But for this challenge I decided to do Five Favorite Books You've (Probably) Never Heard Of. OK, it's not like I'm the only literary omnivore out there, so you may have heard of some of them. But if anyone else out there has read and loved all these books, you're my long-lost sister or brother, and I want to compare libraries with you next time I'm stuck for what to read next.
1) In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden.
I'm a married Episcopalian romance novelist, so you wouldn't expect me to be the target market for a book about a woman who leaves behind a high-powered career (at least, by 1950's standards) in her 40's to become a Benedictine nun. But this is a gorgeously written book whose characters and their community spring to life on the page. I've re-read it more times than I can count, and I expect to go back to it again and again in the years to come.
2) The Jennie trilogy, by Elisabeth Ogilvie.
This trilogy, sadly, is out-of-print and unavailable as e-books, but there seem to be plenty of affordable used copies on Amazon. I read and adored the first two books from my hometown library when I was in high school and later picked up the whole trilogy at a library book sale.
If you like my books (and maybe you do, since you're reading my blog!), there's a good chance you'll like these, even though they're historical fiction with romantic elements rather than romance. They're Regency in time period but not in tone, the heroine is gentry rather than aristocratic, and the hero...well, I'm not going to give you spoilers! The first book is largely set in Scotland, and Scottish culture pervades all three.
3) Wellington: The Years of the Sword, by Elizabeth Longford.
My favorite Wellington biography. (Between being a military history geek and research I did for the alternative history that's my book-under-the-bed, I own several. I know. I'm quite aware what a big geek I am.) It's a beautifully written, human portrait of a fascinating man.
4) The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, by Donis Casey.
This one you can buy for your Kindle or Nook, and right now it's only $0.99 as an e-book! First in a mystery series set in rural Oklahoma in the early 20th century, with an amateur sleuth who's the mother of nine children on a farm. It sounds too unlikely to work, but IMHO it does. The voice is lovely, with lots of historical detail and texture.
5) Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, by Nathan Hale (and yes, that's his real name).
Donner Dinner Party (available for preorder)
These fall into the select category of books Miss Fraser and I love equally, though at age 8 she's the one in their target market. They're graphic novels about American history, with the conceit that Nathan Hale (the spy one, not the author) as he's about to be hanged is taken up into a history book, where he sees what's to come for the new nation. With his newfound knowledge, he delays his execution by telling stories to his hangman and the British officer there to supervise. They're equal parts hilarious and historical. I'm not sure I'd recommend them if you don't have a kid (or niece, nephew, grandchild, etc.) to share them with, but if you do, buy them now.