Friday, November 20, 2009

Denny's & Claire's NHN Reading Nominations for 2010

Yes, I know...The Book Den hasn't seen much activity over here this last year or so. Can't help it. All of my Vital Signs Ministries tasks, the increase in Vital Signs blog activity, and now preaching every Sunday at Faith Bible Church has taken away what time I formerly found to spend on Book Den posts.

Yes, yes...I'll try to find another hour in the day somewhere.

But, in the meantime, here's a new post to show how serious my resolution is. (Smile) It's the latest recommended reading list to be submitted to the Notting Hill Napoleons this weekend.

Denny’s & Claire’s Nominations for the 2010 NHN Reading List

1) All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren.
This landmark book is a loosely fictionalized account of Governor Huey Long of Louisiana, one of the most remarkable and controversial politicians in American history. The novel tells the story of Willie Stark, a popular but underhanded governor of a Southern state who effectively appeals to the common man while playing dirty politics with the best of the back-room deal-makers. However, his key assistant cannot shed his idealism so easily and the stormy relationship between the two form much of the novel’s tension. (456 pages. New $5. Several copies in OPL system.)

2) Lady Baltimore by Owen Wister.
This novel hasn’t been widely available until the Conservative Book Club printed a bunch a few years ago. We enjoyed Wister’s seminal Western novel earlier this year and so we suggest this story about life in the post Civil-War South. Using Charleston, South Carolina (renamed Kings Port) as a character in its own right, Wister describes the struggles of the ante-bellum Southern culture in the aftermath of a destructive, demoralizing war as well as the need of reconciliation with the victorious, arrogant and well-fed people of the Union. (422 pages. From $1-6 used.)

3) Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas.
Two decades have passed since the famous swordsmen triumphed over Cardinal Richelieu and M’lady in The Three Musketeers. Time has weakened their bodies a bit and dispersed them from one another. But treason and skulduggery still cry out for justice. Civil war soon endangers the throne of France while, in England, Cromwell threatens to send Charles I to the scaffold. It is in this firestorm that the immortal quartet comes out of retirement to cross swords once again with time, the malevolence of men, and the forces of history. (880 pages. New: $10.85. Used from $6. 4 copies in OPL.)

4) No Highway by Nevil Shute.
A new type of British airliner is flying into certain disaster high above the Atlantic. But one of the passengers aboard is a brilliant scientist who recognizes the fate that awaits. Or does he? This is Nevil Shute with his usual skill in human characterizations, dialogue, and thoughtfulness but with one of his most grippingly suspenseful stories. (280 pages. $6 used.)

5) The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.
"The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking as it seemed from Bramblehurst railway station and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand." Thus begins one of the most chilling stories of all time, a short novel which we'll enjoy reading and which will have us talking about science, the social compact, friendship, secrecy, revenge and more. (208 pages in the Penguin Classics. $5 new. Used & library copies aplenty.)

6) David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
This was the fourth Dickens novel in the Napoleon Rota. We've been following the same pattern so far so why not continue? (736 pages. $5 for a new paperback copy. Used copies abound. Over a dozen copies in OPL.)

7) Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans.
"When I wrote my first novel, The Christmas Box, I never imagined it would become an international bestseller. It was a story for my two (then) little girls. But as I wrote, I realized that it was also for my mother -- to ease her pain over losing a child…When The Christmas Box hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, no one, including me, was more excited than my mother. I lost my mother on Valentine's Day of 2006. After weeks of struggling with my grief, I decided I would write a story for her. As she loved Christmas, I chose to write a Christmas novel, my first since The Christmas Box. Finding Noel is about how people come into our lives for a reason. It is a love story about Macy and Mark, two young people from different worlds. I'm sorry that this Christmas, for the first time since I became a writer, I won't be able to present my mother with a copy of my book. I think she would have enjoyed reading it. But, then again, I'm not certain that she hasn't. As you read Finding Noel, I hope that you enjoy the journey and feel the same powerful emotions I felt as the story came to me. Fondly, Richard Evans." (320 pages. $14 new. Used from $6. 17 copies in OPL.)

8) November 1916 by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
With August 1914, Solzhenitsyn began his epic of the Russian Revolution, the finished version of which (The Red Wheel) he hoped to leave as his greatest and most important work. After 20 years, the second of the series is here. This is historical fiction at its very best. (1000 pages. New: $20.00. 3 copies in OPL.)

9) A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay.
This novel by the nearly-forgotten Scottish writer was published in 1920. It combines fantasy, philosophy, and science fiction in an exploration of the nature of good and evil. It has been described by critic and philosopher Colin Wilson as the "greatest novel of the twentieth century" and was a central influence on C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy. We noticed it mentioned in Lewis’ preface to the 1961 edition of The Screwtape Letters and thought we might give it a go. (204 pages. $10 new. Some used copies are around.)

10) Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.
Impoverished sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are sent (following the death of their father and the manipulations of a mean sister-in-law) to a little cottage in Devonshire where they adapt to their new situation, each other, and the entrance of eligible suitors. One of the sisters approaches life with practicality and restraint while the other is more...energetic and impetuous, thus giving Austen (a very young author then) opportunity to look at English country life, the aristocracy, love and courtship, and the development of individual personality from insightful and humorous angles. (220 pages. $5-7 for new copies. Used easily available and there’s over a dozen copies in the OPL system.)

11) The Steel Wave: A Novel of World War II by Jeff Shaara.
“This is the second volume of Shaara’s planned trilogy of novels dealing with America’s role in World War II in Europe. Here Shaara’s topic is D-Day, the Allied effort to begin the liberation of Nazi-occupied Europe by amphibious landings on the coast of Normandy. With decades of hindsight, the success of the Normandy invasion may seem inevitable and a tribute to Allied forces. As Shaara’s fine novel illustrates, however, success was far from assured, and the planning fell short in numerous ways.” -- Jay Freeman. (528 pages. $16 new. Used copies will be showing up soon. 7 copies in the OPL system.)

12) The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain.
Costain was one of America’s most popular novelists in the early years of the 20th Century with this being his best selling book. Based on legends that have circulated from the earliest days of the Church, The Silver Chalice describes the life of Basil, the artisan who fashioned the silver chalice that held the sacred cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper. Following its publication in 1953, the Chicago Tribune said of the book, "Costain paints a tremendous canvas filled with color and vitality. . .He breathes life into history. But The Silver Chalice does more than this. It makes the New Testament, perhaps for the first time, seem real." (Doesn’t say much for the reviewer’s preacher and Sunday School teachers, does it?) Anyhow, similarly high praise comes from the woman who wrote the introduction to the latest edition, Peggy Noonan. (533 pages. New $11. Used from $1.25. 2 copies in OPL.)

13) Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
After a terrible fall from a horse in 1920, Margaret Mitchell’s health began to decline. In fact, by 1926, she had to resign from the Atlanta Journal where she had developed into a popular reporter. Fearing that she was becoming bored and depressed, her husband gave her a new Remington typewriter upon which was this challenging message, “Madam, I greet you on the beginning of a new career.” The result? Only the bestselling novel of all time, Gone with the Wind! It’s a long read, but hey - that’s part of its charm for the story, characters and writing are splendid enough to make you never want it to end. Gone with the Wind would make a terrific wintertime book. (1024 pages. New $8. Used from $1. Several copies in OPL.)

14) Fortune's Fool by Rafael Sabatini.
Published in 1922, the novel is set in Restoration London (1665) and concerns itself with the adventures (perhaps "misadventures" is the proper word) of a soldier of fortune who is struggling to deal with the hardships of...peace! The novel sparkles with witty dialogue, intrigue, romance, and the dangers of the plague. Will a possible war with Holland be Randal Holles’ deliverance or will his court enemies bring him down before then? And how will he fare with the gorgeous actress Sylvia Farquharson to whom he's lost his heart? (324 pages. $20 new. Used from $6.)

15) The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington.
This 1919 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel portrays the decline of the extravagantly affluent Amberson family, serving as a touching backdrop for the huge social changes America saw in the decades following the Industrial Revolution. Rather than join the modern age, George Amberson insists on remaining a "gentleman" and tries desperately to hang on to his own version of patrician pride. But his town soon becomes a city and the family palace becomes surrounded by industry, destroying the elegant, cloistered lifestyle enjoyed by the family in years gone by. A genuine masterpiece. (276 pages. New $13. Used from $5. 2 in OPL.)

16) Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.
This Victorian bestseller, along with Braddon's other famous novel, Aurora Floyd, established her as the main rival of the master of the sensational novel, Wilkie Collins. And there's plenty to keep the reader turning pages here: mystery, blackmail, crime, secret passages, and a female protagonist that is anything but the usual demure heroine of 19th Century fiction. It's an exciting pot-boiler, fun even for those who normally find old novels difficult going. (496 pages, less if you don't read the new introduction. $8 new. $1 used.)

17) The Monastery by Sir Walter Scott
The novel is set in a turbulent period in Scottish history when the border area and its abbeys were the scene of a fierce rivalry for power. Catholics still held sway but the reformers were getting stronger as both clashed for control. Scott presents the two brothers Glendinning as the main characters, each man dedicated to the opposing faction. The book gives a vivid picture of life in a wild and lawless country. (412 pages. Easily available.)

18) Angels in Iron by Nicholas C. Prata.
"The year is A.D. 1565 and the tiny island fortress of Malta, defended by an anachronistic crusading order called the Knights of St. John Hospitallers, is all that stands between the war machine of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and the very heart of Christendom. Pitifully outmatched and against impossible odds, the indomitable Grand Master Jean Parisot de La Valette nevertheless inspires his knights to ‘strike a blow for Christ’ and sacrifice their lives to halt the invading Turks at the gates of Europe. What follows is a desperate struggle between East and West, Cross and Koran, faith and despair. Nicholas Prata relates the actual events of the Great Siege in riveting and graphic prose which brings the extreme heroism of the knights and the unimaginable horror of combat sharply into focus." (Aquinas and More web site.) (292 pages. $16.95 new. $12.00 used.)

19) No Name by Wilkie Collins.
This is Wilkie Collins at the height of his literary powers. It is the story of two sisters, Magdalen and Norah, who discover after the deaths of their dearly beloved parents that their parents were not legally married at the time of the girls’ births. Disinherited and ousted from their estate, Magdalen and Norah must fend for themselves and either surrender to their fate or recover their wealth by whatever means available. (784 pages. New from $10.25. Used from $3. 1 copy in OPL.)

20) We suggest in this last slot a re-reading. After all, we have thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from re-reading Charles Dickens, we think re-visiting some of the Napoleon’s best reads would be rich indeed. Our suggestions? Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Hugo’s Les Miserables, or Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago.