It’s a bittersweet day today, folks. This is going to be my very last book recommendation post.
I know, I know. I’m going to miss them, too. C2C’s book recommendation posts have been the most popular posts on the blog. (It turns out that you all love books as much as I do.) They’ve also been some of my personal favorite posts, too. So, if I love them and my readers love them, why is this my last book recommendation post? Well, there’s several reasons for this actually:
Why Is This Your Last Book Recommendation Post?
1. I’ve Run Out of Great Books To Recommend
For me, great books are great books–and if they’re not, they don’t deserve to make it on a book recommendation list. Period. I take recommending books seriously because I take reading very seriously. My biggest pet peeve is reading a book that was highly recommended to me but that turns out to be mediocre at best.
As you can imagine, however, this “super-duper high standard” for book recommending means you run out of books to recommend faster than if you were to have lower standards. In the end, I’ve found that great books are a dime a dozen, and that’s probably why I’ve reached a critical juncture in which, from now on, I could only share with you books that I only half-heartedly recommend.
So, instead of half-heartedly recommending books I wouldn’t have otherwise recommended, I think I’ll just end the book recommendation posts right here, right now.
2. I Hate To Rush Reading
I guess I could power-through the list of 100 books my readers recommend–and then rush to review them all on my blog–but I’m afraid it’ll ruin one of my favorite leisure activities by doing so. I just don’t believe in rushing through great books. I think it’s nicer to pace oneself, spreading out the reading of great books throughout one’s life, so that the right book can drop in at the right time. Don’t you agree?
3. Courage 2 Create Is About To Go In A New Direction
Ending my book recommendation series is my first step in an attempt to ease the blog into Chapter 3, the third year of the blog (my third year begins February 2012). In Chapter 3 , the focus of the blog will be sharpened. We’ll be dealing less with the technical aspects of writing, and more with the “life” aspects of writing. (This shift has already been happening, if you haven’t noticed.) We’ll be dealing less with all the myriad aspects of the writing process (like mastering one’s craft, revising, publishing, marketing, etc.,) and more with the journey that this blog is really all about: the courage to create the kind of work and the kind of life we want.
But narrowing the focus of the blog must begin with me slowly, and deliberately, trimming everything that is not precisely Courage 2 Create–in order to land on what is precisely Courage 2 Create. After almost two years blogging (and with your help) I’m getting closer and closer to what the precise manifestation of Courage 2 Create is going to be. I’m excited to take you deeper into that journey come February 2012.
In the meantime, let’s give my book recommendation series the proper send-off, shall we?
The Proper Send-Off
Now, there were several options to end this. I thought of reviewing screenplays, musicals, comic books, performance art pieces, and even journalistic reports. I even thought of going more “micro” by reviewing the best first lines of books, the best quotes, and even the best words in the English language. But although each of these topics would be fascinating to cover, I thought they were a little bit of a stretch.
In the end, I decided on sharing my favorite books series of all time. I thought since my book recommendation posts started with fiction books, it would be appropriate that they should end with fiction books. A book series, of course, is a series of books where the story takes place in the same universe, and most, if not all, of the main characters remain the same throughout the series. (There are certain exceptions to that last rule, like Chronicles of Narnia, but, for the most part, all book series follow this rule.)
3 Book Series You MUST Read Before You Die
Even if today’s recommendations aren’t very new or surprising to you, I knew that if I was going to end my book recommendation posts today, I couldn’t leave it without first recommending some of my favorite books of all time. (In the past, I neglected to review these books for the very reason that they seemed so obvious. But I don’t care anymore.) Although it’s hard to say something “new” about the Harry Potter series, for instance, I’ll try my best to do so here.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
How did Lewis know that every child wants something as painfully ordinary as a wardrobe to suddenly turn into a magic portal to a far away land? How did he know that we all wanted to escape to a place where beavers could be our best friends, witches could offer us our favorite candy treats, and fauns could go shopping for Christmas presents? How did he know that we wanted to spend hundreds of years in this magical land, become kings and queens of this land, and then return back home as a child–without wasting a single second of our real-world lives? With this legendary book series, Lewis tapped into every child’s (and every adult’s) wildest dreams, and taught writers everywhere that it was the act of bringing to life the silliest of childhood fantasies that made for the best book series.
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
What else can I say about the most popular book series of our time? Maybe that, surprisingly, Rowling’s books have a lot of fascinating things to say about the true nature of good an evil.
In the first book, Rowling taught us that Evil could coerce Good to act in its place–Evil could literally “leech off” a good person’s body in order to accomplish its sinister ends. In the second book, Rowling taught us that being truly good (or evil) lies not in our birthright, but in our choices. In the third book, we learned that evil could lurk in our own families without us knowing it, or could deliberately betray us while feigning true friendship (and that the revelation of this deception could strike us when we least expect it.) In the fourth book, we learned that evil could cloak itself in the trappings of everything that was once seen as pure and righteous. Hidden underneath the guise of a do-gooder, evil could be allowed to get away with terrible acts of bloodshed.
And as Harry matures, Rowling leaves the most challenging lessons about the nature of good and evil for the very end. In the sixth book, Harry learns that evil could take advantage of his own good intentions, and then turn these good intentions against him, in order to put the people he loves in grave danger. (What a harsh lesson for Rowling to teach children–but a true and important lesson nonetheless.) And finally, in the seventh book, Harry learns the most surprising lesson of all: that good can sometimes take the guise of evil in order to help bring evil down. Ironically, it is this invisible (almost unrecognizable) type of good that Rowling portrays as the most virtuous manifestation of good. For Rowling, the worst kind of evil is the kind that puts on a convincing “show” of good; and the best kind of good is the one that is virtuous for virtue’s sake, and does not seek award or recognition for it.
Before Rowling arrived on the scene, the portrayal of good and evil in children’s fiction was never really that complicated or illuminating. But after Rowling arrived, the portrayal of good and evil in children’s fiction has never been more complicated and more illuminating.
The Lord of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
About two-thirds of the way through The Return of The King I stopped reading Tolkien’s epic. Not because I didn’t like it, or I had lost interest in it, but because I loved it so much. I was so engrossed with the characters and the story, that I didn’t want the story to end. It gives me great pleasure to believe that Frodo, Sam, and Smeagol are out there somewhere, frozen in place, waiting for me to return to them, so that I could finally find out what happens to them. It’s like when you have an exquisite meal, and you want to wait as long as you can before you have that very last bite. So, I might just wait until I’m eighty before I have that “last piece” of Tolkien’s classic. In the meantime, I’ll let Middle Earth rest on my plate a little longer. Because it’s a story that’s way too precious to finish too soon.
In his legendary book series, Tolkien taught us that the best stories are the ones you want to savor (to their very last bite) because the world they conjure up is way too believable, and way too captivating, not to be true.
Thank you to all of those who have shared their love of books with me on the C2C for almost two years! Even though these types of posts are ending, you’ll be happy to know that my book recommendation posts will always remain accessible through my archives.
Okay, one last time: it’s your turn! What book series do you think people MUST read before they die? Please share your recommendations with us in the comments below. Oh, and don’t forget to explain why you love the book series you’re recommending!
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