I didn’t read my first novel until I was 17 years old. It was Lord’s Foul Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson. The first book of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson rocked my world. I ended up reading both original trilogies that year and was enthralled by the anti-hero Thomas Covenant who had turned The Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia fantasy archetypes on its head. I had a friend who recommended those books to me and we would have long, thoughtful discussions after I read each novel in the series.
In my early to mid-twenties, I worked at a couple of mom-and-pop bookstores as well as Borders Books. Since I attended only one year of college, the bookstores became my undergraduate and graduate courses in contemporary fiction. I discovered authors like Jorge Amado, Paul Auster, Greg Bear, Octavia Butler, Charles de Lint, Dean Koontz, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Ishmael Reed, and Kim Stanley Robinson. I became fascinated when readers would come into the store to buy multiple copies of novels like The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, and Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden for their book clubs. They would have these great discussions and I felt connected to them even though I had not read those novels.
My first recommendation of a novel was The Little Country by Charles DeLint. I had recommended that book to probably every customer that came into the fiction section of Borders. I sold the most copies of that book for several months in a row and it delighted me greatly. People would come back to the store and tell me how much they enjoyed reading that novel. They would have never read a fantasy novel until my recommendation. Again, I felt that connection and a little closer to humanity as a whole.
I’ve been a book review blogger since 2011 and have reviewed over 160 novels to date on my website. I wanted to write a book and compile my most popular reviews. I’m an advocate of reading fiction across genres from science fiction and fantasy to mystery and literary fiction. I believe reading is the cheapest and easiest passport I can get to another world.
Now that I’m in my late forties, I’ve looked back on those years and recognized that reading fiction has been the saving grace in my life. It has made me compassionate, empathetic, and given me a different outlook on life.
Here are my favorite 25 reads since becoming a book review blogger. I hope you discover something to read from my favorites and it takes you down a reading path that was unexpected.
Home is the Sailor by Jorge Amado
I’ve read a lot of magical realism novels throughout my reading life. From One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez to The House of Spirits and Eva Luna by Isabel Allende to Constancia and Other Stories by Carlos Fuentes and The Notebooks of Don Rigobero by Mario Vargas Llosa. However, I particularly connected with the novels of the late Brazilian novelist Jorge Amado. From his most well-known words of Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands and Gabriela, Clove, Cinnamon to lesser known words like Tieta, Tereza Batista: Home From the Wars, and The War of the Saints, Amado became my favorite Latin American Writer. Home is the Sailor is my favorite Amado novel.
Home Is The Sailor tells the story of Captain Vasco Moscoso de Aragao who comes to retire in the Brazilian beach town of Periperi.
Once he arrives, the sea captain captures the community with tales of his great adventures at sea, romances with numerous women, and prowess as leader of one of Brazil’s great ships.
However, the town’s resident storyteller and gossiper, Chico Pacheco, believes the sailor has been lying about his status as a captain and sets out to prove his tales are nothing but a figment of his wild and hyperactive imagination.
As the story unfolds for the reader, you begin to see his colorful and interesting life reveal the truth about his status as a captain.
If you have never read a Jorge Amado novel before, I highly recommend Home is the Sailor as an introduction to his works. Even though this novel is considered a minor work in his bibliography, Amado deals with a major theme in a colorful, playful, lusty way that will put a smile on your face and make you laugh out loud as you are reading it.
I read this novel about twenty years ago (when I was in my twenties) and re-read it a few years ago. I enjoyed it the second time as much as I did reading the novel previously. Home is the Sailor has made my top five novels list and I will enthusiastically recommend it to anyone as such.