campkilkare: (Default)
T. Oso ([personal profile] campkilkare) wrote2012-02-03 07:02 pm

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Still open.

Your favorite books

Blargh, so hard.

Starting from the top: I generally say my five favorite authors are Donald Westlake, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Kurt Vonneguy and Stephen King. So--

Westlake - What I love best about Westlake are the Dortmunder books, the series of comic capers and heists staring the long-suffering jinxed crook Dortmunder. Dortmunder is a miserable bastard who never expects anything but the worst, and gets in regularly. He doesn't have a violent bone in his body, and he's a meticulous, even genius planner, while being entirely ignorant outside of his specialty of stealing stuff. Despite everything he has against him, he's the leader; people will join a string if Dortmunder says a job is doable even if it seems crazy, because he's that cynical, and his plans are the best.

My favorite Dortmunder book is probably the last one, Get Real, which is a stunning testimonial for a long-running series. But it's really good, really clever, full of twists and the kind of wry-but-kind commentary Westlake hands out, and unsparingly unsentimental, as crime fiction must be. And Dortmunder smiles twice in one day.

The collection of Dortmunder shorts, Thieves' Dozen, is also good.

Pratchett - Far and away my favorite of the many Discworld subthreads is the tale of the Guards, far and away because of Sam Vimes. The Guards stories mostly examine the class structure, social safety nets, expectations and rights of people in a modern society, which Pratchett's fantasy city of Ankh-Morpork is slowly becoming. Vimes is terminally angry, but with a giant, compassionate heart behind it; he's angry because he's knows the world is cruel and people deserve better, even the people who make him angry. They make him angry because they accept such garbage and think it's treasure, because they will stab each other in the back rather than fight together against the wolves. The problem with humanity, Vimes has been known to think, is a tendency to bend at the knee.

All of the Watch books are pretty much solid gold, including the latest (Snuff, wherein Vimes sets the Bennet sisters straight and is happy as a cat full of sixpences for once) but my favorite is the second book, Men At Arms. Still early enough to have the joie d'vivre of the earliest Disc world books, before Pratchett got serious and rolled up his sleeves for world-building, but a little more grounded and less seat-of-the-pants than Guards! Guards. Plenty of noir, western, and plain old Eastwood references, and the beginnings of the truly multicultural Watch we will come to know; and a thrilling conclusion including a chiming watch, a sword in a stone, and some Assassin's worst nightmare: an angry troll with a badge.

Gaiman - Not going to include comic issues in here, in part because they all blur together for me. Short story collection like Fragile Things are quite good, but I find uneven; my money goes for Anansi Boys. It benefits from the world-building, scope and ruleset of American Gods while remaining low-stakes (relatively), intimate, and hilarious. Also, one of the few books I've read by a white author where you can assume the characters are black unless told otherwise, a fact I did not recognize until the only white major character appears and is described as, well, white.

Vonnegut - Unlike most of these, I don't love Vonnegut for his characters, who are mostly either mouthpieces or thoroughly realistic, and thereby unpleasant. I love his ideas, his honesty, and his unflinching eye. My favorite by far is Slaughterhouse Five (or: the Children's Crusade), a book that argues that war is immoral not just because it's cruel but because it's so goddamn stupid.

King - Gyah, so many. I am tempted to subdivide this into Dark Tower and non-, but I am listing too many as it is. I tend to like King's short fiction best of all; novellas more than short stories. His quartet books are all pretty stellar, except for the latest one, which didn't leave me cold but wasn't great. My favorite quartet book is probably Different Seasons, which has three all-time classics and one pretty good yarn: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil, The Body, and The Breathing Method. Shawshank Redemption is far and away the best, and may be one of the best damn things he's ever written. The voice is rich and real, not just Stephen King in an internal narrator's body, and the saga of Andy Dufresne is the tale of a man who is not conventional brave but just refuses to be broken. It is a story that celebrates hope without being maudlin, and the last couple paragraphs are beautiful. And yet! --

Wild Card - I am going to use this for what is maybe my all-time, hands-down very favorite book of all, To Kill A Mockingbird. Atticus Finch is basically everything a man should be; he has Vimes' sense of responsibility and justice without the soul-crushing misery and anger it really should engender in those circumstances. He is a hell of a father, and a lawyer, and a shot. Like Andy Dufresne, he will not be bowed or shamed, and he will not move when he knows he's in the right.

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