S.G. Browne

S is for Shining, Stand, and Survivor

Out of all the letters in the alphabet, the letter S proved to have the largest selection of books to choose from to date. It also proved to be the most difficult letter in terms of picking my favorites. But since I can only put three on the list, I had to make some tough calls, including leaving off titles such as Slaughterhouse Five (Vonnegut), Swan Song (McCammon), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (Bradbury).

Some of the other titles that didn’t make the final cut are:

The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne), A Separate Peace (Knowles), Skin Deep (Hiaasen), Strangers (Koontz), Shadowland (Straub), and Salem’s Lot and Skeleton Crew (King).

I’ll even add The Sun Also Rises to the list, in spite of the fact that I generally can’t stand Hemingway and he’s made my Classic Literature Razzie list for my least favorite literary novel of all time (A Farewell to Arms). But for some reason, I actually recall not hating this book in my high school American Lit class. Which is about the highest praise I’m willing to give to anything written by Hemingway.

On to the three titles that made the podium:

The Stand, Stephen King
Not only is this my favorite book that begins with the letter S, but King’s apocalyptic novel of good versus evil is one of my favorite books of all time. I’ve read it at least three times, having read it the first time while on vacation in Australia with my family in the summer of 1985 before my sophomore year in college. Best praise I can give it? I had to stop reading it at one point to mourn my favorite character when King decided to kill him off.  King at his best.

Survivor, Chuck Palahniuk
Also one of my favorite reads of all time, Survivor is told from the POV of Tender Branson, the last remaining survivor of the Creedish death cult. The book opens in the cockpit of a Boeing 747 with our hero narrating his life story into the airplane’s black box, having hijacked the plane and released all of the passengers and crew. The rest of the book, told in descending order of chapters and pages, is a flashback explaining how he ended up alone in the airplane. It’s a great social satire on religion and the cult of celebrity.

The Shining, Stephen King
I tried to limit King to just one title, but I couldn’t leave off one of the most terrifying books I’ve ever read. This one actually had me awake into the early hours of the morning, my hands gripping the pages, unable to put it down. While I know the film version is considered a classic, it’s a horrible adaptation of the book, focusing on Nicholson’s descent into insanity and downplaying the supernatural element and the psychic ability, “the shining,” of the little boy, Danny. Read the book. It’s far superior to the film.

Filed under: Movies and Books — Tags: , , , , — S.G. Browne @ 6:25 am

I is for I, In, and Invisible

While there’s no “I” in team, there are plenty of “I’s” in my library of books I’ve read. More, so far, than any other letter of the alphabet.

There’s The Informers (Ellis), Infected (Sigler), If You Could See Me Now (Straub), The Icarus Agenda (Ludlum), I Never Promised You A Rose Garden (Green), Interview With A Vampire (Rice), IT (King), and Insomnia (King again).

The three that made it on my list are a diverse group of non-linear dark comedy, true crime, and science fiction/horror. So without further ado, here are my favorite novels that begin with the letter I:

Top of the heap:
Invisible Monsters, Chuck Palahniuk
While not my favorite Palahniuk novel, it’s in the top three and has one of the best opening paragraphs of any book I’ve ever read along with one of my favorite quotes: “Another thing is no matter how much you think you love somebody, you’ll step back when the pool of their blood edges up too close.” Told in a non-linear style that from the POV of a disfigured supermodel, the writing is crisp, fast-paced, and quintessential Palahniuk.

Next in line:
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
Possibly the only non-fiction entry to make the list, Capote’s book about the brutal murders of a Kansas family in 1959 is often regarded by critics as a pioneer of the true crime novel. While the book has been criticized for its factual account of the events, there’s no denying Capote’s talent and masterful use of the written word.

Bringing up the rear:
I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
Although George Romero credits this novel with being the inspiration for his film Night of the Living Dead, I will still argue that the book is about a vampire apocalypse, not zombies. Still, if you’re a zombie fan, Matheson’s novel is often considered as being influential in the development of the zombie genre and the concept of a worldwide disease apocalypse. If you saw the Will Smith film, you should read the novel to understand why the book lives up to its title and the film cops out.

Second favorite epic poem in dactylic hexameter:
The Iliad, Homer
I’m a sucker for Greek mythology. I wonder what my favorite epic poem might be?

Filed under: Movies and Books — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 3:39 pm