Works of tragedy and laughter, from Ancient Greece to a raft on the Mississippi.
Rita Mae Brown is the New York Times bestselling author of the Mrs. Murphy mystery series (which she writes with her tiger cat, Sneaky Pie) and the Sister Jane novels, as well as Rubyfruit Jungle, In Her Day, Six of One, The Sand Castle, and the memoirs Animal Magnetism and Rita Will. In her latest, Murder Unleashed, Mags Rogers and her wire-haired dachshund, Baxter, join forces to pursue a killer in an appropriately dogged fashion. The author lives in Afton, Virginia, with cats, hounds, horses, and big red foxes. When we asked her to pick three favorites, Brown responded with a diverse selection that ranges from an ancient Greek play to a keystone of American fiction.
“This is not a book but a play produced in 414 BC. Highly critical of the government and the war with Sparta, it’s wildly funny. Whether you read it or see it, it is Old Comedy, which is a different theatrical form than most Americans have seen. The lyricism of the original Greek is beautiful, but I wonder if anything like this could be produced today. Difficult though it is for us to accept this, in many ways, fifth-century-BC Athens was a freer society than our own.”
By Marguerite Yourcenar
“A book of sublime ravishment. It’s not plot driven, although one wonders whether Hadrian’s lover was murdered. Rather, it is a deep reflection on personality, power, what ultimately holds through time. It’s a novel to which I return at least once a decade and in which I always find new beauty.”
By Mark Twain
“The first novel written in the American idiom, or rather I should say Twain was the first writer to do so in a way that others could accept. Like all our formative literature it is about the love between men, although not necessarily homoerotic. Women are seen as unwanted civilizing agents in this book and therefore amusing, but the fear or unwillingness to see life through female eyes is evident. Then again, our beginnings in the New World had few women. Such an odd history we have. I love Twain, but doesn’t everybody?”
BONUS BOOK: “Any ‘favorites’ list of mine must include Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror. This book of history is the equal of anything written by the great European historians in the nineteenth century or early twentieth. Totally wonderful!”