I do understand that pleasure reading for me may be entirely different from that of my family or my friends (even good friends, whose reading tastes may entirely escape me). With that in mind, I'll share some things that lead me to the books I read. Again, I am doing this so that anyone who reads my book recommendations will remember that they are based on my own personal preferences.
- I enjoy books that are "character driven" as opposed to "plot driven". This is not to say that I don't think a good plot is important, but I can read about an interesting character for quite a while, but the best plot with cardboard characters won't keep my interest. Also, really interesting characters seem to draw action to them, and their reactions to whatever life throws at them are the basis for great reading.
- I enjoy books about relationships (again, it's that "character" preference), especially between friends and family members.
- I love books that cover several generations of a family or long friendships, especially between women.
- I enjoy "multilayered" books, where different subplots are germinating beneath the surface.
- I love long books that I can enjoy over several days or weeks. They keep me going on other, less enjoyable tasks; I can always look forward to going back to my book.
- I enjoy books that teach me about history or geography or culture through their characters and settings.
- I love southern literature and authors, but not to the exclusion of other great books and authors.
- I love to read books by Oklahoma authors. It's my homestate and boasts of dozens of wonderful writers, many of whom I have had the pleasure of meeting.
- I love young authors, because they will probably be around to write more.
- I love old (and deceased) authors, because their work is limited and all the more valuable.
The family in The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt lives in a rambling country home during a time of great cultural change; the children are exposed to new artistic expressions, socialism, women's suffrage, and sexuality through the lives of their father, a political crusader and their mother, an author of children's books. Through the writing of a book for each of her seven children, Olive Wellwood tries to shore up their personalities against the inevitable; the revelation of the secrets that children must learn to see their parents and each other as they really are. The Children's Book is lengthy and multi-layered and took me through a fascinating cultural and political era with a story about family -- meeting several of my personal criteria for a "best" book.
The family in Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos would seem to have no secrets. They live in a small Nebraska town and the children are locally well-known through their physician/mayor father, and through their mother, who "went up", never to come down, in a 1978 tornado. The three children, now adults, are still defining themselves by what happened to their mother and how the townspeople see them as her offspring. The death of their father by a lightning strike opens the book and finally leads to their own self-knowledge and rebuilding of their lives. This book will also be on my list of personal favorites for its wonderfully quirky characters and the fascinating setting of a tiny town with Welsh traditions (from which the title comes: the town closes down for a week when someone dies and there is a three-day period of nonstop singing in Welsh for the laid-out deceased, culminating with "There is No Place like Nebraska").
You may find these titles at your local library or through the links to Amazon.com.