Here’s a tournament that gets my book geek juices flowing – HarperCollins Canada has announced HCC March Madness, where 64 books duke it out over the next few weeks for the top spot.
There are LOTS of great books in the tournament, and I’ve got MY top picks. Have you read (and like me, loved) these books as well? Vote for them at http://hccmarchmadness.ca! If you haven’t read some of these yet, definitely, add them to your To Read list. They’re all fun reads that I still enjoy re-reading.
My HCC March Madness Picks:
One of, if not the, ultimate Poirot book, Murder on the Orient Express is generally considered one of the Queen of Crime’s best works. The Belgian detective with the egg-shaped head exercises his little grey cells when a passenger gets killed on the historic Orient Express. The victim has made a lot of enemies, and almost every other passenger appears to have a motive for killing him. Agatha Christie has set this English country house mystery inside a train, and the tight quarters ratchet up the tension as Poirot methodically untangles the various alibis and examines the psychology of his fellow passengers. Exciting and convoluted, with the wonderful Christie trademark surprise ending, Murder is one of my favourite Christies.
The Poirot TV series with David Suchet also recently adapted this novel for the screen. Suchet is absolutely my favourite Poirot. I happened to watch the episode when I hadn’t re-read Murder in a while, and so have forgotten the ending. So I got to experience the thrill of the reveal scene almost like it was my first time discovering this book.
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
I am a major Neil Gaiman fan, ever since I fell in love with Good Omens, which he wrote with Terry Pratchett. American Gods is, in my opinion, one of his best works, creating a contemporary mythology. The basic idea is that gods and mythological creatures exist because people believe in them, and their power is heavily dependent on people’s belief in them. Immigrants to the US brought with them incarnations of Odin, Loki, Anansi and other mythological figures, but these gods are, literally, dying out as new gods (e.g. Internet, media) emerge and gain power. The protagonist, Shadow, is hired by Mr. Wednesday (Odin) to be his bodyguard as he travels the US enlisting other Old Gods to participate in the war against the New American Gods. If Gaiman had written this today, I can just imagine the bird god of Twitter in an epic face-off against, say, the legendary spider Anansi.
Lots of books have been written about mythological figures in a contemporary context (personal favourites include Rick Riordan’s Olympian and Egyptian god series, Marie Phillips’ Gods Behaving Badly, and Christopher Moore’s Lamb). American Gods stands out among all these books – dark, gritty, and in so many ways, epic.
Also a wonderful musical, Wicked tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. What I love most about the book is that it doesn’t just rehash the Wizard story from the Wicked Witch’s perspective. Gregory Maguire actually revamps the entire world of Oz, giving the Wicked Witch an entire back story with friendship, politics and romance. Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) is unfortunately born with green skin and a water allergy. She grows up to be a political activist, fighting for the rights of intelligent animals against the tyrant wizard of Oz. In Maguire’s book, it’s Elphaba’s political activism that makes the wizard target her. Maguire includes scenes from Wizard, but in such a completely re-imagined way that it seems like a completely different story.
Black Order, James Rollins
My sister introduced me to James Rollins a couple of years ago, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Black Order is the third book in the Sigma Force series, which follows a team of highly skilled Special Forces operatives with expertise in two or more scientific fields. In Black Order, a Nepal monastery shows signs of a mysterious illness when Buddhist monks inexplicably turn to cannibalism and torture. Sigma Force director Painter Crowe begins showing the same symptoms, and the rest of the Sigma team discover a Nazi quantum measuring device that controls evolution.
Rollins devotes several months a year to research, and his attention to detail, especially with scientific principles and historical accuracy, make his already exciting action/adventure plot even more thrilling. Black Order, for example, deals with theories of evolution, and the legend of Die Glocke (The Bell), a purported Nazi anti-gravity weapon first described by a Polish journalist and then later written about in a book by Nick Cook.
Cast your votes for Harper Collins Canada March Madness here: http://hccmarchmadness.ca