Tag Archives: books

10 Books That Moved Me

Stuart Turnbull, a frequent contributor to FiftyWordStories.com, challenged me on Twitter to share 10 books that “moved me”. My list, in some ways, may feel like a bit of a cop-out because I basically took the 10 most moving books from my Best Novels page. But these novels made it onto that page for a reason!

I’ve put these into some sort of order, but catch me on a different day and I might order them differently!

Here goes:

10. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hunchback is the novel that taught me about tragedy (in the artistic sense). It isn’t the first tragic story I ever read, but it’s the first one that really got me invested in its incredible emotional swings from sadness to joy, triumph to defeat, and loss to hope.

9. A Scanner Darkly

Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel about the surreal life and twisted reality of drug addiction invoked real sympathy in me for the characters, and for their far too numerous real-life counterparts.

8. The Power of One

It’s difficult to pinpoint what was so significant about this novel to me, but whenever I think of it I feel a kind of wide-open longing to find my place in the world, to achieve something with meaning.

7. Lord of the Flies

Nooooo! Piggy! :(

6. To Kill a Mockingbird

It’s a classic, with all of the ingredients needed to get the reader emotionally invested not only in the characters, but also in the book’s broader social themes.

5. The Great Gatsby

Part romantic tragedy, part diatribe against excess and consumerism. I only read this a few years ago, but it definitely moved me.

4. Of Mice and Men

I was hooked by the waning hope and tragic inevitability of the two main characters’ journey. Lennie Small is one of the most sympathetic characters I’ve ever come across.

3. Les Miserables

Victor Hugo’s masterpiece takes us along on Jean Valjean’s incredible journey to redemption. It’s packed with emotion. And historical essays!

2. Grapes of Wrath

The final scene of this novel may be the most impactful, moving scene I’ve ever read.

1. All Quiet on the Western Front

Everything about this novel is incredibly moving. If you haven’t read it, you definitely should, in order to redefine your understanding of World War I, and war in general.

Those are the 10 books that I think have had the great emotional impact on me. Would anyone else like to share their top 3?


Some Goals

I’ve never been one for formal “resolutions” heading into a new year, but there are definitely some things I would like to accomplish in 2014. It’s always a little easier to be motivated to do something if you’ve told other people you want to do it, so here goes.

In 2014, I want to:

  • Watch less TV.
  • Spend less time on my phone at home.
  • Catalogue my book collection.
  • Read more books (at least one novel per month?).
  • Release the third volume of 50-word stories.
  • Release at least one Special People novel in print.

I even have some ideas for practical ways to make a couple of these happen.

I’m going to stop carrying my phone around in my pocket when I’m at home; it can sit somewhere in the middle of the house with the ringer on in case I get a call. That should reduce the temptation to pull it out and check Twitter or whatever every five minutes.

I think I’m also going to make a “reading plan” of novels I’m going to read, in conjunction with cataloguing my book collection. That will help me have defined reading goals for the year.

We’ll see how it all turns out!

An Update on This; an Update on That

Boy, it’s been a while since I wrote a blog post. I haven’t felt the need to post any “life updates”, because Larissa has been doing such a great job of that over on her blog (a far better job than I could hope to do, in fact). She posts all kinds of photos and everything!

On the writing front, my output has obviously decreased significantly since the first half of 2012, so I haven’t had much to update there, either. I’m still putting out a chapter each week for Special People, though I took a break over Christmas, but any SP-related news items that come up get posted on that site, not here. (You should probably follow along over there, by the way. There’s been more progress on the comic project lately, and the current storyline is approaching its finale sequence.) I hope to put a few more interactive opportunities out there for people to get involved with soon, as well.

The Year of Stories is still on indefinite hiatus, and my Lucas Galloway novel is still somewhat in limbo. I don’t have the time or creative energy available to me right now to work on multiple projects at once, so in order for me to return to either of those I think I’m going to have to take a break for Special People, which is perhaps something I’ll do while the comic is posting, whenever that happens to be.

Something I really should get around to doing soon is compiling 50-Word Stories: Volume Three. All of the material exists on the site already, and I have the cover art, etc., so I just need to choose which stories to include, put the cover and some sort of essay together, and release it. I’ve been putting it off far too long, and it’s about time it went on my actual To-Do List. If I haven’t gotten it done by mid-February, someone give my a kick!

Beyond all of these things, life rolls on. I finished Volume 1 of Don Quixote last week, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I want to wait until I’ve read Volume 2 before adding it to my 50 Best Novels list; I’ve heard that the second volume takes on a somewhat different tone than the first, and I think that may affect how highly I rank it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it land in the top 10 eventually, though.

There are plenty more books out there, including several on my shelves, that I’d like to get around to reading, and I’m going to try to share a few thoughts on them as I finish each one, if for no other reason than to make better use of this space, so that it doesn’t sit quite so idle, and also to get my brain and fingers used to more frequent writing again.

P.S. Hockey is back! Hooray!

Answers #3 – One Source of Entertainment Forever

Today’s question is from Josh Merrick, who asks

If you could only have one source of entertainment for the rest of your life–like one TV show, or song, or book, or podcast, or whatever–what would it be and why?

I expect my answer to this question would probably vary quite a bit depending on when you asked me. My interests tend to come in waves.

My knee-jerk response would probably be the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I absolutely love Tolkien’s world-building and imagination, and the books contain a bit of everything: there’s action, romance, singing, and even a bit of comedy. True, I’ve already read the trilogy about seven times, but there are always plenty of little details that I’ve forgotten, and hints at the broader history of things that I can sit back and marvel at or wonder about. If I was allowed to include The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, that would make it almost a no-brainer.

If I was aiming purely at amusement, something to help me pass the time when I had nothing else to occupy me, the full catalogue of Whose Line is it Anyways? (the American version) would probably serve me well. Larissa and I have actually been watching through the seasons of Whose Line? over the past month or so. We’re partway through Season 3 right now, with hundreds and hundreds more episodes to go, and it isn’t getting any less funny! I really wish this show was still on the air.

Ultimately, though, what I’d prefer even more than a book series or a TV show would be ready access to any kind of word processor, or at least pen and paper. I can keep myself pretty well entertained by taking things from inside my own imagination and putting them down on screen or paper, especially if I think there’s potential that someone else might want to read my ideas. I guess that’s why I’ve been doing so much writing lately!

Thanks for the question, Josh.

Have a question of your own that you’d like to see me answer? Leave a comment or get in touch with me on Twitter.

Answers #1 – Why Write?

I’m going to try out a Q&A feature on my blog. For now, I’ll mostly be soliciting questions via social media (see the top of the sidebar for links), but you can also email me (tsevenhuysen@gmail.com) if there’s something you’d really like to know about my writing, my family, my opinions, or any other aspect of my life.


Sean Riley asked me:

Why write?

Wow. What a great, big question. Why do I write? I’m not entirely sure I know. But I’ll try to give some semblance of an answer.

The Answer

Sitting back and thinking about it, I think there are three main reasons why I write. Here they are:

1) I write because I have a need to create.

Ideas pop into my head whether I’m looking for them or not, a lot of the time. I can either let them bounce around for a while until they find their way out my ear and get carried off by the wind, or I can try to put them down on paper or a screen somewhere. I have a drive to create, an urge of some sort, that pushes me to do something with my ideas.

But writing my ideas down wouldn’t mean a whole lot if no one read them, which is why I have reason 2:

2) I write because it’s rewarding.

Any time someone reads a story I’ve written, whether they give me feedback or not, whether they even like it or not, I find it really rewarding. It’s hard to pin down why. Maybe it’s some sense of the reader investing their time in me or showing appreciation for the effort I put into creating that story. Maybe it’s a validation of my creative urge.

Having my stories read makes me feel valued. It even allows me to feel like I’m making a difference in someone’s life, whether that difference is significant or not. It’s wonderfully empowering to know that your words are winding their way through someone else’s brain, especially when I think of all the great experiences I’ve had reading things that other people have written. And that brings me to my third, and maybe most important, reason for writing, which is:

3) I write because I read.

Fiction has been one of the most influential mediums in my life. I’ve read fiction pretty much constantly since I was a kid. Many of my fondest memories are tied to books, or experiences related to books. I remember a kids’ book about a mouse and a ripe, red strawberry, I remember the Berenstain Bears, I remember the Land of Barely There. I remember going to see a play in a local theatre based on The Hobbit, and then finding The Fellowship of the Ring in the class library in Grade 4, devouring it, and hunting forever to find the rest of the series to read. I remember getting Ender’s Game for free at a book exchange during a camping trip and reading it in three-and-a-half hours with literally one single break to go to the bathroom.

I remember The Grapes of Wrath teaching me about tragedy.
I remember Gulliver’s Travels teaching me about satire.
I remember The Life of Pi teaching me about metaphor.
I remember Les Miserables completely reformulating my concept of literature.

The more I read, the more I learn, and the more my life feels enriched. I only first read some of these incredibly influential books in the past couple of years, and I hope to have my life changed in many more ways by the fiction I continue to discover.

I write because I want to be a part of this process. I don’t anticipate that my fiction will ever do for someone what Les Mis or Grapes of Wrath did for me, but maybe by writing I can somehow help those classics to live on, in some small way.

I hope this goes part of the way to answering your question, Sean.

And if anyone wants to get started on enriching their lives through reading, look no further than my 50 Best Books list!

New Books: How Should I Sort Them?

I have some serious sorting to do.

So I own some books. Well, ok: “some” is being a bit conservative. I own a lot of books. Most of them are fiction, with some nonfiction that’s mostly sociological. I added to my collection a bit the other day, picking up The Great Gatsby, Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel (author of Life of Pi, which is currently among the top 5 books I own), a nice hardcover edition of Ender’s Game, a big, beautiful, hardcover, illustrated edition of The Divine Comedy (mostly for display purposes), and another big, beautiful, hardcover, $5 Brönte sisters collection. (Something interesting that I only realized the next day is that Beatrice and Virgil are Dante’s two guides during The Divine Comedy, so it’s a neat little coincidence that I bought those two books together without being aware of the connection.)

In order to sort and display my books, I have three shelves, one large, one medium, and one small. They can be seen below.

Until yesterday, I was using the small shelf for my movies and video games, and they all fit pretty neatly. But I realized that I had some built-in shelf space that was being wasted by some old phone books, shoes, and odds and ends. So I cleared that stuff out and found better places for it, then moved my games and movies over. I also moved some stuff out of the bottom compartments of my large shelf and put it in the closet.

These moves left me with quite a bit more shelf space for my books, and that’s where my dilemma comes from.

Previously, I had my books organized into two groups: speculative fiction (fantasy and sci-fi) went on the medium shelf, while everything else went on the large shelf. But now I have three shelves instead of two! So which books do I put on the small, prominent shelf? I think I’m pretty much set on putting the spec fic in the medium shelf, because it fits well there, and the large shelf will end up holding whatever’s left over after I sort things into the small and medium shelf, so it all depends on what goes in the small shelf.

A couple options I’ve thought of are to make the small shelf hold my Nonfiction, a couple of series or collections (Tom Clancy, JRR Tolkien, Orson Scott Card, Terry Pratchett, etc.), my Top 50, or just a handful of my “prettiest” books, like the old leather-bound “Children’s Classic” series you can see in the above photo.

Help me, please! Also, I have more room now, so send more books!

50 Best Books

I made a list of the 50 books I would most recommend from my own collection. The list only includes books that I both own and have read.

I posted the list as a page, because I intend to update it periodically as my opinions change and as I read more books from my collection.

Feel free to share your opinions about what you’ve read, what you’d recommend, and what you think I should read that might find its way onto this list!