Monday, April 15, 2013

Favorite "Genre" Books

Though the word "genre" pretty much means anything that's not "literary" or strictly "contemporary", when it comes to my list of favorite books, it's pretty much exclusively Science Fiction and Fantasy. In fact, it's almost exclusively Science Fiction, with only one fantasy book narrowly making it as number five. I think the main reason for this split is that I have a tendency to really truly love Fantasy series (as you will see on Friday) while there are several standalone SF novels that I adore without any extra series. Apparently I like my fantasy epic, but like my science fiction standalone. 

So below are my list of favorite "genre" books in order from most favorite to least favorite. (Also so there is no confusion "number of reads" means the number of times I've read it, which is the metric I used to determine which book was my favorite.)

Number One: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Number of Reads: 12
Rationale: I was actually given Ender's Game in the seventh grade but didn't read it. It just didn't seem very appealing, though I can't particularly remember why. I joke it's because my dad recommended it to me, but considering my dad pointed me to Star Wars and Wheel of Time, which were both things I loved at that time, that reason doesn't really hold up. Then I finally did read in in the eighth grade and it blew my mind. I've re-read it every year since then. Every year.

I can still vividly remember reading the book the first time, how riveting it was, how I had to stop right before Chapter 14 because it was time for bed, but I literally couldn't sleep that night because I couldn't think about anything else. The next morning as soon as my alarm went off, I started reading the book again. I had to know how it finished. And it was perfect.

And it still holds up. Every time I read it, it's still riveting. Ender is this amazingly sympathetic character, that I just completely feel for. I know what it is to be Third. I know what it is to be a smart kid in a class of not so smart kids (though I would never claim to be the genius that Ender is). And everytime I re-read it, I identify with Ender in a different way. In fact the last time I read it, the twelfth time I read it, a passage that I never really noticed before, struck a deep chord in me. I had to stop and write it down and I was like "yes, this passage, this paragraph that Ender is experiencing here, is exactly what I'm experiencing now in my life." It was amazing. 

This is my favorite book of all time. Hands down.

Number Two: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Number of Reads: 9
Rationale: The first time I was exposed to A Wrinkle in Time was when my mom read it aloud to me when I was in kindergarten. I then later read it for myself in the fourth grade. I love this book because of the characters. Meg is a character I deeply identify with, and the other characters are all ones that I love. This also another book that has aged well, that I get something new from every time I read it. It's also the book I'm probably most likely to quote in a serious discussion about life. Usually in reference to the description of life being a sonnet. In fact, I've used that in a number of wedding speeches. Thank you, Madeliene L'Engle.

Number Three:  Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
Number of Reads: 7
Rationale: Though this is the sequel to Ender's Game, it's a classic SF novel in it's own right. I actually have a couple of friends who like this book better than Ender's Game. And then there are people who hate it, because it's a completely different book from Ender's Game. Where Ender's Game is more of a military SF, this is definitely more of an anthropological SF. Which is one of the reasons I love it. I love Ender's intense study of humantiy, what makes a human, and the whole piggies dilemna. I love Nova's family and how Ender comes in and starts to heal them. And I adore the little hints of who Ender was in his past life, whether it's playing a video game or figuring out his password. And I, of course, still adore the character of Ender Wiggin. The reason why I didn't wrap up this book with Ender's Game and put it in my favorite series categories is that I'm really iffy on the last two books in the series, they're not my favorite. But also because, in the past, I've occasionally read Speaker for the Dead as a standalone, without re-reading Ender's Game. Which means it's a good book in it's own right, and not just when tied to Ender's Game.

Number Four: Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
Number of Reads:
Rationale: When contemplating favorite books, this is one of the ones that I don't have a particularly good reason for. It is a classic in the sense that it was written by Isaac Asimov, but it's not a classic in the sense that I, Robot or the Foundation novels are. This book is basically a fairly straightforward murder mystery set in the future. But I love this book. I re-read it all the time. This is also a book I often recommend to people who just want to try out a SF novel, since it relies so heavily on the mystery genre. It's a comfortable gateway to SF

So why do I love this book? Well I adore R. Daneel Olivaw. He's one of my favorite characters of all time. I love how believable future Earth is, and how though it's clearly what we would label a "dystopia", this is not a dystopian novel. It's just the way the world is. And I love how the mystery is resolved, who the murderer is, and why Elijah had a hard time figuring it out. And somehow it manages to surprise me every time. It's like I always forget how the book ends until I re-read it. This is definitely one of my "I'm not feeling good, I just want to read something fun" books. And it's definitely fun. 

Number Five: Sabriel by Garth Nix
Number of Reads: 5 
Rationale: This book actually took me by surprise. I was sitting in my library, trying to figure out which books I had read the most often and I was like "wow, actually I've read Sabriel a lot." And while Sabriel is a part of  the Abhorsen trilogy, I haven't read the rest of the trilogy very often, which is why this book gets a standalone list instead of a series list. (Part of the reason for that is Sabriel came out years in advance of the other two books.)

So why have I read this book several times? I'm gonna be honest; there is a very soft place in my heart for necromancers. Necromancers are probably one of my favorite paranormal/supernatural beings, even more than wizards. There is just something sinister about them, but Garth Nix managed to find a way to make a necromancer good and in fact necessary to her society. And I love that.

Sabriel is also the first YA book I ever read, and I think that was one of the reasons it stuck with me. It's the only YA book I actually read as a teenager, and I loved it.

So those are my top five "genre" books. Any you are surprised by? What are you favorite genre books?  

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