S.G. Browne

W is for Wicked, Water, and Wizard

The W’s presented a bit more of a challenge than the prior two entries, as I’ve read more than fifteen novels that begin with this letter of the alphabet. While the top two were never in any serious danger of being left off the final ballot, the last one was a tough call and could have gone four different ways. In the end, and admittedly after some serious flip-flopping, I had to leave Watership Down (Adams), Wonder Boys (Chabon), and A Wrinkle in Time (L’Engle) on the outside looking in.

Other notable and memorable titles I’ve read that begin with W include The Witching Hour (Rice), War of the Worlds (Wells), Wolf’s Hour (McCammon), Watchers (Koontz), The Waste Lands and Wolves of the Calla (King), World War Z (Brooks), Where the Red Fern Grows (Rawls), Wuthering Heights (Bronte), and Walden (Thoreau).

The three that made it? A famous witch, a circus fable, and an epic search for a dark tower.

You’re the Top
Wicked, Gregory Maguire
I know the musical adaptation made a lot of noise, but give me the book every time. The story of the Wicked Witch of the West prior to Dorothy’s arrival in Oz paints a very different picture of the events that eventually unfolded after Dorothy’s arrival. Filled with heartache, humor, romance, political intrigue, and social commentary, Wicked does a great job of making you see the alleged villain’s side of the story. If you’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, then you really need to give this a read.

Two Mints in One
Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
My favorite book I read in 2009, I got completely swept up in the story of a ninety-three-year-old nursing home resident who reminisces about his time spent working in the circus to the point that he almost begins to lose track of what’s real and what’s not. The characters are delightful, the story intoxicating, and the prose inspired. A wonderful ride back in history to the circus heyday of the early twentieth century.

Three on a Match
Wizard and Glass, Stephen King
The fourth installment in King’s The Dark Tower series, Wizard is, in my opinion, the best of the seven. I also believe it’s just flat out one of King’s best novels. If the purpose of storytelling is to get the reader emotionally swept up in the lives of its characters, than this does the job. I remember getting chills reading certain passages and chapters as the book neared its end. Read the first three installments of the series just to get to this one.

*Bonus Titles: The Play’s the Thing
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee
Although completely different on every level, these are two of my favorite plays to read. Both Beckett and Albee are masterful.


M is for Misery, Mirrors, and Mrs.

We’ve hit the halfway point in my list of Favorite Novels from A to Z, and I have to wax cliché when I say that the letter M doesn’t hold a candle to the books that topped the list for the letter L. But when your favorite and most influential books you’ve ever read take the stage, whatever comes next is going to be a bit of a letdown. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy them.

Some of the books that didn’t make this week’s list include The Maltese Falcon (Hammett), Mr. X (Straub), Mr. Murder and Midnight (Koontz), and Maximum Bob (Leonard). I never read The Martian Chronicles (Bradbury), Mysteries of Pittsburgh (Chabon), or Mystic River (Lehane), though I enjoyed the film versions.

King of the mountain:
Misery, Stephen King
At less than 340 pages, this is one of King’s shortest reads, which helps to increase the tension as writer Paul Sheldon, injured in a car accident, is held prisoner in a remote cabin by his biggest fan. Annie Wilkes is one of King’s most memorable characters (probably due to Kathy Bates portrayal in the film). But in the movie, Annie just breaks his ankle with a sledge hammer. In the book, she cuts off his foot with an axe and cauterizes his severed ankle with a blow torch. Ouch.

Second fiddle:
Mirror Mirror, Gregory Maguire
An intriguing retelling of the Snow White story by the author of Wicked (which I personally feel was far superior to the Broadway musical adaptation, but I digress.) While not as clever or as memorable as his debut novel, Mirror Mirror does a great job of creating a dark world that existed 600 years ago with beautiful prose, twisting the Snow White legend around, and giving us a very different perspective of the seven dwarfs. Enchanting.

Third is the word:
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Robert C. O’Brien
One of my favorite books I read when I was a kid, right up there with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Phantom Tollbooth. The idea of rats with intelligence that enables them to read, write, and create their own society was enthralling to read as a child. A wonderful adventure that incorporates themes of friendship and cooperation. Read it again for the first time.

Classic Literature Razzie #3:
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
I know this is supposed to be the Great American Novel and that it’s another one of those books that serious writers are supposed to love and be influenced by and rave about, but I found it painful and laborious. Which I guess excludes me from the Serious Writers’ Club. Talk all you want about symbolism and metaphor and social commentary. What you’ve got is a boatload of seamen chasing after a giant sperm whale named Moby Dick. Not a lot of subtle nuance there.

Filed under: Movies and Books — Tags: , , , , , — S.G. Browne @ 5:23 pm