by | Oct 17, 2021 | Karna Small Bodman, The Writer's Life | 2 comments

By Karna Small Bodman

We all love books – right? Why is that? When were you first introduced to a book that captured your interest and imagination? Or when did you read certain stories later in life that were so intriguing that you’ve never forgotten them? When it comes to All Time Favorite Books, I have quite a list I’d like to share with you.

First is a book of advice that was first released back in 1936 and was so popular that it was revised, updated, and re-released many times over the next 75 years – selling over 30 million copies. I was given a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People as I was entering a new, rather large High School – a time when I wondered if I would ever make any new friends. I still remember devouring the great advice and deciding to give copies to my own kids when they reached the same age. After all, this book has been described as “One of the best- known motivational books in history.”

Much later, one of the books that inspired me to write thrillers was Shelley’s Heart by former CIA Undercover Operative Charles McCarry. One reviewer says, “This is a story that takes you behind the headlines and into Washington’s hushed world of power plays, privilege, blind ambition and ruthless conspiracy.” And, having served in the government myself, this book, although written back in the 90’s,  turned out to be eerily prescient. The Washington Post Book World wrote, “Brilliant, amazing . . .the best novel ever written about life in high-stakes Washington.”

Nelson DeMille

One of the earliest thrillers penned by the #1 New York Times bestselling author, Nelson DeMille that launched a very successful forty-year writing career was The Charm School. It is about a sinister Russian operation where American POW’s must teach young KGB agents how to “act” like model US citizens when secretly inserted into American territory.  I recall meeting DeMille at Book Expo in New York and later at a bookstore in Washington where he told rollicking tales of traveling to international hotspots to research his many thrillers. (We remained in touch, and I was so grateful when he gave me a blurb for one of my early novels.  He gives lots of encouragement to new authors).

Another author I met at a Writers’ Conference who wrote a wonderful series of historical novels about the lives of the wives of Henry, XIII, is Philippa Gregory.  The first in that group is The Other Boleyn Girl. We’ve all heard about the King’s wife Anne Boleyn, but I had no idea he was first taken with her 14-year-old sister, Mary, and fathered two children with her before marrying the older sister, Anne. (It occurred to me when I read it that IF Henry had acknowledged Mary’s children as his own, he would not have had so many wives when searching for an heir – and those other women might have lived!) Reading the series, which included The Queen’s Fool, The Constant Princess and several others taught me so much about the Tudor period.

I also asked my fellow Rogues is they would like to share their All Time Favorite Books.  Gayle Lynds reports,

“When I was very young and just starting to read, my grandparents gave me books in the Bobbsey Twins series which stars two sets of fraternal twins who are wonderfully mischievous and stumble into mysteries that they solve before adults can.  My favorite was The Bobbsey Twins at Sugar Maple Hill, which turned out to be predictive – it took place in a New England maple forest during sugaring season. After living around the United States, I’ve settled in Maine, which I love. And when I drive down the road toward our house in the spring, I pass maple trees with buckets attached to spigots. Yep, maple syrup on the way!”

Lisa Black also recalls children’s books she loved.  About choosing one, she says,

“That’s tough! All the Beverly Cleary books all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I don’t know if anyone else would recognize them, but I read (many times) The Ghost of Five Owl Farm by Wilson Gage and Mary Steele because it was the first children’s book I read that was a mystery, but also had many moments of humor as the protagonist dealt with his (at first) annoying cousins.  But my favorite was The Ghost Rock Mystery by Mary C. Jane, possibly because the “ghost” was (supposedly) a horse.”

Tracy Clark is another Rogue who remembers a book she read when she was young, says,

“One of my All Time Favorites as a kid was Harriet the Spy. I read it over and over and carried it around with me in a back pocket or backpack for quite a long time.” It’s easy to see why this one would appeal to young people. It’s the story of Harriet who is “a spy.” In her notebook she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and best friends. But when Harriet loses track of her notebook and it ends up in the wrong hands, will she find a way to put her life and friendships back together again?

Finally, one of our new Rogues, Tosca Lee, says her All Time Favorite is The Red Tent, a modern classic interpretation of the biblical story of Dinah from the Book of Genesis which features the traditions and turmoil of ancient womanhood. This New York Times bestseller became the basis of an A&E/Lifetime mini-series.

What is your All Time Favorite Book? Please share your ideas with all of us, and thanks for visiting Rogue Women Writers.


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  1. Lisa Black

    How have I never heard of “Shelley’s Heart”? It sounds fabulous!

  2. Gayle Lynds

    Oh, gosh, Karna, you’ve taken me back. Yes, the Dale Carnegie book was spectacular. I gave away copies, too, and it seems to me to still hold up wonderfully, so practical, with examples that ring true. I still have my original copy. I also loved Harriet the Spy, and all of DeMille’s and McCarry’s work. I love this quotation from Christopher Marley: “When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue. You give him the possibility of a whole new life.” Thank you for a wonderful blog!