Apr 13, 2011

Before the Memorial

by Michelle Douglas

Reading: Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs
Listening to: Indigo Girls
Watching: Shirley Valentine
Making me smile: my crockpot

Emily's memorial post last week about Diana Wynne Jones started me thinking. Perhaps because I'd not long returned from the Australian Romance Readers' conference, and thoughts about what I wanted from a book as a reader were crowding my thoughts. [Note the gratuitous photos from the conference - much fun was had in Bondi.]

When I read about Diana Wynne Jones' death and how much Emily had loved her books, I though: Why didn't I know this author when she was alive? Because instinct tells me that I am going to love Diana Wynne Jones. And now I will never be able to write to her and tell her how much her books have meant to me.

Which in turn led me to wondering what still-living authors would I urge my friends to read so they can have the opportunity to write to said author if they wanted to?

This is SO not easy. But here's a couple I've come up with.

Kate Atkinson. Her books leave me breathless with awe, and have me on the edge of my seat most of the time. I'd suggest starting with her first book Behind the Scenes at the Museum. The story is told through the eyes of Ruby from the moment of her conception. Follow that up with the first of the Jackson Brodie detective novels Case Histories. Atkinson is one of those authors who is said to "transcend her genre," a phrase that sets my teeth on edge, but she truly is a fabulous author.

This is the back cover blurb from Case Histories:

Investigating other peoples tragedies and cock-ups and misfortunes was all he knew. He was used to being a voyeur, the outsider looking in, and nothing, but nothing, that anyone did surprised him anymore. Yet despite everything he'd seen and done, inside Jackson there remained a belief - a small, battered and bruised belief - that his job was to help people be good rather than punish them for being bad.

Cambridge is sweltering during an unusually hot summer. To Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, the world conists of one accounting sheet - Lost on the left, Found on the right - and the two never seem to balance.

Jackson has never felt at home in Cambridge, and has a failed marriage to prove it. Surrounded by death, intrigue and misfortune, his own life haunted by a family tragedy, he attempts to unravel three disparate case histories and begins to realise that in spite of apparent diversity, everything is connected...

I promise it's as good as it sounds

Next, this is a book rather than an author: Two Weeks With the Queen by Morris Gleitzman. This is a children's book and I've read a lot of other books by Gleitzman and enjoyed them all, but this is a stand out. It deals with some pretty grim issues - AIDs and childhood cancer - but it is side-splittingly funny. It will also make you cry. The main character, 12 year-old Colin Mudford, is a true hero and he will steal your heart. I so wish I'd written this book.

So what about you - who is the ONE author you would urge everyone to read? (I have a rather gleeful feeling that my tbr pile is going to grow rather drastically by the time we're finished here).


  1. Michelle, I've never heard of Kate Atkinson, but she sounds like someone I should look out for. Morris Gleitzman is fabulous - I've bought his books for shorter family members in the past.

    In terms of one author everyone should read, you know what I'm going to say already, yes? ;) Jenny Crusie! And if you'd hurry up so we can start our joint reading of Bet Me, I'd be most appreciative...

    Susan Elizabeth Philips is another author I think is very fabulous. Natural Born Charmer or Simply Irresistible are two that would be good to start with.

  2. Rachel, you will love the voice of Ruby in Behind the Scenes at the Museum -- it's very quirky and irreverent.

    Of course you were going to say Jenny Crusie! *Michelle slaps palm of hand to brow* Okay -- let's start Bet Me next week.

    SEP! Yes!!! I want to read everything she has ever written. I've only read Ain't She Sweet. Now that the Masters is out of the way I can glom her -- shall be asking for SEP books for my birthday. :-)

  3. Thank you for the pictures of the convention.I always enjoy photos like these.

    I've been pondering this question for a bit. I think Jan Karon is the only author I've recommended to my sister, who doesn't read romance. (Such a pity) Jan is a wonderful story teller. She writes about the life and eventually the love life of a Episcopalian priest set mostly in the fictional town of Mitford. At last I had books I could talk about with my sister as I don't usually like what she reads either.

  4. Michelle I didn't know Diana either. And I have to say after reading just a couple of Jennie Crusie books I'll be reading some more! So many authors, so many books, so little time!!!!

  5. Michelle

    Firstly I have to agree that ARRC2011 was so much fun and it was wonderful catching up with you and so many wonderful authors.

    I too had not heard of Diana either but have added her name to my list of books to look foward to.

    It is hard for me to choose just one author there are so many great authors so many fantastic books that draw you into their stories, I can see my list growing again LOL

    Have Fun

  6. Ooh, Kaelee, I haven't delved into the world of Jan Karon, but your description of her stories make them sound very intriguing. I'm adding her name to a list of must-try authors. It must've been wonderful to have books you could finally talk about with your sister. My sister and I talk books a lot and I'd miss it if we didn't.

    Thanks for the recommendation!

  7. Oh, Mel, ain't that the truth! Good to hear another vote for Jenny Crusie, though. :-)

  8. Hi Helen,

    Oh wasn't ARRC11 great fun! It was so excellent to meet up with so many like-minded romance lovers.

    I hear you on finding it too hard to choose just one author, though. The one area of my life where I don't mind clutter, though, is my tbr pile. :-)

  9. Michelle, thanks for sharing the ARRA pics - wasn't it a great convention? So sad you didn't start on Diana W-J - a really terrific writer. I remember being so impressed by someone I used to know who'd written to JRR Tolkein and had corresponded with him for years (she was one of my uni lecturers). By then it was too late for me to write to him.

    One person to read and then write to? Oh, that's far too hard. Actually I just tried to write to a non romance author to say how much I enjoyed their book and still haven't managed to track down an email address. May have to go via the publisher. I think reading a Loretta Chase or Susan Elizabeth Phillips story is a must for romance readers. How about adding in a Michelle Douglas book there too?

  10. Oh, Annie, wouldn't it have been wonderful to have had a correspondence with JRR Tolkien! *Michelle goes off into a nice little daydream*

    Yay for another vote for Susan Elizabeth Phillips. But am wondering if I need to hang my head in shame as I haven't read a Loretta Chase yet. Have added her to my list, though.

    Michelle Douglas as a must read? Oh, Annie, aren't you sweet. I have to say that I recommend your sheikhs far and wide. :-) Actually, talked about them with several people at the fab ARRA conference. ;-)

  11. Loretta Chase's Mr Impossible - loved, loved it! He's one of my top 5 favourite heroes ever, I think. :)

  12. Okay, Mr Impossible -- am writing that down. It will be bought and read, er, kind of promptly. After Jenny Crusie's Bet Me... and some Diana Wynne Jones! :-)

    Thanks, Rach!

  13. So hard to chose, Michelle - so many fabulous, fabulous authors out there!

    But... I guess I'd say Dick Francis - for several reasons... he helped me introduce my non-reader husband to the delights of fiction. And because I love his writing - it's so smooth and spare and easy to read. I've adored his books for many years and have every single book he wrote. Sadly he's also passed away. But I can a do still re-read!


    PS the ARRC2011 at Bondi sounds fabulous!

  14. Actually, Sharon, the question is so hard it almost feels mean, doesn't it. ;-)

    Ooh, okay, Dick Francis. Now I have heard a lot of authors (whose writing I adore) enthuse wildly over Dick Francis. I believe we have a couple of dusty paperbacks somewhere in the depths of the bookcase (inherited from people long gone) and I am going to dig one out and put is somewhere prominent to remind me to read it soon. Thanks for the reminder!

    P.S. ARRC11 WAS fabulous. I hope you'll be able to make the next one! :-)

  15. Love the snaps, Michelle! Bet you all had a brilliant time =)

    Like most readers, I take very seriously recommendations, so thanks for these!! I love Geraldine Brooks - Australian and stories that sweep you away, that you never want to end. I must read Mr. Impossible! 'Smooth and spare and easy to read'...love that Sharon. That's how I like my books too =)
    The older I get the more I think about how much time I have left to soak up all those wonderful authors/stories out there. If only the laundry and cooking would do itself =)

  16. Robbie, I've read Year of Wonders and that was an amazingly powerful book so I really should grab another couple of Geraldine Brooks books -- thanks for the reminder.

    Hey, I just had a thought. You, Rach and I could form a Mr Impossible reading club! (anyone else would be most welcome to join in) :-)