Lisa See

Lisa See, author of China Dolls, writes:

“What makes a “favorite book”? That it scares the pants off you? (That happened to me once when I was reading a Stephen King novel on a beach in Hawaii.) That it helps you with your job or hobby? (I have so many favorite books about China and gardening that I’d never be able to confine myself to just five.) Is it a book you most enjoy reading to your child fifteen billion times a day? Or a book that’s politically or emotionally right for a particular moment in time? Or funny when you need a laugh very, very badly? I have favorites in all genres, but there are certain books that really stick with me. Some I’ve read only once; some I return to each year. What I found, as I put this list together, was that a theme began to emerge about the resiliency of the human spirit.”

Howards End
By E. M. Forster

“OK, so this is one of the greatest novels ever written, but I read it for the first time when I was falling in love with my husband. Forster so delicately, yet eloquently, addresses issues of class, nationality, and economic status. ‘Only connect!’ may be the two most quoted words in English literature, but people often ignore what comes soon after. ‘Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.’  You can see how besotted in love I was.”

By Emma Donoghue

“Jack is a five-year-old whose entire life has been spent in a single room with his mother, who was abducted and then held captive since before Jack was born. This is one brave and smart little boy, and I don’t think I’m giving anything away to say that he eventually finds his way into the larger world. The way he views our modern world is singular, and his voice is fresh and unique. There were moments when I felt like I, too, was looking at the world anew. There were also moments I was super scared for him. I literally couldn’t put the book down.”

The Age of Dreaming
By Nina Revoyr

“The novel starts in the 1960s when Jun Nakayama, a retired silent film actor loosely modeled on Sessue Hayakawa, is unexpectedly interviewed by a prying newspaperman. Jun then takes us back through time to uncover the truth about the murder of a Hollywood film director. The mix of mystery, period details, racism, and the whole unknown — at least to me — world of the silent film era is both thoughtful and captivating.”

Into Thin Air
By Jon Krakauer

“There’s nothing wrong with reading — and enjoying! — a huge bestselling phenomenon. What at first appears to be a straight ripped-from-the-headlines adventure story turns out to be a deep examination of what it means to be human — selfish or self-sacrificing, petty or brave, a dilettante or a master. To this day, my husband and I have philosophical conversations with people about whether they would stop to help dying or injured climbers or step over them to get to the top of Everest.”

Angle of Repose
By Wallace Stegner

“I used a couple of lines from this novel as the epigraph for my first book, On Gold Mountain. I didn’t realize when I used them that they would come to symbolize how I see myself as a writer: ‘Fooling around in the papers my grandparents, especially my grandmother, left behind, I get glimpses of lives close to mine, related to mine in ways I recognize but don’t completely comprehend. I’d like to live in their clothes for a while, if only so I don’t have to live in my own.’ “