Here are the next four books on my list of twelve that have stayed with me. One more part to go.
5. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. I could fill up half my list with Bradbury’s work but I’ll limit myself to this one. Chronicles is another collection of short stories that are loosely connected to each other around the theme of colonizing Mars. Bradbury was the master of melancholy. No one else does the haunting beauty of loneliness as well; no one else writes “sad” so wonderfully.
6. Murder in the Wind, by John D. MacDonald. I said I love the archetypal characters created by writers such as REH and ERB, but to me, no one has ever created more ‘realistic’ characters than John D. MacDonald. JDM was outstanding at putting real people on the page, and he told compelling stories about them too. This book has a number of characters thrown together during a hurricane. The interactions are a lesson in how to do characters.
7. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. In high school, I had to read such classics as The Grapes of Wrath, Silas Marner, The Scarlet Letter, and The Metamorphosis. To this day, I still think Silas Marner and The Metamorphosis are two of the worst books ever written in the English language. At least for our modern times. The Grapes of Wrath is actually worthwhile but is way too long for required high school reading. After being forced to read this material in high school, I came to the conclusion that I generally hated the classics, and to this day I struggle to get myself to read such material. Had I not already been in love with reading, High School English class would have destroyed it for me. But all this could have been avoided if they’d just let us read The Old Man and the Sea. It’s short, vivid, full of adventure, full of characters of depth, and introduced me at least to a culture I knew nothing about but found interesting. It was this book, read when I was in my late twenties, that restored my interest in the classics. Most of the classics I’ve read since then wouldn’t have gotten read without this book coming first.
8. Northwest Smith, by C. L. Moore. I had no idea when I first read these stories that C. L. Moore was a woman. Nor would I have cared. Anyone who can write stories like this will get my attention. Smith is also an archetypal character, but there is far more vulnerability in him than in most of the characters created by REH and ERB. Having something of a melancholy personality anyway, these tales resonated strongly with me. As I grew older and began my own writing, I also wanted to create such characters. They should be bigger than life, but also have that vulnerability as well.