Read a Book in August – RJ’s List of Recommended Books

There is a #readabookinaugust movement going on among some folks on Google+. This is something that appeals to me because I enjoy reading. So, with this in mind, I'm taking it a step further. If I could read a book every day in August, here are the books I would pick… and a little about why I'd pick these books.

You may question why I stopped at 23 books. The answer is simple: I'd use those days to finish trilogies. Or finish some of the longer books.

(The Truth: I've been working on this list for about five hours and have to get some real work done…)

I hope you enjoy my recommendations as much as I do.

1: By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey

This is, by far, one of my favorite Mercedes Lackey novels. While I had read another book by Lackey first, I think By the Sword was the title that really made me love fantasy. While other titles of hers made me want to write fantasy, I think this one solidified my love of Lackey.

2: Patriot Games by Tom Clancy

I was torn between picking The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games for this slot. Both of these books have everything I love about Jack Ryan and Tom Clancy's world. But, Patriot Games won out. Patriot Games wasn't the first Tom Clancy novel I read, but it's the only one I've read by Clancy I've had to replace at least five times because I read it so many times the spines broke and the books fell apart.

For the record, the first Tom Clancy novel I ever read was Debt of Honor.

3: Anvil of the Sun by Anne Lesley Groell

This is the book that made me interested in espionage. I started the series with the second book in the series. It took me several months to find a copy of the Anvil of the Sun. I loved the second book, and I was almost in tears when I finally got a copy of the first. (This was in the days before I had a credit card and could buy things on the internet.)

4: Lightning's Daughter by Mary H. Herbert

This is the first book of a five book set, and it's definitely the story horse lovers will appreciate. This is old-school fantasy at its finest, and it's definitely targeted for the ladies. It's fantasy, with elements of romance, and it's also an action-adventure. I managed to find all of these novels long after they went out of print. The one book took me two or three years to locate. Once again, before I had a credit card and could order online. The last one of the set I acquired right after I got a credit card. Even with the internet? I found one copy of the book for sale. Of course it became mine.

5: Night by Elie Wiesel

This is the hardest book I've ever read. It's a book I've read once, only once, and very likely will only really once. I think Gordon Lightfoot's “If you could read my mind” best describes this book for me:

And you won't read that book again
Because the ending's just too hard to take

This whole book is just too hard to take, but I think it's something that should be read. It is one of many holocaust stories, but I think this one is the most powerful one I've ever read. Hard to take, but worth the read.

Bring tissues. I definitely needed them.

6: All the Weyrs of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

I love the pern series. I'm picking one of the later titles in the series for a reason. If you want the continuity, start with either Dragonflight or The White Dragon. The White Dragon is technically the third book, but it's a stellar introduction to Pern, and it leads directly into the events of All the Weyrs of Pern.

By the time I read All the Weyrs of Pern, I was already invested in the series. However, none of the other Pern stories did what All the Weyrs of Pern did for me: It made me cry.

There are few authors who are able to create such a character I loved so much to cause this reaction in me. It wasn't just the event in the book that caused this, but rather the poetic and perfect nature of that last closing moment.

All the Weyrs of Pern also signaled the conclusion of this series for me. There were other Pern novels written, but as the page turned and the book closed for this character, and this novel, so did the series for me.

It left me satisfied, but in that bitter and sweet way.

Those of you who know this book will recognize the significance of this: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

7: The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings

Part of me wanted to list the Belgariad, the Mallorian, and Belgarath the Sorcerer, but I'm being honest with myself. This book tops them all. This book has everything I love about David Eddings. It has the humor, the characters, the depth, and the creativity I love about Eddings' writing. The Redemption of Althalus captures the essence of being human, but then it twists it. It turns the known to the unknown, and captures the hopes, the dreams, and the fears of the average person. Then it makes it fantastic.

This is a fine, fine fantasy novel, and I really recommend it.

I need to replace my copy — again — thinking about it…

8: Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

This book is a throwback to my early days as a reader. This is a… middle grade novel. I think. It's meant for younger audiences. How young? Not sure.

That said, to this day, I still love Pierce's stories. I'm not a fan of her Circle of Magic books, but she still sticks with me as one of the figureheads of girl's fantasy fiction. I don't know if boys will enjoy this book, but I really recommend it to anyone who has a little girl who still believes in magic. It's a book about making dreams come true., and it's definitely a book for those who want a little magic in their lives.

It also deals with very real subjects, including death, and coping with death. This is a story where it's very easy to get lost in the world.

9: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

I first read this book in elementary school. I checked this book out so many times that the librarian had given up on it actually staying in the library.

For those of you who are familiar with Storm Without End, you may recognize a little bit of the influences from McKinley's The Blue Sword and Herbert's Lightning's Daughter. I definitely nod to both of them, and to Mercedes Lackey as well.

I'm not ashamed of that.

This is one of the books I read when I was first learning how to read. (True story. I didn't learn how to functionally read novels until fourth grade.)

10: The Black Gryphon by Mercedes Lackey

Originally, I wasn't going to include this book in the list, but I decided I had to. It is a must for me. This is the book that turned me into a daydreamer — into someone who wanted to create worlds in her head.

This is the book that turned me from ‘reader' to ‘writer'. For that, I can't be more grateful.

Even when my mother was wondering why I was sliding my way under her parked car muttering things to myself as I played pretend.

11: Birth of the Firebringer by Meredith Anne Pierce

I don't remember when I first read this book. I remember getting it because it was about unicorns. I was pretty young at the time. It has unicorns and gryphons. It has unicorns and gryphons fighting each other. This is definitely a book for a younger audience, but I still love it.

Getting a printed copy of this book was very difficult. I ended up asking for it through a used bookstore that did custom orders and hunts for books across the continent. I wasn't able to get a copy until the publisher re-released the book in 2003. At least it's available on kindle now, if this type of book interests you.

Sometimes, I still like to daydream about unicorns when I'm really bored. This book will definitely appeal to those who like Peter Beagel's The Last Unicorn.

12: American Assassin by Vince Flynn

Those of you who know me are likely aware I really enjoy good spy thrillers. The Mitch Rapp series has enthralled me since I started reading it. Unfortunately, I started reading it about a month after Vince Flynn passed aware.

These stories capture what I love about the Jack Ryan series and cut out the things I don't like about the Jack Ryan series. To me, this series is a fun spy thriller romp, except its more assassins and black ops than spies. Though Mitch Rapp does do some actual spying in the series.

American Assassin is the first book in chronological order, and I recommend starting with it. If you want to go for the order the stories were written, go for Transfer of Power, which is the first published.

13: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I have very few good memories of the half of semester I spent in college. However, Brave New World has stuck with me ever since I first read it as a part of a Poli Sci 101 course. This book made me think, and made me think hard about the world. It's a mental roller coaster. I pick up this book, every now and then, and read it just to remind myself about the uncomfortable truths of society, and the what-could-be situations.

This one has enough fact to the fiction to be very uncomfortable, which is why I like it.

14: The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

This book represents the last set of books by Mercedes Lackey that I truly adored. It's an epic fantasy, which is outside of Lackey's normal scope, but it involves unicorns, stereotypes, and some delicious twists on magic systems. I really enjoyed the Obsidian Trilogy. I recommend it to anyone who likes a lighter epic fantasy. Sure, it has its dark moments, but it is, ultimately, a story with a happy ending.

This was really the turning point for me for reading Mercedes Lackey. I keep clinging to the Valdemar books, but something changed in how Lackey wrote. This book was the last of the ones truly touching on what I loved about reading Lackey's novels.

15: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle

I can't ever thank my fourth grade teacher for having a clue, picking up her clue by four, and hitting me on the head repeatedly until I actually read this book. She knew I had trouble reading. She knew I hated the material she kept giving the class. She knew I didn't know how to read very well. I was functionally illiterate.

She wanted to change that, and in the process, she changed me.

She decided to try a different tactic, and had the class read A Wrinkle in Time. It was the first time I discovered reading was fun. That it was something I wanted to do.

Night was hard to swallow, and still is, but this was the hardest book I've ever read, because I didn't know how to read. This book forced me to learn. This book made me want to learn.

This book changed me, and for that, I'm grateful.

16: Another Fine Myth by Robert Aspirin

Myth Inc is one of my favorite humor series, second only to the next book set on this list. (Which you'll find out about soon enough.) I love the diverse characters, the crazy situations, and the fact I can leave Earth for a finer, funnier place.

The Myth Inc series is my go-to place when the world is just a little too gloomy and I need somewhere else to be, and a good laugh. This is a series that had a few tear-jerker moments for me. I find these characters extremely easy to get invested with.

17: Phule's Company by Robert Aspirin

… I have just learned something about this series. Robert Aspirin tricked me. I'm so mad I could spit!

What do you mean I have to buy four new books now, to finish this series off? I swear, if he dies in the last book, I will freak.

This is one of my absolute favorite series. I love William Phule. I love him so much that my husband is really, really lucky I wouldn't leave him for a fictional character. I also love puns. This is the story of an eccentric heir, a mercenary company, and the misfits of the universe.

This book has it all. It's wonderful. Really recommend it.

Now, excuse me. I have four new books to buy.

18: Split Infinity by Piers Anthony

Choosing between Xanth, the Incarnations of Immortality, and… I don't even know the name of this series. I should, but I don't. Oh, well. Split Infinity is the first of at least a five book set. It's one of the hybrids between Science Fiction and Fantasy that actually works. I love this book, I love this series. I also love the third title of this set: Juxtaposition. It's one of my favorite words. I can't really say this book inspired me to do anything, but it did encourage me to get lost in Anthony's world. That's good enough for me.

Yes, I know. The cover has a unicorn on it. One of the books is also called Unicorn Point. So what of it? I like unicorns…

19: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This book really cinched the fact I love fantasy and science fiction humor. I love Adams' style. I enjoyed the twisty curvy plot, and the absurdity of it all. The whale and the petunias will always be with me.

This is the first author I ever cried for. The radio announced he had died, and I broke down into a weepy mess in the car, much to my husband's astonishment. I'm a bit teary-eyed as I write this. He didn't inspire me to write, but I spent many, many fond hours in his world. Most of all, it changed how I viewed the universe whenever I look up at the stars.

And it definitely improved my relationship with towels.

20: A Thousand Words for Stranger by Julie E. Czerneda

This is a story about characters, about unknown pasts, and about uncertain futures. It's a bit of romance, a lot of science fiction, and a little bit of magic thrown in. This story has a little bit of everything, which is why it has a special place in my heart. This is a lighter science fiction, but I definitely recommend it for those who just want to read a good story.

21: Magic Kingdom for Sale — Sold! by Terry Brooks

Most people know Terry Brooks for his more serious Shannara series, but I love him for his Landover series. This book has humor, reality, and fantasy. It's a story of grief, of hope, and many other things. This story is also a story of healing, wrapped up in fantastic packaging. I don't like to think about the emotional circumstances surrounding when I first read this book, but I'll never forget how much this book helped me get away from the real world for a while, and when something as simple as a laugh or smile was worth far more than a million dollars.

I need to replace my copy of this book, and soon. I still have my copy of The Black Unicorn (Don't judge me!!!!) but Magic Kingdom faced the usual fate of a beloved book in my household: Inevitable destruction through over reading.

22: The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass

Epic fantasy is often dominated by male writers. Sara Douglass is one of the openly female epic fantasy writers I've had the pleasure of reading. This is a great series, with realistic characters, tidbits of romance and unrequited love, and a healthy dose of death, destruction, mayhem, and all of the dark elements often associated with epic fantasy. This is a long, thick series, but well worth the read. If you're going in, expect to go in for the long haul. Fortunately, the series is completed, and was completed in reasonable time, too.

I know some of you don't like reading epics that aren't completed, so I present to you one that is.

This book may have helped convince me ladies really could write epic fantasy and ‘get away with it'.

23: The Magician's Guild by Trudi Canavan

I was really torn on which Trudi Canavan series to list in this list. I went with the Black Magician Trilogy because it was her first series, and I loved all three books to pieces. It challenged my beliefs in terms of the roles of antagonists and protagonists, and it catered to my like of Zero to Hero type stories. The zero, however, is definitely a unique young lady, and I think anyone who likes watching someone fight tooth and nail to get somewhere in life is going to enjoy this trilogy.


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