Guide to Literary Agents welcomes
guest blogger Barbara Poelle, literary
agent for Irene Goodman Literary
The topic: Her favorite books on the bookshelf and why they excite her as a reader. Read on to hear more and then share your "top 7" in the comments section of this post.
"Even as a wee Barbara I was a voracious reader, and my love affair with narratives and plotlines and settings and characters has only deepened and turned more maniacal the older I get. However there are only 7 dog-eared, cover worn, Doritos-stained books that I consider my dearest loves, who truly pulled off something outstanding in their genre. The kind of books I would get into a bar fight with, sing drunken karaoke for, or bat my eyes shyly at over a candlit table for two. These titles make me wish I could sustain some sort of head injury and forget their plot points after reading so I could read them for the first time all over again. As it is, I mostly rotate them through every two years so that I can lose myself in their brilliance without needing to throw myself through a plate glass window in order to etch-a-sketch their themes. And they are, in no particular order:
Watchers by Dean Koontz:
The characters in this book are phenomenal. They stray just enough into the field of archetypes so you know what you are getting into without being cookie cutter. And the idea was so unique, so captivating, that it almost didn’t matter what happened as long as you got to watch these characters do it. Who didn’t want Einstein to be their dog? And if you didn’t cry when the Other died you hate Christmas and babies and chocolate. Is it any wonder I married a guy named Travis?
Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
The narrative execution in this is so unbelievable that you will find yourself reading portions out loud even if you are being held at gunpoint during a bank heist. The phrasing and the expert use of perspective lend to a haunting, continuous read, like chewing warm taffy through the entire book. I would lend you mine but entire portions are now scotch taped in and I’m fairly certain that that is peanut butter on page 198.
The Stand by Stephen King
Multiple character plotlines are nearly impossible to pull off, yet this one does it perfectly. These kind of characterizations are unparalleled in any genre, besides perhaps something Russian and heavy. I don’t really need to say anything more about this except m-o-o-n spells brilliant.
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
I judge people as friends by whether or not they have read Anne Lamott and this one is my favorite. Memoir is so difficult sometimes, and the ones who keep it the most honest, the most raw are the true masters of the genre. Lamott carries off her exploration of motherhood with charm, charisma, humor, and true emotion from the first page to the last. The only reason I will have children is so I can enjoy this from a new level.
Ahab’s Wife; or the Stargazer by Sena Jeter Naslund
Historical fiction is just so tough these days unless your last name is Gregory. (She’s pretty fabulous). The market is crowded with concubines, traitors, and waltzes on foreign shores, but this evocative, multifaceted work can stand unique among the Tudors and Howards. I am a huge fan of first lines. HUGE FAN. This one leaves “Call me Ishmeal” in the dust. Do yourself a favor, call in sick tomorrow and read this book. You can thank me for it later.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
I laughed. I cried. I dangled my participle. If you love language, you’ll love this book. A must for anyone in the industry to read.
Guardian Angel by Julie Garwood
Ohh, what? You think I was too hoity-toity to get in a bar fight over a romance novel? This was the first Garwood I read and still is my favorite romance of all time. I mean, come on! The heroine is the hero! Strong women that do things they have to not because they want to, no sniveling, no cowering, women with a job to do and the biscuits to do it. That’s my kind of lady. And the love scenes are hot enough to make me clutch my pearls and yell, “Well, I do declare!”
Now, I bet if you and I were clinking mojitos at Havana Central off Union Square, you could come up with 5 or 6 more titles that I would say yeah yeah, that one too! (Time Traveler’s Wife. Staggeringly unique. The kind of rapier swift plotting that’s as edgy as it is accessible. She’s Come Undone. Are we sure Wally is a man? How can he write his female protagonist with such depth? She is a great character. White Oleander. Ingrid is burned into my mind as one of the truly great antagonists, she didn’t even have to be in the scene for me to know she was the puppetmaster behind it.)
But these 7 above are my true loves, some for decades, some for years, but all forever.
So … who would make up your magnificent 7?"
Barbara Poelle is an agent at Irene Goodman Literary Agency representing a wide range of fiction and non-fiction titles. She is currently accepting queries directed to her attention at firstname.lastname@example.org