Friday, November 18, 2016

100 Books to Read Before You Die - The Official List

by Shirley Hailstock

It started with a movie, The Equalizer. I like action movies and I like Denzel Washington. In this movie, his wife has died and she was a lover of books. She was reading the top 100 Books Everyone Should Read Before You Die.  He truly loved her and as homage, he's reading the top 100 books.  He's currently on number 91.

I looked for the list since I wanted to know how many of them I had read.  What I discovered is there are countless lists of top 100 books by different groups, organizations or individuals.  I had to choose one, so when I found a list that said it was The Official List, I went with that one.  Click this link (The Official List) if you want to see all 100 titles. I am glad to say that the majority of the books appear on many of the lists. You'd expect to see The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice on any reading list that claims to be the Top 100.

When I counted the titles I'd read, my number was 37. There were some collections like the Harry Potter series and the complete works of Shakespeare.  While I've read all the Harry Potter books, I only get to add one to my total. I didn't count Shakespeare at all since I've only read a few of his books/plays.  I've seen more of his works produced as a play or movie than actually reading the text. However, Hamlet was listed singularly and I included that one. In high school, I had to memorize parts of that play.

Some titles I tried to read and couldn't. The Hobbit is one of them. Even after The Lord of the Rings walked away with multiple Academy Awards, I tried to read The Hobbit and couldn't. Then I got it on CD and tried to listen to it.  Still I couldn't get into it.  There are some books, we're just not ready to spend the time trying to read.

There were also titles on the list I couldn't remember if I'd read the book or only seen a movie of the story. Little Women, Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, and Anna Karenina have been movies, all with several remakes to their credit, and I can't remember if I ever read the book.

Of course, every list is going to come with surprises.  This one had a few books that I wouldn't choose for people to read before dying. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams are two.  This is my opinion. There are probably thousands of people who will disagree with me, but they will have their own list that differs from mine.

Another surprise came when I saw titles and didn't know a book existed. I thought these stories were made into movies from original screenplays. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy,  Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, On The Road by Jack Kerouac, and The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane are a few.

The list was limited to 100 titles, so it stands to reason that some expected titles will be missing.  For example, Middlemarch by George Eliot is listed, but Silas Marner is not.  Neither The Scarlet Letter nor any other works by Nathaniel Hawthorne are included in the list. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is present, but not Lord Jim.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel and The Invisible Man by National Book Award winner Ralph Ellison, and Native Son by Richard Wright were not listed. There were no books by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison or Ernest Hemingway.

So, of the books on this list that I've read, what is my favorite – The Great Gatsby.  A few years ago I read this book for the first time. I wanted to see if it stood the test of time. Would the book be just as interesting and relevant today as it was when it was written? My answer is yes. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though I'd seen Robert Redford and Mia Farrow play Gatsby and Daisy countless times. And I even visited the house in Newport, Rhode Island where they filmed the movie, I was still in the can't put-it-down-mode.

Reading 37 titles is good, but not great. It's only a little over a third of the 100.  Just in case you want to know the 37 titles I have read, they're listed below.

So, like Ricky would say to Lucy, I got some readin' to do.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Day (Days, actually) in the Life...

I don't have to tell you: the annual post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas madness is upon us. And it's getting crazy out there. Add to that, a bunch of back to back trips I've planned for some reason smack in the middle of the holiday season, and I'm almost certifiable already.

I'm also getting ahead of myself here.

First, I do want to tell you about a special Thanksgiving day this year. My husband and I flew to New York (one of those trips I mentioned) then drove to Connecticut to spend the holiday with our younger son, his delightful new in-laws and brand-new wife. Kim cooked a truly delicious meal: tender turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce, homemade whipped potatoes, fresh asparagus, green beans, and rolls plus a heavenly sweet potato souffle that melted in my mouth. I must get her recipe. Our contribution to the feast? A store bought pecan pie (I wasn't near my own kitchen) that tasted like a New Orleans praline (I'm drooling again) and an apple-cranberry pie that managed to be both tart and sweet. Believe me, no one went hungry!

Good thing we had all taken a walk before dinner. Afterward we sprawled happily in the living room to re-watch the excellent pictures from the wedding in August and the honeymoon photos of Paris. Ooh-la-la. Right now I wish I was there. Well, I always wish I was there...but today I spent hours and hours at the mall instead.

It was raining and raw outside, and I'm not like Sophie Kinsell's Shopaholic character. No, I don't hate to shop, but I don't love--or crave--it either, especially in a crowd. Because I'm leaving for San Francisco shortly, however, I needed to get a big head start on my Christmas shopping. A large portion of my family lives out of state, in quite a few states, and I'm always under the gun at this point, trying to finish the gift buying, the wrapping, and the shipping of boxes before the last-minute rush begins at the post office and UPS.

I did pretty well today. I have about half my gift buying done and hope to complete more tomorrow, including something for Chirps, my "grand kitty," and Cooper, my "grand dog."

I may not love to shop, but I do love the excitement, the anticipation, and the trappings of Christmas--especially Christmas trees. Every year I buy a new one for my little collection, and what do you know? Today Target had a gorgeous tabletop tree with fruits and nuts on it that I just had to get. All in all, a good day. Progress.

I'll be enjoying Christmas--and another beautiful tree--with my older son and his family this December, and I can't wait to see them. Another special time.

All I need to do beforehand is finish that shopping, wrapping, sending, then write some notes for the Christmas cards I haven't bought know the seasonal drill.

I'm sure we're all in the same boat. Between trips to the mall, I think I'll de-stress in front of a cozy fire with a good book, a cup of frothy hot chocolate, and a pair of warm, fuzzy slippers. Ahhh. Won't you join me?

Monday, November 19, 2007

There's Much to be Thankful For

Back when I was in college I met a woman who became a good friend. She was the Director of Students, but she was only a few years older than I was. She once told me that she was thoroughly depressed about losing a boyfriend. He was a high-profile actor and everyone recognized him. When she was with him, there was an added prestige she garnered from both her friends and his.

When the relationship broke up, the prestige went with it and it plunged her into a place that she thought was dark and so deep she couldn’t claw her way out of it. One night, in the wee hours of the morning when she was unable to sleep, she got up and took a piece of paper. She drew a line down the middle and on one side wrote Good and the other Bad. She wrote down the things in her life that were good and weighed them against those that were not. This list was much longer on the good side of the page.

I have never forgotten this technique when I’m feeling low or feeling that my life is spinning out of control and there is nothing I can do about. The good always outweighs the bad. At this writing Thanksgiving is approaching and I have much to be thankful for. Much to list on the good side of my paper and very little on the not so good side.

I sent in a manuscript this morning (wee hours mind you, but it’s done). That in and of itself is a monumentally good thing. I finished the book, developed the blank page into real live people who I liked and wanted to spend time with.

I have my family, immediate and extended, all well and healthy. I have my romance writer friends, all supportive and eager to share information. I have non-romance writer friends who I’ll see and toast the holidays with.

I have my shopping done for the big meal on Thursday and the beginnings of some Christmas shopping done. I can spend some quality time with my daughter since I don’t have a deadline to keep me chained to the computer. We can do whatever it is she wants to do (within reason). She’s five.

On the not so good side, I have to cook the meal. But then I do get the leftovers. I have to clean the house, both for Thanksgiving and before I begin another writing project. If I don’t, it won’t get done until after the next book. And by then I won’t be able to get into my office.

So you see the good is much longer than the bad. Have a good holiday. Don’t eat too much. And remember the soldiers who are keeping us safe to enjoy family, friends, and a good meal. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thanksgiving is on its way...

although here in Canada, it's already been and gone. So I thought this would be a good time for me to talk about Thanksgiving, sort of halfway between the two holidays.

And I thought I'd talk about Thanksgiving traditions - or maybe more the lack thereof. Thanksgiving isn't as big a deal in Canada as it is in the U.S. and it's not celebrated at all in England (except by ex-pats, I suspect) where my mom and her family grew up and lived until moving to Canada after the war. So Thanksgiving has always been an odd kind of holiday for me.

My dad's family celebrated Thanksgiving but without any kind of fanfare and once my mom and dad split up when I was 12, it went even more on the back burner.

But I like to celebrate it myself. I love the food, I love the concept, I love the party of it. Because every year I have something to be thankful for - many things, in fact. And so Thanksgiving is a way for me to share that thankfulness with my family and friends. I often call both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners my "orphan" dinners, inviting everyone I know who doesn't have family in town, which means that it can be any number from 4 to 14 in my tiny tiny apartment.

I do the traditional dinner - turkey, my dad's stuffing, four or five vegetables, pumpkin pie, plenty of wine and beer. I absolutely LOVE the smell of turkey cooking. My shopping expedition always includes two or three packages of those aluminum takeout containers because I always cook a turkey that's more than slightly too big for the crowd and I really really don't like leftover turkey. I do, however, love all the other leftovers and I eat them for breakfast - the pumpkin pie - lunch - sandwiches with dressing and cranberry sauce in them - and dinner - veg, plenty of mashed potatoes, stuffing.

If the crowd is bigger than 4, I have to rearrange my entire apartment. I have to move many things (furniture, TV, books, small tables) into the bathtub or onto the balcony. I have to pull out my IKEA table and chairs from the very back of the closet and under the bed. I have to move all the furniture in the living to the walls, while managing to leave a tiny space for people to get in. But it's worth every minute of it...

What are your traditions? Where did they come from? What new ones have you added?


Tuesday, November 6, 2007



Determined to prove she's no wilting magnolia blossom, jilted heiress Annie Macy strikes out for New York City to make it on her own. Annie's plan just never involved having a money launderer for a boss…or stealing "evidence" during the company Christmas party. Now with an angry Santa in hot pursuit, Annie jumps into the nearest cab, only to discover her "driver" is P.I. Joe Brady—hired by Annie's meddling family to keep an eye on her. Stuck in a rusty old taxi in the middle of one of New York's worst blizzards, Annie and Joe are dodging the bad guys and heating up the backseat at every stop. And while they are waist-deep in snow and clues and lust for each other, Annie is about to discover the woman she's hidden inside herself for too many years…

CHRISTMAS PRESENCE: THREE TALES OF LOVE by Susan Crosby and Lisa Childs and Donna Birdsell

Christmas Presence by Donna Birdsell

Young widow Astrid Martin wants to boycott Christmas?but her husband's ghost won't let her! Before long she has a tree, even a gift-wrapping job at the mall, where she meets the man who holds the key to her Christmas future.

Secret Santa by Lisa Childs

When Maggie O'Brien receives gifts from a secret Santa, she suspects one of the three men in her life has finally wised up to how special she is. Who's the mystery man—her ex, her boss, or that good-looking car mechanic? Come Christmas morning, will true love be waiting under Maggie's tree?

You're All I Want for Christmas by Susan Crosby

DivorcĂ©e Lauren Wright opts for a Bahamas Christmas getaway—only to be stranded at the airport by weather. But a very personable fellow traveler makes the time fly—and temperatures rise. Bahamas or no Bahamas, things are about to get steamy…


Hi, everybody:

Congratulations to Nathalie and Wakela Runen, who are the winners of the October Next Authors blog contest. Please contact me at with your name and address and I'll make sure your prizes start winging their way to you.

And don't forget to enter the November blog contest - everyone who posts a response to the blog is entered into the contest. The more times you post, the more times you are entered.

The Next authors are doing one more big contest in November and December - to find out about the contest and to enter go to:


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Little Pumpkin Meets Big Boo

I grew up in northeastern Ohio. Back in the day (as the current expression goes) carving a pumpkin face then trick or treating on Halloween was a big deal. Like kids everywhere my brother and I carefully chose our costumes--except for one season when Mom picked that year's outfit for me.

I don't remember why she did, but at eight I was mortified to have to dress as a bright orange pumpkin! Nevertheless, with the promise of treats in mind and my little brother in tow, I loped through our neighborhood in the dark, ringing doorbells and filling our bags with candy, cookies, apples, and more candy. As a big sister, I knew this trek could be a dangerous undertaking. According to suburban legend in our town, an elderly doctor who lived in a spooky-looking brick house with all its shades drawn lured unsuspecting children inside each Halloween--and they were never seen again. This, of course, lent an atmosphere of delicious terror to the pitch-dark night.

Already trembling in our shoes, my brother and I managed to survive the encounter. In fact, somewhat to our disappointment, the doctor seemed perfectly normal. Nice, really. Breathless with relief, we soon ran up to another house on a different block, rang the bell, and dumped our treats into the bags. Heady with success by this time we turned the corner, climbed a set of steps to a porch, and repeated our routine. "Trick or treat!"

But when the door opened, who was standing there, glowering? Not that doctor, who I'm sure was innocent. No, like Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird, I came smack up against the frightening Boo Radley in the flesh. "Weren't you kids just here?" he growled with a suspicious glance at my orange pumpkin suit. Busted. I wasn't exactly invisible. We had inadvertently come to the same door, the same house as the one just before. It had a wraparound porch that faced on two streets. We weren't really double-dipping, and like the "evil" doctor, "Boo Radley" wasn't really an ogre. Ah, the imagination of an earnest little girl. Maybe she should have been a writer....

Where I live now, and write, on a mountain far from my hometown, the nights are even darker than the Halloweens of my childhood. Or so they seem. I still love this scary time of year, and things that go bump in the night, and having a pumpkin to carve, not to mention buying candy for this year's Trick or Treat handout (and of course, some Dove chocolates just for me). But my favorite memory of Halloween is that long-ago march through the fallen leaves in my pumpkin costume (Mom's choice, bless her heart). If I still had it, and it fit the larger, more whimsical me, I think I'd wear it.