My Personal Top Ten Bestselling Novels to Read and Study in 2006
As the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Six bears down on us now, I have just returned from my home town in Victoria Australia laden with the best novels I have ever read.
But this heap of novels is not to leisure reading this time. Rather, these ten novels are for study purposes.
Because when I rate my ability to write a bestselling novel on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the elect one percent bestselling novelists of all time, and one being a skilled writer, I am forced to put myself at level two.
So this year my intention is to reach level seven. To achieve this I have decided I will write three bestsellers over the next year, and study the HOWTO aspects of the craft on this blog and on paper in a fairly technical depth. Non writers reading Gaiawriter be warned!
Here are my list of bestsellers to study in 2006, more or less:
1. Dean Koontz, Intensity.
This novel has a crystalline hardness which many if not most of Koontz's work lacks. It also bears the distinction of being Koontz's breakout book in the 1990s, wherein his work went from the shelves of airports to the shelves of Target book sections and newsagents and anywhere else you could find popular writing. In the late 1980s his germinal bestseller, Hideaway, had been made for television and catapulted him to a higher level of fame and fortune again. But in Intensity the way of the novel and the novelist runs full circle and at last returns home... but there is SO MUCH I can say about this novel and this novelist, for whom I have unreserved admiration and respect, which the coming year will reveal.
2. Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy. The pre-eminence of this trilogy of loosely bound stories set in the same crumbling galactic empire is that THIS NOVEL, more than any other, marked the End of the Future for the Golden Age of Science Fiction. This is an unusual claim, I am aware, but as I study this book this year I will further deepen this view. Who know, perhaps I will alter it? In this postmodern, post-Foundation world it harder to assert an article of faith than ever.
3. Fyodor Dosoyevsky, Brothers Karamazov. This sledgehammer of a book, little read and often abandoned, is perhaps the best family drama since Hamlet. And like the Poem Unlimited it transcends the genre constraint altogether and becomes something transcendent. 'Nuff said.
4. William Shakespeare, Hamlet. Not a novel, I know, but what a great one it would make!
5. Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina. The essential novel, however, I will be hypertexting the meat out of Leo's tragedy sandwich with this one!
6. Pere Goriot, Honore de Balzac. The favorite of my youth, this novel really says everything that ever need be said about Sex and the City.
7. Kim Stanley Robinson, the Mars Trilogy; Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars. Bastard child of new wave SF and the golden age empires of Asimov and Heinlein, the Mars Trilogy is distinguished by its superlative nature writing, its brilliant leftwing vision which acts as a kind of corrective to the authoritarian tendencies of the Golden Age Foundation-type SF societies. Robinson's left wing vision lacks the secretive victimisation and demonisation of Ursula le Guin's socialist "utopias", and radically fashions a culture of science around a religion of nature, demonstrating unusual brilliance thereby.
Obviously I admire the hell out of Robinson's work, and here he is at his most bold, marching into a John Cambell-like future vision with a genuinely utopian vision of radical openness and harmony. Kim Stanley Robinson's book The Years of Salt and Rice inspires my eighth choice of novel:
8. Arthur Waley (trns.) Monkey, alias Hsi Yu Chi (Journey To The West). This Chinese classic of a journey made by a buddhist monk westward is full of mythic resonance.
9. Thomas Bullfinch, The Age of Fable. Not a novel, but rather a sourcebook for Eurasian mythology and English poetry about it. Along with the bible this is the motherlode of Western Story.
10. Rosemary Sutcliff, The High Deeds of Finn Mac Cool. A childhood favorite, this book brought alive the celtic and Irish myth-world for me. A masterpiece and another sourcebook for story and myth.