For a good laugh, read 'Miss Julia'
As an avid reader, I've looked with interest at the "Books I have loved" columns. There are so many books I love, but I would like to add a type of book seemingly missing from your lists: Books that just make you laugh, out loud, sometimes drawing strange looks if reading in public.
The best of the best for me is the Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross. Every one of the 14 books is good for at least a chuckle, as the opinionated Miss Julia manages to conquer adversity during all kinds of situations. Ross writes with a razor-sharp wit, as these comic dramas develop with fast-paced plots, crazy characters and downright Southern fun. I admire the author's ability to create believable dialogue; so realistic I can "hear" the words in different voices in my mind.
Miss Julia is one of my favorite reads and I'm not alone. Fannie Flagg, another Southern comic novel writer, said, "Miss Julia is one of the most delightful characters to come along in years." And I agree.
Be sure to start with the first in the series, "Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind," as the others build on it. You won't be disappointed.
Nothing lightweight about this book list
When I was growing up, I loved the Elsie Dinsmore series by Martha Finley. I read the first volume so often, I could quote the first paragraph; in fact, I still remember the opening line, which I can assure you is not a classic line like the first sentence of "A Tale of Two Cities."
In my college days, I discovered Georgette Heyer and devoured her Regency romances, which I still enjoy. The elegance of manners as presented by Heyer and her wit are an irresistible combination. "The Grand Sophy," which I am re-reading, is a simply delightful romp. Heyer led me to Jane Austen and my favorite Austen novel, "Persuasion."
In middle age, a friend introduced me to "The Dragonriders of Pern" series by Anne McCaffery. I had never read science fiction and wasn't keen on reading about dragons, but I was hooked with the first chapter of the first book. I think I have read every book Anne McCaffrey wrote and have expanded my interest in sci-fi and fantasy to include books by Elizabeth Vaughan (Warprize series), Elizabeth Moon (Paksenarrion series) and Donita K. Paul (Dragon Keepers Chronicles series).
I also enjoy mysteries, which I see as modern morality plays. I like cozies -- no gore; reliance on listening, observing and deducting; and humor based on situations and word play -- not based in profanity and bodily functions. Favorites include Donna Andrews, Kris Neri, Kylie Logan, Jenn McKinley, Livia J. Washburn, Mary Jane Maffini, and Tracy Kiely.
Many accuse me of being a light reader. I suppose that's true. However, the fiction I love -- and have loved through the years -- has as its bedrock ethics and morality, hope and love, laughter in the face of serious events and the triumph of a good person. Not such lightweight concepts.
Helen M. Morris
Civil War book looks at army life
A Civil War book I would like to share is "All For the Union," edited by Robert Hunt Rhodes.
While this book was highlighted on a recent PBS program, I found out about it in a book review in an American Heritage magazine that I picked up at the Library!
The book tells about the Civil War from a soldier's perspective. Elisha Rhodes Hunt entered as a private and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served for the duration of the war.
This book gives insight to what the Civil War soldier's daily life was like -- especially the waiting.
I highly recommend this book.
'The Stand' is brilliant writing
"The Stand" by Stephen King.
I was a young adult when I happened to pick up a hard copy of the book at a used book sale. I had never read Stephen King before and had no expectations. But after the first chapter, I knew this author had something special.
I've been an avid reader since I was a child, though I am not one to hold onto books that I've read. I believe in passing them on to be enjoyed by others. But there are a special few that I've kept on my bookshelf due to their ability to touch the soul in some way. "Jane Eyre" and "Outlander" are two of the favored few. "The Stand" is another.
"The Stand" was the first epic novel I read. As fans know, King's books are not short, easy reads. They are monumental in their length and the stories themselves are intricate and unusual. King has a way of hooking you from the beginning, and this apocalyptic tale with a new take on good versus evil made a lasting impression on me. He fleshes out his characters so subtly and so well that you don't realize they've gotten under your skin until you've finished the book and can't stop thinking about them.
Some people say King's books are too "out there" or strange, and his later books do tend to go to the edge and beyond, but his earlier works are classic examples of a master storyteller in the horror genre.
My tastes in reading are eclectic and have changed throughout the years. My current choices tend toward historical fiction. I also love some of the good Southern writers we now have. But I will always think of "The Stand" as the first time I realized what it was like to be lost in the world of a brilliant writer.