The BPL asked modern epic fantasy author, R.A. Salvatore, for a list of his top ten favorite books.
Salvatore will appear at the Central Library in Copley Square on Saturday, September 12 at 2 p.m. to discuss the process of world building and explore the role of geography and maps in fantasy literature. A book sale and author signing will immediately follow the talk.
- THE HOBBIT, by JRR Tolkien: I started college as a Math Major. K-12 had taught me to hate reading and writing – and I could read long before I started kindergarten! But then, trapped in my Mom’s house during the Great Blizzard of ’78, this college freshman took out the Christmas present his sister Sue had given him, one he hadn’t appreciated, and met a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, and went with that hobbit on a more wonderful journey. Tolkien’s work gave me back the love of reading and imagination I had known as a young boy, and for that, I will be forever grateful, and I will forever name “The Hobbit” as my favorite book.
- A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ, by Walter M. Miller, Jr.: I don’t know what it is about this book, but it simply mesmerizes me. Miller’s work is dark and delicious, always with a promise of hope just around the next corner, but never quite getting there.
- THE DEAD, by James Joyce: More a novella than a novel, but this masterpiece is, to me, the greatest piece of writing I’ve ever read. Many years ago, I was working with a high school English class (they were doing some of my books). One day, I turned down the lights a bit and read to them the last few pages of “The Dead.” Those haunting words don’t need context to be effective; the rhythm and simple beauty of Joyce’s prose carried the lesson all by itself. Whenever I get cocky as a writer, I read those pages out loud, and I am humbled.
- SALEM’S LOT, by Stephen King: I’ve always loved a good horror story, and this tale of vampires in a small New England town scared the heck out of me, and stayed with my nightmares long after I closed the book. I was working as a bouncer at the time, in great shape and thinking myself a tough guy…well, King had me curled up in the fetal position for the better part of a week. Move over, Bram Stoker.
- ILL MET IN LANKHMAR, by Fritz Leiber: I’ll use this particular novella as the signpost here, but really, any of Leiber’s “Fafhrd and Gray Mouser” tales fit the bill. I consider these works the epitome of “buddy fantasy,” although I hate to sell them short – they really are timeless expositions of friendship and courage and wit. Tolkien was the one who got me into writing, reminding me of how much I loved to read and entertain my imagination, but I have to believe that Leiber’s work had even more of an effect on my writing. From the beginning, my goal in writing fantasy stories was to give my readers a band of friends, with whom they could walk the road of adventure. This is what Leiber gave to me.
- THE NAME OF THE ROSE by Umberto Eco: This isn’t normally the type of book I would like. I’m a very slow reader and generally prefer fast-moving tales. But something about the way Eco tackles this work, the monastery, the Franciscans, the murder, the artwork…I couldn’t put the book down. It harkened back to my childhood days in the Catholic Church – I felt like I could hear the Latin Mass echoing on every word. This book was one of the major influences on my choices in writing my DemonWars series and creating the world of Corona. I haven’t visited Eco’s work in many years. Perhaps it’s time for another go.
- THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, by Kenneth Grahame: This might be the book that started it all for me, way, way back before I had even started kindergarten. Rat and Mole first took me on an adventure and showed me the horizons of my own imagination. I lost this love of fancy and fairy tale in my days through school, and it took Tolkien to give it back to me.
- PEANUTS, by Charles Schulz: Any and all. Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus and Lucy, and all the gang were some of my best friends for many years of my youth. Every year, birthday and Christmas, I’d get more Charlie Brown books, and I’d devour them, over and over again. And that was the beauty of Schulz’s work: the books changed as I changed, and I found deeper meaning with each yearly re-read. The older I get, the more I have come to know that Charlie Brown was right…about almost everything.
- SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE, by Kurt Vonnegut: The greatest anti-war book ever written, and really, much more than that. I remember one course I took in college where the professor asked us to write a quick essay about ourselves as an introduction. I wrote that I was Billy Pilgrim, lost in time, because I had come to feel that my own life was fractured and disjointedly episodic, and that somewhere in there was my own search for truth and my own fear of what that truth might be. Simply, unforgettably, brilliant.
- HENRY V, by William Shakespeare: I had a hard time between this one and “Hamlet,” but that St. Crispen’s Day Speech sealed it for me. I do think I’d love to hear Kurt Vonnegut recite it. Then my life would be complete.
Salvatore’s first published novel The Crystal Shard became the first volume of the acclaimed Icewind Dale Trilogy. Since that time, he has published numerous novels for each of his signature multi-volume series, including The Dark Elf Trilogy, Paths of Darkness, The Hunter’s Blades Trilogy, and The Cleric Quintet. His latest novel Archmage is the first book in his new Homecoming series.