Some of My Favorite Books
By Leann Neal Reilly
I subscribe to a newsmagazine called The Week. One feature in The Week is a guest column by a famous author who describes half a dozen of his or her favorite books. I doubt that I’ll ever be asked to write this column for The Week, but I think that I should be prepared just in case. Fortunately, I don’t have to identify a single book because I don’t think I can do that. I’d probably focus on the books I read as a child or teenager that had the most impact on me, mostly because I find myself less moved by novels as I get older. While this might be natural, it makes me wistful for those heady days when every book I opened contained a mysterious and exciting world filled with adventure and possibility. Looking back, I can identify numerous books that transported me:
At eight, I read the book released after the movie before going to the drive-in to see it when it was re-released. This was the perfect story for my unformed tastes: action, adventure, romance, exotic locale, and clearly defined conflict between good and evil.
I was 11 when I read James Clavell’s blockbuster novel after seeing the TV miniseries version starring Richard Chamberlain. While I don’t believe I was emotionally ready for much of the story, I still remember that learning about medieval
was akin to reading about a trip to a galaxy far, far away. Japan
The Far Pavilions
Not long after Shogun, I discovered M. M. Kaye’s epic novel of
during the mid-19th century in a woman’s magazine. The excerpt
hooked me and I had to buy the book. Although the details are hazy now, I can
still remember that the excerpt described the electric—and forbidden—encounter
between an Indian princess named Juli traveling to her wedding and a British
soldier named Ash, who escorts the wedding party. The horror of a fiery death
from the practice of suttee that Juli faces along with the other widows of the
rajah still fills me. I loved The Far
Pavilions so much that I read several other M. M. Kaye’s books set in British India.
The Thorn Birds
At 15, I saw The Thorn Birds on TV and fell in love with Richard Chamberlain all over again. Of course, I had to read the novel from which the series had been taken. Coleen McCullough’s epic novel of forbidden love, ambition, manipulation, betrayal, and tragedy set in exotic (to me)
and New Zealand captivated
me. Coming from a family of nominal Southern Baptists (we didn’t even attend
church services on major Christian holidays), this saga of Irish Catholics in a
different frontier halfway around the world was more alien to me than Star Wars. Australia
Saga of The Pliocene Exile
Julian May’s series continued my long love affair with the fantasy genre, begun at eight when I discovered fairy tales. I’d never heard of the Celts or any of their mythology, so May’s borrowing of the Tuatha De Dannan for her alien master race during the Pliocene Epoch mesmerized me. Her willingness to mix in science and history added to the richness of her tale.
Remembering these epic tales makes me long to experience them again. What books made a lasting impression on you?
LeAnn Neal Reilly grew up in St. Joseph, Missouri, near the Missouri River, in that fertile land where corn, children, and daydreams take root and thrive. She spent countless hours reading and typing chapters on an old Smith-Corona in her closet, which luckily for her didn’t have doors. Then she put away her daydreams and her stories and headed off, first to graduate magna cum laude from
and later to Missouri Western State
for a master’s degree in professional writing. Along the way, she majored
briefly in chemistry, served as opinion editor and then editor of her college
newspaper, and interned for the international design firm Fitch RichardsonSmith
in Pittsburgh . The highlight of her internship came
when she generated the product name renata for a Copco teakettle (although designing the merchandising copy for
ceramic tile adhesive and insulation packaging surely runs a close second). Columbus, Ohio
After graduate school, LeAnn worked first for a small multimedia startup and then a research group in the
of Computer Science. At the startup, she spent her time writing user manuals
and multimedia scripts for software to train CSX railroad engineers. While
working among geeks, LeAnn became enamored and decided to take one home for
herself. After getting married and starting a family, she returned to her
adolescent daydreams of writing novels. Never one to shirk from lofty goals,
she added home schooling her three children as her day job. Carnegie Mellon School
After years of working in an office not much better than an unfinished closet, LeAnn has finished The Mermaid’s Pendant and is currently working on her next novel. LeAnn joined GoodReads three years ago where she writes reviews regularly.
LeAnn lives outside Boston with one husband, three children, a dog named Hobbes (after Calvin &), and a cat named Attila.
LeAnn’s Web site is www.nealreilly.com.