Favorite Books

January 7, 2013


“Of the books you’ve written, what’s your favorite?”

It’s a question I’m apt to get during Q&A when I give a talk, and like most writers I reply that I can’t really answer except to say it’s the book I’m working on. Unfinished, still full of boundless possibilities, the work in progress occupies my mind and it’s the work that I love.

People also ask me what are my favorite books by other writers. I start off by saying my father’s books, of course. Then I think over the other books I reread often and I do my best to answer, hesitating because how do you choose some from so many? It’s as bad as any awards ceremony!

But when a friend, Jenny Stimac, wrote me asking this question, it occurred to me that writing makes me think more than talking does and thus it was high time I wrote down a list of the books that I reread over and over. So I did. Some of them I find myself wanting to reread for sheer pleasure; some, in addition to pleasure, have been important to me by providing lessons as I learned to write.

And here the list is,  mostly in alphabetical order:

     Cather, Willa: My Antonia
      Doan, Daniel: The Crystal Years and Amos Jackman
      Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby
      Jewett, Sarah Orne: The Country of the Pointed Firs
      Maugham, W. Somerset: Cakes and Ale, or The Skeleton in the Cupboard
           (one of my father’s favorite books, too)
      Mitford, Nancy: The Pursuit of Love
      Pym, Barbara:
          ALL of her novels, but maybe particularly
           Less than Angels
and Quartet in Autumn
      MacDonald, Betty: The Egg and I
      Morley, Christopher: Kitty Foyle

     The works of:
            Agatha Christie
            Ngaio Marsh
            Dorothy L. Sayers
            Mary Stewart
            Josephine Tey

           Paintbox Summer, by Betty Cavanna,  a YA.
           Adventures in English Literature, edited by J. B. Priestley and Josephine Spear, the textbook that Don chose for his senior English classes, a copy of which we keep close at hand for reference.

And three poetry books. Two are anthologies given to me by Jenny Stimac’s mother, Connie, when I was a girl:
            Silver Pennies, by Blanche Jennings Thompson
            The Pocket Book of Verse: Great English and American Poems,
              edited by M. E. Speare
The third was given to me by Don in January 1957, when he was a sophomore in college and I was a senior in high school:
            Collected Poems, by Edna St. Vincent Millay


© 2013 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved
Photos by Don MacDougall © 2013; all rights reserved
(The photos are of Ruth's own much-loved and read books.)


Ruth's Neighborhood Blog Entries Directory


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Restoring the Colonial Theater (July 2016)


Reunion at Sawyer's Dairy Bar (Sept. 2015)

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A Curmudgeon's Lament (Jan 2014)

Aprons (April 2014_

Our Green-and-Stone-ribbed World (June, 2014)

Playing Tourist (Oct. 2014)


Favorite Books (January 2013)

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Why Climb a Mountain (June 2013)

Sawyer's Dairy Bar (Oct. 2013)



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Mother West Wind (May)

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Robin SUmmer (Sept 2012)

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The Colonial Theater (May 2011

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The Lot (Dec.r2011)