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James R. Stout

My Favorite Five Novels

            It is no secret that I love to read. Although I enjoy greatly non-fiction books about a plethora of subjects, I lean toward fiction novels. I have enjoyed reading novels since I was in elementary school. Of course, I read books that were written for my age at that time (for the most part). These included a series of novels presented by Alfred Hitchcock known as, “The Three Detectives”, “Desmond, The Dog Detective”, “The Diamond Cave Mystery”, “Ivanhoe”, and “Robinson Crusoe”. By the time I reached high school I was reading books with a little more meat on the bone. In my freshman year of high school, I got hooked on reading some of the so-called “classics”. These included “A Tale of Two Cities”, “The Count of Monte Cristo”, “Don Quixote”, “The Time Machine”, and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. All of these books created a foundation for my love of reading and in some ways, they were pathways to life in general. We were required to read “The Lord of The Flies” in 9th grade as well. It is one of the few books that I have read that I truly dislike. I might even say that my dislike for that novel borders on hate. I understand the story. I mean, I get it. But I don’t like it one bit. For one thing, it reminded me too much of junior high gym class. I’m not kidding. Fortunately, there have only been a handful of books that I have disliked as much.

            In my sophomore year we had one six-week period in English in which our entire grade was based on a book report (both oral and written) on a book chosen from five book choices that we were given to choose from. I made my choice based on reading the outer cover of the book that became and still is my all-time favorite book. Oddly enough, most people that I know have never heard of the book. It is a book entitled, “Alas Babylon”. It was published in 1959 and written by Pat Frank. It is the fictional account of the aftermath of a nuclear war and the effects on the people in a small town in Florida. I had that book read within two days and then I read it again. In fact, I have read that book at least 25 or 30 times. I re-read it about every 3 or 4 years. The mood comes upon me to relive that book and I indulge myself. The copy that I have now is not the same paperback that I owned in 1972. However, I do still have my 1979 copy. It is a treasure to me.

            Over the years I have probably read well over a thousand novels. Heck, I own half that many now. But there was a time when I traded paperbacks at a used bookstore for other books. So, I didn’t keep every book that I ever read. Sometime in the 1980’s I started collecting hardback copies. Most of them were first editions. These days, I’m selective on what I will spend my money for a hardback as opposed to a paperback.

            So, let me tell you now my five all-time favorite books. I do have one caveat though. These are my favorite five at the time that I am writing this. Let’s be honest here There have been many novels that I have come to love and choosing a favorite five is very difficult. But here goes.

  1. “Alas Babylon” by Pat Frank – As mentioned earlier, I read this originally in 1972. I very much so identify with the main character.

  2. “To Kill A Mockingbird” – Harper Lee – I actually saw the movie first when I was about 7-years-old. I identified with Scout back then. We were about the same age and perhaps equally precocious. However, I later came to identify with Atticus. His sense of right and wrong and fairness. He is someone that you can respect and admire for his character. I can only hope that I will some day be admired for taking a stand for right and wrong.

  3. “Fear Nothing” by Dean Koontz – I read this when it came out in 1998. It’s a suspense novel with tinge of science fiction. I like both genres and the characters are well-developed and likeable. There was an equally good sequel called “Seize The Night”. I chose “Fear Nothing” mainly because it introduces us to the characters. I highly recommend both to you.

  4. “The Walking Drum” – Louis L’Amour – Now, before you get to thinking “A shoot-em-up oater”, think again. This was one of Mr. L’Amour’s last novels and my personal favorite. As much as I love his western novels, this one is in a class of its own. It’s what is called “historical fiction”. I can only imagine the research that he had to do in order to write this book. As a historian, I very much enjoyed the factional aspects of the book coupled with a wonderful fictional story. The book follows the life of a man from when he was about 15 until he is about 30. It takes place in the 1200’s and takes us from the Mideast to Europe and parts of Asia.

  5. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” Mark Twain – I first read this book in about 1970. It’s just stupid that political correctness has tried to denigrate this wonderful work. It was written in a time and about a time when things were different. I don’t really need to tell you what it’s about though. It’s so famous and well-known. I think I will always love the adventures that Huck and Jim go through on their journey on the Mississippi river.

            So, there you have it. My list of my favorite five novels. There are so many more that love and to choose just five is very difficult. But, have whittled them down and this be them. Feel free to reply with your list.

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