By T.L. Gray
Writers are a strange and peculiar brand of people. They see the world with wide, yet narrowed eyes. What I mean by that is that they can see beyond boundaries, borders and boxes to view bigger pictures and brighter scenes. That broad vision comes with an acute precision, able to pinpoint what others can easily pass over or pretend doesn’t exist. We see the beauty and the ugliness, the gift of hope and the curse of doubt.
There are a few people and books that haven’t simply touched my imagination, but reached deep into my soul and stirred my very being. I’ve laughed and wept with their stories. Some have fueled my desire to write, others intimidated me and pushed me to reevaluate everything. Some have made me so jealous of their gift, I literally weep with appreciation just to be able to call them my friend. Some have become my true friends, inspiring and pushing me in personal ways.
There are many, yet simple but complex, reasons for these five particular novels/authors. I hope you will give them a chance and allow them to touch you as they've touched me. They’re in no particular order:
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – I’ve never had a book move me through every emotion more than this one. I’ve cried, laughed, been excited, angry and outraged while reading this fabulous tale. Rothfuss is one of the few authors who intimidates me as a writer. I know when I meet a good, talented writer, but Rothfuss' skill makes me feel inadequate. Then he goes and reproduces that same feeling of awe in the sequel - The Wise Man’s Fear. I don’t particularly like feeling inadequate, and everything in me wants to fight against it, but I admire his skill, imagination and genius so much - I’m truly in awe. I’m truly a fan – not just a colleague.
That leads me right into The Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. Actually, you should start with book one, The Prince of Thorns and read through The King of Thorns to finish with The Emperor of Thorns. What impressed me most from this writer wasn't necessarily the plot, but the wisdom, personal reflections, platitudes and proverbs he planted in these books. I’d sincerely consider this a philosophical series more than an epic fantasy. Some readers only read for adventure the plot offers, but to me, I find myself meditating on certain phrases, often forgetting the plot for a time as I grasp for deeper meanings and pearls of wisdom. Lawrence blows me away as much as Kerouac or Bukowski do.
My third selection is from writer Jeff Suwak, author of the novella Beyond the Tempest Gate. While Tempest Gate is a beautiful heroic tale that stretches the imagination and fuels the warrior spirit within me, it is an unpublished short story called “Rusted, Busted, Beautiful Things” that moves me most. There was sadness, need, a crying out from a thirsty soul in that piece that has stayed with me for many, many nights. I’ve cried often because this story came to me at a time when I felt my lowest, when I felt Rusted, Busted, but also Beautiful, deserving to not be forgotten and discarded as many of those pieces and buildings listed in that story. I’m getting emotional thinking about it. His words touch my soul. There have been many other short stories I’ve read from this particular author that also moved me: one about a man on the edge of a crisis of doubt taking a walk in the middle of the night and finding a friendly cup of coffee, polite conversation, and the meaning to life, another about boy coming of age and stepping into his destiny under the mysterious music of a guitarista, Exceptional talent. He’s destined to be one of the greats.
My fourth selection is The Riyria Series by Michael J. Sullivan. To know a man is to know his heart, and I absolutely fell in love with Sullivan’s characters Hadrian and Royce. Their chemistry, their connection, their stark sense of humor pours off the page. I love these two characters. I’d want to know them in real life, and I’m sure they come from various parts of Sullivan’s own personality. He’s one of the nicest and helpful people I’ve met in this business. But, these two protagonists stole my heart and I find myself often thinking about them and wanting to know more, revisit their adventures, and read them all over again. Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire, Heir of Novron,
My last selection was really hard to narrow, to define, to highlight, because there are so many great authors out there right now, so many whose works I’ve fell in love with, whose craft and artistry I admire. But I have to stick with the ones that totally move me in a very deep, almost spiritual, way. So, rising to the top amongst a sea of favorites is Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. Valen al Sorna snatched my attention, stole my heart, and didn’t let go until I turned the last page, and then left me wanting more. Even now I feel a bit overwhelmed.
Well, folks… those are my top five. They may change in the coming years or months, but for 2013 those would be my favorite picks. My advice would be to read these books and form your own opinion. Some of you will agree and some will not, but that’s not really my problem.
Thank you for reading.
Till next time,