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May 24, 2017

My 100 Favorite Novels, the May 2017 version

Greetings from sunny Sicily, to be more precise, Selinunte, where battles were fought and lost and earthquakes ravaged buildings. Maybe.

Thanks to Nathan Bransford for the challenge to create a top 100 novel list. He said it was hard. He was right. I have no doubt I've forgotten many that should be on this list - which is why I gave it a dated version. This is a little like forgetting to acknowledge people, which is why I have a slight feeling of anxiety for forgetting a novel I really loved. But, hey, I've read a crapload of books and not all of them have floated to the surface in trying to create this list.

There are also a lot of novels that I probably *should* have read but haven't yet and so aren't on the list or novels that others thought are in the 'best' category but didn't rank as my favorites.

I've only included novels in this list - no short story collections, no poetry, no plays, no anything but novels. The list is, for...reasons ('cause it's what I like to read most), top heavy with SFF and I don't think there are many non-genre favorites in there.

I listed novels that are a part of series separately, because sometimes there were only one or the other novel in a series that made it into the favorites list. In some cases (hello, Zelazny) this was not the case. I did include a few contemporary novels, but most of them are ones that made a strong impression on me during my impressionable years (ahem, Ayn Rand - that's why she made the list, and no, I'm not embarrassed about it).

I would have loved to include a couple by Dr. Seuss, but they don't fall under the category of novel. Another list, then, sometime, for Favorite Children's Books.

I have no links - maybe I'll add them later when I'm not so tired after a full day in the field or full of Sicilian wine and dust and ...

Alphabetical order. Hopefully, I haven't gotten that too far wrong.

1.    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
2.    Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Douglas Adams
3.    I, Robot, Isaac Asimov
4.    The Robots of Dawn, Isaac Asimov
5.    Foundation, Isaac Asimov
6.    Foundation and Empire, Isaac Asimov
7.    Second Foundation, Isaac Asimov
8.    The Naked Sun, Isaac Asimov
9.    The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
10.    Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
11.    Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
12.    Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
13.    Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
14.    Sundiver, David Brin
15.    The Postman, David Brin
16.    Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
17.    Storm Front, Jim Butcher
18.    Stella Luna, Janell Cannon
19.    Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
20.    Alice Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
21.    The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy
22.    Midnight at the Well of Souls, Jack Chalker
23.    2001, Arthur C. Clarke
24.    The Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton
25.    David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
26.    A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle
27.    The Sign of Four, Arthur Conan Doyle
28.    Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
29.    The Game of Kings, Dorothy Dunnett
30.    Queen's Play, Dorothy Dunnett
31.    Disorderly Knights, Dorothy Dunnett
32.    Checkmate, Dorothy Dunnett
33.    Gardens of the Moon, Steven Erikson
34.    Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
35.    Eye of the Needle, Ken Follett
36.    The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde
37.    The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth
38.    Cold Mountain, David Frazier
39.    Tintenherz (Inkheart), Cornelia Funke
40.    Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
41.    Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
42.    Sherwood, Parke Godwin
43.    Beloved Exile, Parke Godwin
44.    Firelord, Parke Godwin
45.    The Last Rainbow, Parke Godwin
46.    I, Claudius, Robert Graves
47.    Something from the Nightside, Simon Green
48.    The Anodyne Necklace, Martha Grimes
49.    The Old Contemptibles, Martha Grimes
50.    Help the Poor Struggler, Martha Grimes
51.    Pompeii, Robert Harris
52.    Enigma, Robert Harris
53.    Dune, Frank Herbert
54.    These Old Shades, Georgette Heyer
55.    The Corinthian, Georgette Heyer
56.    The World According to Garp, John Irving
57.    The Children of Men, P. D. James
58.    The Shining, Stephen King
59.    The Dead Zone, Stephen King
60.    Christine, Stephen King
61.    The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K. LeGuin
62.    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis
63.    The Call of the Wild, Jack London
64.    The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scotta Lynch
65.    The Crystal Singer, Anne McCaffrey
66.    China Mountain Zhang, Maureen F. McHugh
67.    Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
68.    Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan
69.    The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
70.    Sabriel, Garth Nix
71.    Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters
72.    Gateway, Frederik Pohl
73.    The Cabinet of Curiosities, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
74.    The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
75.    The Disappeared, Kristin Kathryn Rusch
76.    Strong Poison, Dorothy Sayers
77.    Clouds of Witness, Dorothy Sayers
78.    Have His Carcase, Dorothy Sayers
79.    Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith
80.    Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
81.    Snowcrash, Neal Stephenson
82.    The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart
83.    The Hollow Hills, Mary Stewart
84.    The Last Enchantment, Mary Stewart
85.    The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien
86.    The Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien
87.    The Return of the King, J. R. R: Tolkien
88.    Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow
89.    The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut
90.    The Time Machine, H. G. Wells
91.    The Once and Future King, T. H. White
92.    The Sword in the Stone, T. H. White
93.    Shadow and Claw, Gene Wolfe
94.    Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny
95.    The Guns of Avalon, Roger Zelazny
96.    Sign of the Unicorn, Roger Zelazny
97.    The Hand of Oberon, Roger Zelazny
98.    The Courts of Chaos, Roger Zelazny
99.    Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
100.  A Night in the Lonesome October, Roger Zelazny

May 4, 2017

The Looooooong Break

I'm back!

Sorry about the break, but I needed time to write, to read, to travel and time to think.

I know that's no excuse. I could have just popped in here and written something - what I'm writing, reading, thinking, etc.

But it was my alone time.

Everyone needs that. I am convinced I need a lot of it.

It's probably a delusion on my part, but spending time with myself has always been a big part of my life. When I was a kid it involved lugging tons of books home from the library and long bike rides and lone exploratory walks. As a teenager, it involved my record player and my bedroom and even more books from the library. I also took long walks. I wrote a lot of nonsense back then during those many hours in my room. But it was a good part of my life. Creative and positive as most things that include music and books tend to be. Those stolen bits of life were so good that now when I feel stressed or anxious or too many things from the outside world impinge on the inner world, I retreat to alone-space for a while.

Living with others means that alone-space has to be carved out of each day. But it's doable. I have headphones. And nighttime. And cats to share it with.

So now just a few pictures of our latest trip to one of the most breathtakingly beautiful landscapes on the planet - the American Southwest. America is still there in all her glory. But sometimes you have to look for her.

Our first night in Denver (just prior to the SSA 2017 meeting) included a tradition I almost never break when visiting the U.S. I need a real American-style burger. And, if possible, a margarita. Mission accomplished.

Here was the view of the Rockies from our hotel room in the Denver Downtown Sheraton. I've seen much much worse.

We walked from downtown through a quaint Denver suburb to the Denver Botanical Gardens. There's not much blooming in April (tulips!), but that's not the point. It's an immersion in plants and gardening styles. In arrangement of form and function, a welcome immersion in a gardening climate, or microclimate, not too different from my garden in far western Germany - between U.S. zone 5 and 6 - but considerably drier. But I was surprised at how many plants we had in common, the botanical garden and me in mine. Iceland poppies, violets, calla lillies and many more.

On the many paths through the garden, we discovered this artificial waterfall and our next garden project (even if ours might not be quite so grand and I doubt we will have koi - koi and tuxedo cats would not be good friends).

More margaritas after the meeting started. Of course there were.

At the 2017 Seismological Society of America Meeting, I was gratified and encouraged to learn that the spirit of science and the fight against science-deniers is very much alive in the U.S.A. from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's speech and very moving speeches from Frank Press Public Service Award Winner Professor Michael E. Wysession and Professor Gail Atkinson.

After the meeting, we followed Simon and Garfunkel's advice to Look for America and drove down to Mexican Hat, Utah for a quick two days to soak up the beauty and revel in that kind of alone-time that only comes with experiencing nature. We did it as best we could - by driving and that's not ideal - but it was what we could with the time we had.

We first picked up our rental car in Denver and headed down to Moab, our first overnight stop. We celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary at the same place we celebrated our 20th - at Miguel's Mexican Baja Grill on Main Street, a small but lovely Mexican restaurant in the middle of Moab. Reserve early or be prepared to wait for a table. We decided to eat early to beat the crowd.

Next we left Moab and headed down to Mexican Hat

We made photo shoot stops on the way at the Mexican Hat formation (left), Navajo Twins (right), and Gooseneck Canyon (bottom left).

Here at right we met one of the permanent residents of Gooseneck Canyon. He was only interested in our tortilla chips but was willing to pose for his lunch.

After a peaceful night in our hotel, The Hat Rock Inn (a very comfortable stay AND the view of the sandstone formations just above the San Juan River from the pool and hot tub is worth the price alone), we made the short drive down to the Utah-Arizona border, the Navajo Nation and Monument Valley.

These few photos cannot begin to capture its beauty that we, of course, shared with the many other motorists and tour vehicles. But it was April. I'd hate to see the traffic jams come June through August. I'd say April is a fantastic time to visit.


Our trip was complete on our last night in Mexican Hat when we treated ourselves to a Texas-style steak dinner eaten outside and cooked on a wood-burning swing grill. Perfect. 

On the return drive, we elected to drive through the Colorado National Monument - an area of geological transitions from Basin and Range to uplift and the Rocky Mountains. It's the land of free range cattle and other wildlife. We discovered that not only the mythology but the reality of the Marlboro Man (and Woman!) is still alive. We found a tiny slice of America here, intact and wonderful. No cell phones, no Walmarts, no distractions.

Our return to Denver consisted of a quick stop at Idaho Springs, with a restored gold mine (which we did not, unfortunately have time to visit) as a tourist attraction, before leaving the Rockies the next morning and heading to the Denver International Airport and home to Germany.

Photos: K.-G. Hinzen