Favorite Books

A friend of mine, Bethany Jennings, posed the question of favorite books on Facebook the other day. While I have a running list in my head of favorite movies, I was stumped to think of my favorite books. This bothered me since I consider myself a reader. After much thought I came up with this list:

  • Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
  • Harry Potter by JK Rowling
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell
  • Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
  • Mindhunter by John Douglas
  • The Count of Monte Christo by Alexander Dumas
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  • Fiddler’s Green by A.S. Peterson
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  • Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz
  • All Band of Brothers Books but especially: Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from World War II’s “Band of Brothers” by Don Malarkey, Biggest Brother: The life of Major Dick Winters, the Man Who led the Band of Brothers by Larry Alexander, Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Bothers Tell Their Story by William Guarnere
  • The Lost: The Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelssohn
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  • 3000 Degrees: The True Story of a Deadly Fire and the Men who Fought it by Sean Flynn
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Les Miserable by Victor Hugo
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • With the Old Breed by Eugene B. Sledge
  • The Killing Zone: My life in the Vietnam War by Frederick Downs
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Most books by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
  • The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques
  • The Railway Children and Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
  • Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon

These are books I have either read several times, quoted from, was strongly influenced by, stuck with me, or I learned from. The longer I think about it the more books I want to add. This list is not static, but growing all the time.

And, due to popular demand, some of my favorite books are also:

  • When Skies are Gray by Abby Jones
  • Never Know, Dear by Abby Jones
  • Don’t take my Sun by Abby Jones (Unfinished)
  • Happy Thought by Abby Jones
  • Hero’s Story by Abby Jones
  • Hope’s Journey by Abby Jones (Unfinished)
  • The Cost of Two Hands by Abby Jones
  • The Sparrow and the Star by Abby Jones (Unfinished)
  • The Seventh Son of the Seventh Son by Abby Jones (Unfinished)
  • The Playground Children by Abby Jones (Unfinished)
  • The Texas Cousins Adventure Stories by Abby Jones

 

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Writing Lesson: Angst vs. Agony

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Seal Team 10: Murphy, Dietz, Axe, and Marcus.

Angst and agony are sort of related, but also two very different things. They often remind me of the difference between romance and love. One is a passing feeling and one is an act. Angst is often self-focused, selfish, and fades unless perpetually fed. Agony is something horrible which happens to us. It can be empathized with by others even if they’re not in the situation, even if they’re only an observer. Angst is an emotion. Agony is an act. Twilight is angst. The Time Traveler’s Wife is agony. As much as I love it, the Breakfast Club is angst while 3000 Degrees is agony. Listening to your brother firefighter’s last transmission over the radio knowing it is his last is agony. Agony is Marcus Luttrell’s fellow SEAL, Dietz, shot and killed while Marcus held him. Then, having Murphy scream Marcus’ name, scream for help, when Marcus couldn’t reach him. Agony is looking Axe in the eye as he dies before a grenade blows him apart and flings Marcus off a cliff. That’s agony. Just like love, agony involves an act. Love involves generally gaining something we desire. Agony generally involves the pain of losing something we desire. (This can be used, just like love, to build believable protagonist and antagonists.)

Angst is a sappy, repetitive praise song pleading not for God, but for our emotions to increase. Agony is “it is well with my soul”. Angst is griping because of a mixed up Starbucks order, agony is having your church blown up by a suicide bomber. Angst is feeling misunderstood. Agony is dying on a roman cross. See one isn’t always true. Angst could be just your point of view and a far cry from reality. Agony, real agony, can’t be missed. You’ll know it when you feel it, experience it, hear of it.

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The firefighters who died in a fire on Dec. 3, 1999.

I don’t like angsty things. They tend to annoy me. I do enjoy reading about agony. Agony reminds me to look beyond my relatively easy life and see what’s been sacrificed for me. Agony keeps me thankful, humble, and willing to serve. Agony, either my own, or read about, helps me think about others. It floods me with pity for both the seen and unseen pain of those around me. I have yet to see Angst do that in any way. Angst, from what I’ve seen, shuts people off. It closes them away, trapped by what they think is bad in their life until they can’t see beyond the end of their own nose and their own suffering. Angst makes those who dwell on it more selfish.

It’s not that angst is wrong. It’s no more wrong than romance. What’s wrong is over indulging in them, and making it more important than their far more significant counterparts: Agony and Love.

See, I don’t want Christ to experience angst for my sin any more than I want Him to have a passing romance for me. I want Christ to suffer agony for me, not because I’m a sadist, but because that’s the only way I’m going to be saved. I want Christ to love me, not as a feeling of warm fuzzies, but as an act, a choice.

It may seem like splitting hairs, but as writers it’s very important that we split those hairs and understand the difference. It doesn’t work if you don’t handle the difference between romance and love correctly. It doesn’t work if you mistake angst for agony. Say you have a character who is being belittled, not bullied, just belittled, and another who is tortured. Don’t equate those. Being belittled isn’t the same as being tortured. But, if you know the difference, then you can start having fun. You can have the person who has suffered physical torture overcome that through strength of character and you can have the belittle person cave under the pressure of what he has mistaken for agony. Only when you know the difference can you start having fun mixing things up.

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This can also help you define the difference between heroes and villains. Villains are quite often those who don’t handle agony, angst, love, or romance well. They mistake them, mix them up, give them more weight than they deserve. They never overcome the hurdles thrown at them. Loki has this bit of angst mixed in with him while Thor is more agony based. Loki is the bad-guy and Thor is the good-guy. Loki complains about his adoption, while Thor learns from his mistakes to control his power. In Labyrinth and Legend, the heroines are both wrapped up in angst which leads them to experience some real agony and helps them become the great characters we all love. That’s good storytelling. You can have someone start with love and add in romance. That makes for really powerful stories. Arrange a marriage that turns into true romance. Or maybe have a husband/wife duo that rediscover their romance due to circumstances which have to be faced together. You can have a character suffer agony and then spiral into angst only to suffer a greater agony which pulls them out of the angst and sets them on a path to help others.

Legend

Legend

So much can be done when you see the difference between agony and angst. It keeps you from giving incorrect weight to one or the other. It keeps you from encouraging something which is totally unhealthy—read between the lines here and interject 90% of YA fiction. It gives you more tools in your tool belt for storytelling. It may keep you from writing the next fad, but it will help you write something which will resonate with audiences far longer. Lord of the Rings sold second only to the Bible in the 20th century. If the book had been angst and romance instead of agony and love, do you think it would have echoed through the masses, crossing cultural and linguistical lines? Do you think we, the elect, would be saved if Christ just felt really bad about our sin, kinda stressed out, and really really liked us? Nope. It took death on a cross. It took bearing the wrath of God. It took real agony driven by real love to save sinners.

Agony and angst are different. This is a good thing.

Can you think of other similar, closely aligned concepts often mistaken for one another? Comment below with your thoughts!

Labyrinth

Labyrinth