In a recent email to Collective Inkwell readers I talked about my favorite book of all time, The Talisman (re-posted here). At the end of the email I asked readers what their favorite books of all time were and if there was a story behind why?
I got some great responses back, including several books I’d never heard of, along with some touching stories. I also heard from a few readers who named my books with Sean, Yesterday’s Gone and WhiteSpace among their favorites, which is awesome to hear!
And I didn’t even pay them to say it!
I loved seeing what books our readers enjoy. A lot of them, I’d read. Which isn’t surprising, as I was practically raised on the two K’s, King and Koontz!
Even more interesting, though, were some of the touching stories behind our readers’ favorite books. From stories about people who hadn’t really liked books until they stumbled across a particular novel to those who endured sheer hell growing up with only books to get them through it, thank you to everyone who shared your story.
While I won’t share our readers’ personal stories, I will share the books they call their favorites. And perhaps there’s a new one among these that can become YOUR favorite!
Without further ado, here’s our readers’ favorite books.
The Talisman by Stephen King: The iconic, “extraordinary” (The Washington Post) collaboration between #1 bestselling author Stephen King and Peter Straub—an epic thriller about a young boy’s quest to save his mother’s life.
Why had twelve-year-old Jack Sawyer’s mother frantically moved the two of them from Rodeo Drive to a New York City apartment to the Alhambra, a fading ocean resort and shuttered amusement park in New Hampshire? Who or what is she running from? She is dying . . . and even young Jack knows she can’t outrun death. But only he can save her—for he has been chosen to search for a prize across an epic landscape of dangers and lies, a realm of innocents and monsters, where everything Jack loves is on the line.
Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson: For this one, I’m not going with Amazon’s description (which doesn’t do the series justice at all!). Instead, I’ll quote Scott Putnam who sent the suggestion of what might be the strangest, most awesome premise for a book ever — A man with Leprosy (he’s lost two fingers,so far) trips on a curb and awakens in another world, filled with giants,telepathic animals and numerous strangely wonderful creatures. ….
This Perfect Day by Ira Levin: By the author of Rosemary‘s Baby, a horrifying journey into a future only Ira Levin could imagine.
Considered one of the great dystopian novels—alongside Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World—Ira Levin’s frightening glimpse into the future continues to fascinate readers even forty years after publication.
The story is set in a seemingly perfect global society. Uniformity is the defining feature; there is only one language and all ethnic groups have been eugenically merged into one race called “The Family.“ The world is ruled by a central computer called UniComp that has been programmed to keep every single human on the surface of the earth in check. People are continually drugged by means of regular injections so that they can never realize their potential as human beings, but will remain satisfied and cooperative. They are told where to live, when to eat, whom to marry, when to reproduce. even the basic facts of nature are subject to the UniComp’s will—men do not grow facial hair, women do not develop breasts, and it only rains at night.
With a vision as frightening as any in the history of the science fiction genre, This Perfect Day is one of Ira Levin`s most haunting novels.
Watchers by Dean Koontz: A “superior thriller”(Oakland Press) about a man, a dog, and a terrifying threat that could only have come from the imagination of #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz.
On his thirty-sixth birthday, Travis Cornell hikes into the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. But his path is soon blocked by a bedraggled Golden Retriever who will let him go no further into the dark woods.
That morning, Travis had been desperate to find some happiness in his lonely, seemingly cursed life. What he finds is a dog of alarming intelligence that soon leads him into a relentless storm of mankind’s darkest creation…
Lightning by Dean Koontz: In the midst of a raging blizzard, lightning struck on the night Laura Shane was born. And a mysterious blond-haired stranger showed up just in time to save her from dying.
Years later, in the wake of another storm, Laura will be saved again. For someone is watching over her. Is he the guardian angel he seems? The devil in disguise? Or the master of a haunting destiny beyond all time and space? (** This is one of my favorites by Koontz!**)
The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth’s Children Series) by Jean M. Auel: This novel of awesome beauty and power is a moving saga about people, relationships, and the boundaries of love. Through Jean M. Auel’s magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves The Clan of the Cave Bear.
A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind. To them, blond, blue-eyed Ayla looks peculiar and ugly–she is one of the Others, those who have moved into their ancient homeland; but Iza cannot leave the girl to die and takes her with them. Iza and Creb, the old Mog-ur, grow to love her, and as Ayla learns the ways of the Clan and Iza’s way of healing, most come to accept her. But the brutal and proud youth who is destined to become their next leader sees her differences as a threat to his authority. He develops a deep and abiding hatred for the strange girl of the Others who lives in their midst, and is determined to get his revenge.
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein: Kip Russell wants nothing more than to go to the moon. But after entering a contest to help realize his dream, he is thrust into a space adventure he could never have imagined—with the most unlikely of friends and enemies. A favorite among Heinlein readers.
“Here is superior science fiction.”
– The New York Times
“Not only America’s premier writer of speculative fiction, but the greatest writer of such fiction in the world.”
– Stephen King
“There is no other writer whose work has exhilarated me as often and to such an extent as Heinlein.”
– Dean Koontz
The Stand by Stephen King: This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.
And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides — or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abigail — and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.
Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon: New York Times Bestseller: A young girl’s visions offer the last hope in a postapocalyptic wasteland in this “grand and disturbing adventure” (Dean Koontz).
Swan is a nine-year-old Idaho girl following her struggling mother from one trailer park to the next when she receives visions of doom—something far wider than the narrow scope of her own beleaguered life. In a blinding flash, nuclear bombs annihilate civilization, leaving only a few buried survivors to crawl onto a scorched landscape that was once America.
In Manhattan, a homeless woman stumbles from the sewers, guided by the prophecies of a mysterious amulet, and pursued by something wicked; on Idaho’s Blue Dome Mountain, an orphaned boy falls under the influence of depraved survivalists and discovers the value of a killer instinct; and amid the devastating dust storms on the Great Plains of Nebraska, Swan forms a heart-and-soul bond with an unlikely new companion. Soon they will cross paths. But only Swan knows that they must endure more than just a trek across an irradiated country of mutated animals, starvation, madmen, and wasteland warriors.
Swan’s visions tell of a coming malevolent force. It’s a shape-shifting embodiment of the apocalypse, and of all that is evil and despairing. And it’s hell-bent on destroying the last hope of goodness and purity in the world. Swan is that hope. Now, she must fight not only for her own survival, but for that of all mankind.
A winner of the Bram Stoker Award and a finalist for the World Fantasy Award, Swan Song has become a modern classic, called “a chilling vision that keeps you turning pages to the shocking end” by John Saul and “a long, satisfying look at hell and salvation” by Publishers Weekly. (**note: Swan Song is the book that probably most inspired Yesterday’s Gone **)
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski: Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar’s lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar’s paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles’ once peaceful home. When Edgar’s father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm—and into Edgar’s mother’s affections.
Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father’s death, but his plan backfires—spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father’s murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.
David Wroblewski is a master storyteller, and his breathtaking scenes—the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain—create a riveting family saga, a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, and a compulsively readable modern classic.
Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck: In September 1960, John Steinbeck embarked on a journey across America. He felt that he might have lost touch with the country, with its speech, the smell of its grass and trees, its color and quality of light, the pulse of its people. To reassure himself, he set out on a voyage of rediscovery of the American identity, accompanied by a distinguished French poodle named Charley; and riding in a three-quarter-ton pickup truck named Rocinante.
His course took him through almost forty states: northward from Long Island to Maine; through the Midwest to Chicago; onward by way of Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana (with which he fell in love), and Idaho to Seattle, south to San Francisco and his birthplace, Salinas; eastward through the Mojave, New Mexico, Arizona, to the vast hospitality of Texas, to New Orleans and a shocking drama of desegregation; finally, on the last leg, through Alabama, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey to New York.
Travels with Charley in Search of America is an intimate look at one of America’s most beloved writers in the later years of his life—a self-portrait of a man who never wrote an explicit autobiography. Written during a time of upheaval and racial tension in the South—which Steinbeck witnessed firsthand—Travels with Charley is a stunning evocation of America on the eve of a tumultuous decade.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach: This is the story for people who follow their hearts and make their own rules…people who get special pleasure out of doing something well, even if only for themselves…people who know there’s more to this living than meets the eye: they’ll be right there with Jonathan, flying higher and faster than they ever dreamed.
A pioneering work that wed graphics with words, Jonathan Livingston Seagull now enjoys a whole new life.
The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King: “An impressive work of mythic magnitude that may turn out to be Stephen King’s greatest literary achievement” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), The Gunslinger is the first volume in the epic Dark Tower Series.
A #1 national bestseller, The Gunslinger introduces readers to one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations, Roland of Gilead: The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which mirrors our own in frightening ways, Roland tracks The Man in Black, encounters an enticing woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York named Jake.
Inspired in part by the Robert Browning narrative poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,”The Gunslinger is “a compelling whirlpool of a story that draws one irretrievable to its center” (Milwaukee Sentinel). It is “brilliant and fresh…and will leave you panting for more” (Booklist).
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: A great modern classic and the prelude to THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.
A glorious account of a magnificent adventure, filled with suspense and seasoned with a quiet humor that is irresistible . . . All those, young or old, who love a fine adventurous tale, beautifully told, will take The Hobbit to their hearts. -New York Times Book Review
Strangers by Dean Koontz: A writer in California. A doctor in Boston. A motel owner and his employee in Nevada. A priest in Chicago. A robber in New York. A little girl in Las Vegas. They’re a handful of people from across the country, living through eerie variations of the same nightmare.
A dark memory is calling out to them. And soon they will be drawn together, deep in the heart of a sprawling desert, where the terrifying truth awaits…
Thanks to everyone who shared their favorites! I think I got them all here. If you emailed me a favorite and I didn’t include it, feel free to leave a comment below.
Also, feel free to leave your favorite even if you didn’t email me!
Don’t forget The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin — epic story!
Thanks! I have the first two books of the trilogy. Started the first one, then got sidetracked (likely by something I was writing — I try not to read anything too close in genre while I’m writing in that genre), but it’s definitely one I am looking forward to getting back to. Loved what I read.
It by Stephen King. I read it three times. So damn creepy. Can’t wait for the movie!
Thanks, Krista! I’m looking forward to the movie, too. THough I love Tim Curry, I am looking forward to a more scary Pennywise!
Patrick Rothfuss, “The Name Of The Wind,” is the gravy on my Fantasy biscuit. Thanks for sharing this.
Ric. I bought that book after I saw him on TWIT.TV’s Triangulation years ago and thought, “Wow, this dude is definitely our people!” I started it and LOVED what I started, then put it down and need to get back to it. But I’m sure I’m going to love it. Dude writes some great stuff!
I forgot to send my favourite, which tbh can be very subjective. For me a favourite right up there was the first book that I chose to read, as it caught my eye strolling around our new school library. I loved it so much it launched me into book reading of especially Science Fiction/Fantasy from that moment on and I have read it a few times and the series. It was so epic it even had me becoming interested in Astronomy. Memorable bits apart from the unbelievably ginormous built structure and new fast spaceship propulsion was the baby lotteries that bred actual luck into later generations, with a female character after multiple generations of winners was the luckiest person in the world. RINGWORLD by Larry Niven.
Thanks for sharing, Tim. Haven’t read Ringworld yet.