to make money for my family. I’ve reread and reread the same paperback book until it literally fell apart. I still love the March family and their story. A rich story with layers that reveal a different nuance every time I read it, it will always be near the top of my list.
I read Dune by Frank Herbert as a young adult and was immediately swept away into a world where water was precious. Paul’s growth from youth to messiah for the Fremen mesmerized me. The society captivated me. The growth of faith echoed a maturation of my own faith (not that I think I am or have any desire to be, a messiah!). The book resonated with me physically. While I read it I was acutely aware of wasting water. Rereading that book I admire how the author’s use of words continues to sweep me up in the saga. Yes, it’s very near the top of my list as well, but not the first on the list.
A Wrinkle in Time: the movie that wasn’t
No, I would have to say that the very top of my list is occupied by A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I read it shortly after it had been published (1962). All I had to do was read the first page which begins with “It was a dark and stormy night.” Meg Murry is sitting on the edge of her bed, wrapped in an old quilt and shakes with the house in the storm. But it wasn’t the storm that had upset her, it was the storm on top of everything else. On top of everything that was wrong with her.
Oh, boy. Meg was just like me. She wasn’t measuring up. She felt dumb and out of place and out of sorts. I had moved five or six times by the time I read this book. Man, I could relate to Meg’s feelings. And I envied her, her parents seemed oh, so much more sympathetic and supportive than mine. (My parents just didn’t understand). But Meg had a problem, her father was missing. And if you know the story, you know Meg gets a visit from Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Meg and her brother, Charles, tesser and go to another dimension. There they battle a great evil. There are many memorable scenes in this story, not the least of which e is the subdivision where every house looks the same, homeowners and children act in unison, creating an eerie feeling of wrongness.
In the end, it is only with great love that Meg is able to triumph over evil and save her brother and her father.
The Movie that Wasn’t
This story played so vividly in my mind, that even as an adult I was convinced that I had seen a movie of it. When discussing this book with a writer friend, I insisted the movie had existed. I even said it featured the Pete Seeger song, “Little Boxes.” No, there was no movie — at least, not during my childhood. Seeger’s song coincidentally came out at the same time as L’Engle’s book, though it fits the subdivision scene as if it were made for it.
The message of A Wrinkle in Time, that great love can overcome great evil, found it’s way into my heart. It gave me hope through dark times. And when the dark corners of my life grow darker and I need a reminder, I return to the book. It gives me strength. It reminds me that if you find it within yourself to love — really love — you will triumph. What greater message could there be?
With the message, the characters, and the ‘movie,’ the top of my list belongs to A Wrinkle in Time. It’s the number one book for which I am grateful.
What book is at the top of your list of books for which you are grateful and why?
If you liked these short reviews of books I’ve read, you might like my other reviews:
My post A Wrinkle in Time: the Movie that Wasn’t is still true, but a movie is being made! I can’t wait to see it. Check out the trailer below.
(This post, originally written in 2011, has been edited to remove references to the giveaway contest hosted by author Beth Revis that ran at the time this post was written. She asked bloggers to write about books for which you are grateful. It was also edited to share my excitement about the upcoming movie.)