Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Friday, March 7, 2014

Listing The Best

Listing The Best 

As a writer I have at least three book collections.  I have a collection of reference books like The Chicago Manual of Style.  I also have a collection of “collectable books,” which I probably bought for more than I can sell them for, such as Val McDermid’s Killing the Shadows. I don’t blame him. I bought them.  Another collection consists of books that I keep because the authors did some aspect of writing exceptionally well.  I read them and study them to see if I can figure out how the authors accomplished what they did.  If they are not the best in the world they are at least the best examples I have found.

Nevada Barr’s Blind Descent and Firestorm are the best depictions of natural phenomena I have found. One leaves me freezing and the other leaves me sweating.

Elmore Leonard is, of course well known for his dialogue.  The Hot Kid is one example of many.

A wonderful example of suspense is Lee Child’s 61 Hours.

To see how well written a mystery can be check out Carolyn G. Hart’s Letter From Home.

For a description of New York City from the point of view of an out-of-town visitor read Nancy Pickard’s But I Wouldn’t Want to Die There.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if a member of your family was accused of murder?  If so, read William Landay’s Defending Jacob.

Do you want to read about a clash of very different cultures?  I recommend a non-fiction book, Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. 

Unforgettable Memoirs? Fiction: Alexie Sherman’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (a novel in the form of a diary) and non-fiction: Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Wait Till Next Year. Two very different, one is light and the other is dark but both are satisfying reads.

Do you want beautiful writing about a dark situation?  Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone.

How about a great title to go along with a great mystery?  Adrian McKinty’s Dead I Well May Be.

Best historical mystery ever written? Arguably An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. 

Best American historical mystery: Arguably: A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly.

Best Mystery where the detective is incapacitated:  The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.

Best mystery author ever: Agatha Christie 

All of the books and authors mentioned are part of my personal library.  What do you have in your library?  


E. B. Davis said...

I guess we all have our own criteria for rating books, Warren. My approach is more emotional than analytical. When a book speaks to me in some way, I put it into my "special" category, but I don't do the "bests" because to do so means that I've read everything to compare it to. But I haven't read everything--never will--but I do try!

The possibility that the next book will be a favorite is the attraction of reading. So many "best" list are a reiteration of the bestsellers' list I usually avoid reading them. Your list has a mix of authors represented.

Warren Bull said...

My bests are the best example of some aspect of writing I've read. I don't claim they are the best ever written. As I read more I sometimes replace the best in a category with a newer book.

KM Rockwood said...

Now, of course, you've given me a list of books that I want to include on m totally overwhelming TBR list.

I have a small collection of "favorites" I read when I feel the need of comfortable but enjoyable reading. I think my all-time favorite is Rafe by Weldon Hill.

I think the one title is from the lyrics of Danny Boy. "As dead I well may be..."

Jim Jackson said...

Our library contains about 2,000 books. Down considerably from before our last move. I am an eclectic reader.

My reference library covers over 200 volumes. They mostly include writing, bridge, birds and other nature resources. Nonfiction covers another six hundred plus, focused mostly on science, nature and history. The fiction runs the gamut from classic literature to a variety of genres.

One of the things I’m doing now is giving books away through drawings to people who are signed up for either my Facebook Author page or my quarterly newsletter. It helps assure that I don’t have to buy a larger house because of needing more book space and it provides others to explore new authors at no cost to themselves.

~ Jim

Paula Gail Benson said...

I'm particular fond of the worlds created in good books. Among my personal favorites, I'd list Harper Lee's Maycomb, Alabama; the New York theatre world in Jane Dentinger's mysteries; Sara Paretsky's (and V.I. Warshawski's) Chicago; and the academic environs in Amanda Cross's books.

The Warbler said...

I agree with you on The Hot Kid, Warren. Excellent E.L. dialogue as is the sequel Up In Honey's Room

I'm reading Harbor Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh. For some reason he is not mentioned often in my circles.
The four Hollywood Division books are filled with snappy hip dialogue and truly demented cops and villains.

I met Ace Atkins last weekend at Sleuthfest. He was good enough to be selected by the Parker Family to continue Spenser.
Denny Leppanen

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, it would be hard to list my favorites. Nevada Barr's books were favorites of my sisters and me, but I haven't read her latest. Like E.B. new ones continually come along. Like Jim, I'm an eclectic reader, but I have more books then he does. :-) I have book cases in every room except the kitchen and bathroom, and even those have books, cook books on a small stand, and on the backs of toilets. I'm slowly, oh so slowly, going through them and donating them to Goodwill, libraries for their book sales, or a local used book store.

Paula, if I had to pick a very favorite book, it would be To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I was surprised to hear the other day that she's still alive.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Good list, Warren.

Like EB, I tend not to do "best" lists because there are so many books out there that I haven't had a chance to read in spite of the fact that I own about 3,000 books, got rid of thousands more, and have always read library books, as well. And when I read a really well-written book that goes into my "special" collection, it's always sui generis. You can't really compare TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD to other books because it's unique, and I find other favorites of mine are like that--absolutely inimitable.

Terry Shames said...

My TBR book piles are about to topple over, and you have to go add to it! Since the ones I've read on your list are gems, I know you've got good taste, so I'll be dipping into others. I want to mention a couple that I've read recently that dazzled me--Tim Hallinan's The Queen of Patpong and Lori Roy's Bent Road. (Sorry, the latter was on a best-seller list, but still amazing.

Susan Oleksiw said...

My TBR pile is now in danger of toppling over and taking the house with it. I love your list. It has both new and old friends, and I'm especially glad to see Agatha Christie listed as best mystery writer ever. I gave up trying to come up with lists but I now have a mental list of books I remember vividly, and those are the ones I tell people about. The great ones rarely fade because the writing is so pure and precise, the characters feel like people you've met, and the story takes you into real life.

Georgia Ruth said...

Like Jim, I have a down-sized library that is growing.I was loaned Ken Follet's thick Pillars of the Earth with an enthusiastic review. I had never heard of it, but within a week, two other friends said it was at the top of their favorite's list. So there must be a lot of favorites out there for my future.

Jim Jackson said...


That's one of my all-time favorites as well. You can feel Follett's love of the subject.

~ Jim

Kara Cerise said...

Great list, Warren. My dream is to have a large room with floor to ceiling bookshelves for all the books I want to acquire. Unfortunately, I can only keep a limited number in a bookcase and stacked in a small but growing pile on the floor.

I have a small collection of historical mysteries and history books to reference while I write stories set in the past.

Some of my favorite historicals are Victoria Thompson's Gaslight Mysteries, Dianne Day's Fremont Jones series, "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson, and Katherine Neville's "The Eight."

carla said...

I've pared down my hardcopy books, so I'm very selective re: what deserves shelf space. I console myself by keeping digital versions of the rest!

Sarah Henning said...

Nice list, Warren! I really have no idea how many books I own, but as far as the best for great writing (for me, right now), I'd have to say the "Speaks the Nightbird" series by Robert McCammon. I'm sort of obsessed with his pre-revolutionary James Bond.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I enjoyed reading your list of "Bests." I've read many of the books you mentioned. A writer I respect praised "Winter's Bone." So far, I've only seen the movie, which was excellent.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Warren, you have a couple of my all time favorites on here: Winter's Bone and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. Both are favorites because of their impact - I remember them so vividly - I think of Emily Dickinson's comment about poetry: “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.”