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Dean Koontz's Favorite Books

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    Posted: October/02/2007 at 6:47am
From a Barnes and Noble interview in 2006. I'm embarrassed to admit I've read almost none of these books:

What are your favorite books, and what makes them special to you?

For three decades, I read no fewer than 200 books a year, and I still read a book a week. Out of that volume, choosing eight or ten as my favorites is no easy task, and a final list inevitably has an arbitrary quality dependent on my mood at the moment. In no meaningful order:

# The complete novels of John D. MacDonald -- His work taught me more about how to create suspense, about how to create vivid characters, about creating a sense of place, and about the beauty of an economical prose style than have the novels of any other single writer. When I discovered John D., I read 34 of his books in 30 days, not just in his Travis McGee series, but in his stand-alones, which are even better. That was the most exhilarating extended experience I've ever had as a reader.

# The Moviegoer and Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy -- I am drawn to writers who believe in timeless virtues, who have a tragic sense of the human condition but remain hopeful, who have a pellucid style that is deceptively simple even as, in fact, it deals with First Things, the least simple of all themes.

# The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity by James M. Cain -- I love noir fiction from the first half of the 20th century, and these are two of the finest examples of the genre. I don't find much contemporary noir that interests me, largely because it is bleak and hopeless, often anarchic and misanthropic. The great noir fiction was informed by a moral sense, so that the self-destructive actions of the leads, and even the indifference of fate, left you with a sense of meaning and a feeling that, in your own life, you have been damn lucky to squeak by without self-destructing.

# The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis -- Over sixty years old, this beautifully written little book has proved stunningly predictive. The society that Lewis foresaw, arising from the "intellectual" elite's contempt for such virtues as courage and honor and selflessness, is the crumbling civilization we now inhabit. I read it every year to remind myself that ideas matter and that bad ideas, surer than guns and bombs, can bring down a nation, a world.

# The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon -- This science-fiction novel has more stunning ideas packed into a couple of hundred pages than some authors' entire bodies of work, delivered in a limpid yet magical prose. Bravura storytelling.

# A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller -- A post-nuclear-holocaust novel that combines science fiction and mysticism in a compelling story told in sometimes hallucinatory prose. This is one of those rare novels that is genuinely sui generis, a unique reading experience.

# The Complete Poems of T. S. Eliot -- He demands much of the reader, but no other poetry so richly rewards close reading, repeated reading, and contemplation. His early work is darker than what he wrote later, but dark in a way that is half a step short of utter hopelessness. Of the later poems, "Four Quartets" contains arguably the most distilled language in English verse, relentlessly pushing us to confront the central truth of our existence. The lines are hard and clean, beautiful, evocative, insistent, haunting, and with redemptive power.

# The Busy Body, The Fugitive Pigeon, and The Spy in the Ointment are three of Donald E. Westlake's early books, among the funniest suspense novels ever written. I read these in my youth, and many years later they inspired me to mix humor with suspense in books like Life Expectancy. Westlake is versatile, continually switching throughout his career from hard-boiled suspense to comic suspense, to mainstream fiction as easily as another writer might change his shirts.

# There Must be a Pony by James Kirkwood -- A tragedy, a comedy, and arguable the funniest novel ever written from an adolescent point of view. The voice of the narrator rings so true that you can hear him long after you've turned the last page. Kirkwood deserved a lot more success as a novelist than he enjoyed.

# Solider in the Rain, Temple of Gold, Control and The Color of Light by William Goldman -- Goldman has had a strong career as a novelist, but his greatest success has been as a screenwriter. If he hadn't scored so big with movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, if his energies had gone entirely into novels, I think he would have been HUGE. He creates some of the most appealing characters in all of contemporary fiction, unafraid of sentiment and never stepping across the line into sentimentality.

The four books I named are radically different from one another, yet you hear the wonderfully assured and ironic Goldman voice unmistakably on the first page of each. The Color of Light is one of the most dead-on portraits of a writer's struggle ever written, hugely entertaining; but if you learn nothing from it other than the mortal danger of taking the write-what-you-know dictum too seriously, it's worth a hundred times its price.

I could go on for pages. So many writers have made my life so much richer than it otherwise would have been.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FinalExam Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/02/2007 at 6:54am
Me either, but I rarely have read most authors other authors mention. It's strange thta way.
We are not strangers to ourselves, we only try to be. --Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote masha99 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/02/2007 at 7:09am
I tried T.S Elliot, but poetry REALLY isn't my thing.

I mostly rely on christophersnow to recommned books for me nowadays
Maybe all you've got is what you get to... -- Brad Cotter
Pity for the guilty is treason to the innocent -- Ayn Rand/Terry Goodkind
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote breezit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/02/2007 at 7:14am
I was forced to read THE WASTE LAND by TS Eliot when I was in college, and it pretty much went over my head.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote christophersnow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/02/2007 at 8:22am
FE, sounds like you need to read The Color of Light by William Goldman.

John D. MacDonald is amazing Masha, you should read him. Mainly The Last One Left, which was mentioned in The Bad Place.

I just finished the C.S. Lewis book he mentions.

All others mentioned are on this list I recently made.
"It had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing." - Howard Roark
Dean Koontz= Always working!
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