Robert Jordan, author of The Wheel of Time series
Everyone has favorite authors, and favorite books that impact them forever. You can find some of the books that have impacted my life in our new online book store at amazon.com.
A Lifelong Companion, a Mentor, and a Spiritual Advisor
Good friends are with us through thick and thin, inspire us with confidence and to push our limits, talk sense into us when we’re being stupid, and give us hope when we’re feeling down. A good friend is always there when needed, no matter the time of day. A good book is like a good friend, sharing revelations, giving comfort and enriching the imagination. These are three books, series or authors that have touched my life.
The Wheel of Time
Robert Jordan began writing The Eye of the World, the first book of The Wheel of Time series, in 1984, and published it in 1990. I was nine when I read it that year. The series, a truly epic fantasy journey, survived Robert Jordan’s death in 2007, with Brandon Sanderson taking over and using Jordan's copious notes to finish the series with the same integrity and voice. The last book in the series, Memory of Light, was released just a few weeks ago. I am now 31.
The Wheel of Time has been with me for two thirds of my life and has inspired a devoted following and countless websites dedicated to the story. In high school I joined a fangroup and wrote stories with my own character that were inspired by Jordan’s epic. I found my own love of writing there, and learned the fundamentals of how to write well. I also learned how to play along with others, as every writer wants to have their character be the very best, and when all of the characters interact with each other, diplomacy is a needed skill.
Robert Jordan wrote The Wheel of Time series with a sense of detail and mythology equal to that of J.R.R. Tolkein, constantly foreshadowing and teasing things that will come (some of the dedicated websites revolved solely on the meaning of Jordan's foreshadowing), and symbols of both European and Asian history and religion. There’s depth to explore if you want to, but also a good story that will carry the reader along.
Jordan’s characters are not always the most complicated, and there are far too many to keep track of them all, but it doesn’t really matter. I still cared for each and every one, rooted for the good guys, and felt pity for many of the bad guys. Not every book is brilliant (Path of Daggers being fairly boring, as far as I was concerned), but the series begins strong and ends strong, and even the slow books are enjoyable. And at about 1000 pages per book, with fourteen books, the series will keep you busy for a while. Years, possibly. But, hopefully not 22 years, as all the books are now finally in print.
Neil Gaiman does a little bit of everything. He writes comic books, best known for the Sandman series. He writes magical realism mythological epics, in the guise of American Gods. He writes short stories. He and Terry Pratchett wrote the religious apocalyptic comedy, Good Omens. Many of his books turn into popular movies, such as Stardust and Coraline. He also writes children’s books, like The Graveyard Book. Except, are they really children’s books?
Gaiman is a master writer, and even the books targeted at a younger audience have amazing prose. He throws in little descriptive details that a lesser writer would never think of, bringing his worlds and characters alive. Gaiman also doesn’t shy away from treating children with respect. His children’s books can be dark and scary. There may be death involved. But there are lessons to be learned about love and independence and responsibility, and a child just might accept them easier because Gaiman treats him or her as an adult. In many ways, Gaiman is the kind of writer I want to be, and I often read his books to motivate my creativity and as a lesson in the techniques of writing.
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
Ever wondered if Jesus knew kung fu? Christopher Moore did, and the result is Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, a tongue-in-cheek comedy about the life of Jesus Christ. It is irreverent, yet also reverent and touching at the same time. With Moore, Christ is a superhero, aggrandized and exciting, but also dealing with the questions and uncertainty Christ might have dealt with growing up. Biff is a clown, but his friendship with Jesus reads warm and real, and adds a human element to religious history. It reminds me of the best things religion has to offer: love, laughter, kindness and self-sacrifice. No matter the denomination (my Lutheran friends liked this book as much as my Mormon friends), and whether you’re Christian or not, Lamb is a wonderfully approachable look at what might have been, and what humans might strive to be.