"Bdellovibrio Feeding Frenzy"  courtesy of Tom Pitta
AFM courtesy of Megan Nunez
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Growing up, books were my very best friends.  To this day, I am never far from books.  It's funny:  I cannot borrow books from a library, as an adult.  I must own them.

When I was a boy, books took me places that were both mundane and exotic---from historical places, to far-flung countries, and even other planets.  Growing up a city kid in Long Beach, California, particular books truly molded me as a person.  Some of my happiest boyhood memories are of pedaling my bicycle from the main branch library across town home, with a dozen books in the baskets strapped to the frame.

It isn't possible to list all the books that I love (you should see my library).  But I can list my "top twenty" novels---ones I keep coming back to for various reasons, again and again.   I'll even list some commentary on each. Oh, not immediately.  But eventually.

What are the themes that motivate my interests, in terms of novels?  Individualism, sacrifice, bravery, transcendence...and a sense of "more" than the status quo.   That might mean a novel about a dystopia far worse than we have experienced, or a novel about some utopian perfection.

But novels about everyday things?  Hardly.  That might be great for other people, and much luck and happiness to them.  My mileage varies.

They are in no particular order.

  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  • The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers
  • Timescape, by Gregory Benford
  • Several of the Robert A. Heinlein "juvenile" novels:  The Star Beast (the first book I ever checked out from a library), Time for the Stars, Tunnel in the Sky, Citizen of the Galaxy, and Starman Jones.
  • The Stand, by Stephen King
  • The Xenogenesis Trilogy, by Octavia Butler
  • Dying Inside, by Robert Silverberg
  • In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead, by James Lee Burke
  • The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by T.E. Lawrence.
  • Songs of Earth and Power, by Greg Bear.
  • Burning Angel, by James Lee Burke
  • Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein.
  • Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  • Empire of the East, by Fred Saberhagen
  • A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge
  • Watchers, by Dean Koontz
  • Heart of the Comet, by Gregory Benford and David Brin.
  • Titan, by John Varley
What if I limited my choices to five books that most motivate/move/influence me? It wouldn't be the whole story, but here goes:
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein
  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by T.E. Lawrence.
  • Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  • Watchers, by Dean Koontz
People who know me will, I think, understand those choices.