I have read so many books in my life, it’s hard to narrow them down to just ten that I love. In the end, the books (or series) listed here are ones that have influenced me, or those that just make me feel good, or just have this undefinable thing. Also, they’re in no particular order.
The Future Trilogy by Thea Beckman: Kinderen van Moeder Aarde, Het Helse Paradijs & Het Gulden Vlies van Thule.
I read these while in elementary school. I read a lot of more fantastic books and historical ones, so when I first picked up Kinderen van Moeder Aarde (Children of Mother Earth), it seemed like the perfect book. I had experience with Thea Beckman’s historical books which I really liked, and this had fantasy and scifi stuff in it. So I took it home from the libary, and I think I finished it in one day. I became near obsessed with it. Went back to the library at my first opportunity and got the other two parts Het Helse Paradijs (The Hellish Paradise) and Het Gulden Vlies van Thule (The Golden Fleece of Thule). I copied the map, wrote down things from the books to create a reference for myself to this world Thea had created and I spent so much time in my head creating more stories and exploring the world. I would periodically borrow them from the library again, to reread them. These books really jump started my interest in world building and cartography.
I haven’t read them in a good number of years now, not since I stopped having a library membership. Weirdly enough, I only added the books to my permanent collection about a year and a half ago. They’re currently on my to be (re-)read pile. I estimate I’ll get around to them sometime next year 😀
The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.
I was first introduced to the Discworld series in my first year of High School. I started out, if I remember correctly, with a Dutch translation of Witches Abroad, which I really liked. Over the next few years I read more Dutch Discworld, and even bought a few. However, it wasn’t until I’d started reading in English and picked up my first original Discworld, that I truly fell in love with the series. I started reading them all in English, including those I’d already read in Dutch. And I started collecting the books. Terry manages to do something that, I find, is a tricky thing to do. He writes “funny books” that are so multi layered with references to so many things and manages to tell very serious stories through this. His main characters are some of the best I’ve seen. And the ever evolving nature of the world of Discworld is a joy to experience.
The Belgariad/Malloreon series by David Eddings.
This series really cemented my love of more traditional fantasy. I read them in Dutch first, starting in the first year of High School, like with Discworld, including the companion novels about Belgarath and Polgara. I bought English versions of the companion novels some years ago and really enjoyed rereading them. I managed to snag a complete collection of both the Belgariad and the Malloreon in a second hand book shop a year or two ago and jumped on it right away.
Fortunately, upon rereading, I still loved them as I did before. The base story is a quintessential one in Fantasy: peasant boy finds out he is descendant from an old line of kings and needs to reclaim his heritage and defeat the big evil. The way in which it was dressed up, though, really did it for me. There’s prophecy and wizards and fascinating other party members and tertiary characters, and a cool magic system, old gods, powerful women and so on. In the second series, the Malloreon, the story repeats itself. And the books get some crap for that. Except that’s a major part of the overall theme. The base concept behind the whole series is that history basically keeps repeating itself until we can finally make the universe right again. The second series therefore has many parallels with the first, and I think that makes it a better series.
The Giver by Lois Lowry.
Another book I first read in elementary school. My first experience with more dystopian elements and more scifi than fantasy. It made such an impression on me that I kept looking for the book for years, on and off. I remembered parts of the plot and then I’d think, “I wanna re-read it.” But I could never remember the title or the author. So it was years before I used The Google to try and find it. And then I found it, and I was ecstatic 😀
The bits I kept remembering over the years were things I wouldn’t right away associate with a children’s book, which technically it is. A very rigid control of society. Everyone does things exactly like this, and no deviations are accepted. Those that deviate, or can no longer contribute to society are killed off. Of course that is done in a perfectly sterile manner, with a ceremony and all, but the effect is the same. And I was appalled by that, and it opened for me the doors to dystopian fiction, especially featuring children or teens. That’s probably why The Hunger Games resonated with me as they did.
Articles of the Federation, by Keith R.A. DeCandido.
I read a lot of tie in fiction, books written about, and taking place in, universes from other properties. Mainly movies and TV shows. One of the bigger properties I read in, is Star Trek. The expanded universe of Star Trek spans so much space and time, and goes so much deeper than can be shown in just the shows and movies. Articles of the Federation is on my most loved Star Trek books because it tells the story of background characters, the ordinary people of the Federation. It details a year in the office of Federation president Baco and how she deals with all the crap going on. Diplomatic ouvertures, threats of war, the press, all in a context of the Star Trek future. I’ve heard it described as a cross between the West Wing and Star Trek.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I’ve read this book so many times. I always wanted to be Jo, when I was a kid, because she was tough, and a writer and got to do her own thing in a time where that wasn’t generally allowed. I also watched the various movies repeatedly, and the cartoon series that was made of it and this all became this awesome amalgamation in my head. Historical time period, costumes, and awesome actors/cartoons to represent the characters.
Dinotopia by James Gurney
Oh! The illustrations! I looooove worldbuilding so very much, and the illustrations bring alive the world of Dinotopia so much. It’s a historical fantasy thing, where people in the past get stranded on this deserted island. Only it’s not so deserted as first thought. There live people there, in harmony with intelligent dinosaurs. And they have this whole pretty advanced society with even a dinosaur assisted military of sorts. I still have to get my hands on some of the additional books, and a proper copy of this in English.
Rowan, een verhaal uit de middeleeuwen, by Henk Kroesveld
One of the better historical youth books I’ve read. It tells the story of thirteen year old Rowan who needs to leave his home town for a while after an altercation with the bailiff. When he comes back again, he finds his home locked up, the plague is active in his town. He has to leave again, and find his own way in the world and he does this, among other things, by becoming a healer and learning about herbs and such.
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
A glorious fantasy novel about memory, and music and how history is written by the victors. After a devastating war, the losing side gets erased from the history books. The magic-wielding tyrant makes it impossible for the name of the losing province to ever be said, and even remembering it. In this way, the people slowly forget their own history. Only a small group of rebels manages to precariously hold on to their past and sets out to reverse the spell.
Vrijheid als prijs by Catherine Christian
Another historical novel. The first I read about Roman times. It tells the story of rich young lady Clyta, her sort of foster brother Flavius and the slave they get for their combined 10th and 12th birthday, Hillarion. It chronicles the lives of these three as Clyta and Flavius get married and Flavius goes into the military. It’s been a while since I read it, so I’m not sure anymore how, but Flavius dies, and Hillarion ends up being sold, and Clyta falls onto poor time. Hillarion eventually becomes a gladiator, also gets married, and finally manages to buy his freedom and settles on a small farm. In the mean time Clyta has gotten herself sold into slavery causing Hillarion to work and buy her free as well. Late in life, finally, he and Clyta reunite and life out their lives on his small farm.