My Five Fictional Favorites . . . By Victoria Bylin

Quick!  Write down your five favorite novels. Don’t think too long or too hard . . . Just pick the first five titles that come to mind regardless of genre or when you read them. I was surprised at the books that immediately leapt to mind. Some are old; some are new. Either way, each one is special to me.

Here’s what I picked:

Number OneThe Outsider  by Penelope Williamson. This is my go-to book for fictional inspiration. The story opens with a severely wounded gunfighter staggering on to the farm owned by Rachel Yoder and her young son.  Rachel is recently widowed and part of a “Plain” community similar to the Mennonites.  I’ll never forget closing this book at about 3 a.m. and thinking, “I want to write this exact kind of story.” What makes this book so special to me is the mix of faith and rugged realism. Add in Penelope Williamson’s lyrical prose and you have the reason I stayed up half the night to finish it, and why I cried happy tears at the end.

Number Two:  This selection surprised me.  I don’t generally like books set in ancient times, particularly ancient Rome.  Gladiators? No thanks.  A glossary? Call me lazy, but I get tired of looking up strange words.  All that changed when my dental hygienist handed me the first two books in Francine Rivers’ the Mark of the Lions series. Do you know how it is when a dentist or a dental hygienist has you captive? When they”re talking and you want  to say something, but you have stuff in your mouth and can’t respond? My hygienist raved about these stories, then gave me a set of the books.  She

was right. They’re great. I became so involved with the characters that I couldn’t stop reading. Hadassah and Marcus and Artretes came alive for me.

Number Three:  Jane Eyre . . . I’ve loved this story since the made-for-TV movie with Susannah York and George C. Scott.  He was perfect as Rochester–gravelly voiced, arrogant, tortured.  Timothy Dalton is a strong second. He’s a little bit too good looking to match the Rochester in my mind, but that’s more than fine with me. I”ve seen just about every Jane Eyre movie ever made. Some are better than others, but the book trumps all of them.

Number Four:   The Reluctant Prophet series by Nancy Rue is about a woman who leaves her comfortable church and life, buys a Harley and becomes involved with the homeless and prostitutes in the bad part of her affluent town. The Book Club I belong to read the first one and all of us had the same passionate reaction.  These books are lifted us up and challenged us all at the same time.  I have two sets and often loan them out.   It”s also the reason I”ve been working on a contemporary romance with a western flavor.

Number Five: Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion was my favorite childhood book  until I read Gone With the Wind in middle school.  Alec Ramsey and his spirited horse were the stuff of dreams for this city girl, and those stories certainly influenced my decision to write a western as my first-ever ms.  The entire series is wonderful.  It’s full of adventure, courage and friendship and I still love it.

Those are my five fabulous favorites.  How about you?  If you pick five books off the top of your head, which ones come to mind?

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23 thoughts on “My Five Fictional Favorites . . . By Victoria Bylin”


  2. Hi Laurie! We’re all going to get some great book ideas. I’m fascinated by the mix of classics and commercial fiction on your list. “Count of Monte Cristo” is a wonderful story.

  3. Warning: I’m a weird person, but most of you already know that.

    ZORBA THE GREEK, Nikos Kazantzakis (changed my life)
    THE GREEK PASSION, Nikos Kazantzakis
    THE JUNGLE BOOKS, Rudyard Kipling
    OUT OF AFRICA, Isak Dinesen
    THE THORN BIRDS, Coleen McCullough or maybe GONE WITH THE WIND–or EAST OF EDEN–lots of 5th place books come to mind.

    Fun idea for a blog, Vicki

  4. Oh, wow, only five?
    Wind in the Willows (Mr. Toad’s mad ride was the inspiration for Caleb’s automobile in Waiting for Morning)
    Gone With the Wind (the first “adult” book read)
    Little Women (I pretended to be Jo, the writer)
    The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss (Wow, this was romance? What an eyeopener!)
    The Thorn Birds

  5. I have to steal at least one of yours, Vicki. Jane Eyre is my favorite classic of all time. Here’s my list:

    REDEEMING LOVE – Francine Rivers
    THE SECRET – Julie Garwood
    JANE EYRE – Charlotte Bronte
    THE DUKE AND I – Julia Quinn
    THE TEXAN’S WAGER – Jodi Thomas

    Yes, I’ve been a historical romance nerd my entire life. LOL

  6. Hi Vicki — Mine would be everyone of Susan Elizabeth Phillips books… I loved the Chicago Stars series. And then I’d go with Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score and then I think it’d be a few of Linda Lael Miller’s books.

    I don’t read as much as I would like. There’s so many books out there I’d love to try. 🙂

  7. Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner
    The Flame and the Flower by Kathless Woodiwess
    To Tame a Texan’s Heart by Jodi Thomas
    Sky O’Malley by Bertrice Small
    Texas Glory by Lorraine Heath
    Chance of a Lifetime by Jodi Thomas

    These are just a few of the books that have thrilled my heart and kept me up until I finished. There are many many more, too many to list.

  8. I’ll have to do this fast or I’ll trip myself up with second guessing.

    1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    2. A Lantern in her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich
    3. Mischief by Amanda Quick
    4. Matchmaker by Jude Devereaux
    5. Land of Dreams by Cheryl St. John

    I could add one thousand beloved books to this list. But these came to my mind right at the top.

  9. Saving Grace is my favorite Julie Garwood, Karen. I love all her Scottish Laird/English Lass books
    McKenzie’s Mountain is to me the best Linda Howard
    I really loved The Ritual Bath by Faye Kellerman I am still hooked on Rena Lazarus and Peter Decker
    Killing Floor by Lee Child sucked me in and I went on a 16 book rampage with Jack Reacher
    Post Mortem by Patricia Cornwell started me on a Kay Scarpetta spree
    I’ve stuck with Kinsey Milhone and Sue Grafton all these years. I’ve heard W is coming
    I’m a total Regency Romance geek. I just can’t get enough of them and everytime I find one I like, I have to plow through that whole author’s work. Victoria Alexander started me down the fun path a few years ago.

  10. 1. TWICE LOVED-La Veryl Spencer
    2. THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER-Rosemary Rogers
    3. GWTW-Margaret Mitchell
    4. THE SCAPEGOAT-Daphne Du Maurier
    5. MIRROR IMAGE-Sandra Brown

    I have 10 books on my keeper shelf and those are 5 of them.

  11. SO many good books out there! I’m going to make a list from all these books everyone has said are in their top five! LOL
    Here are mine:

    1. To Kill a Mockingbird–Harper Lee
    2. St. Agnes’Stand–Thomas Eidson
    3. Gone With the Wind–Margaret Mitchell
    4. Stormfire–Christine Monson
    5. The Education of Little Tree–Forrest Carter

    To Kill a Mockingbird, I think, is the “great American novel.” Such a masterpiece!

    St. Agnes’ Stand is a unlikely story of how a drifting cowboy and a nun work together to save a small group of orphaned children, and restore each other’s faith along the way.

    Gone With the Wind–this was the first “adult” book I ever read, too–like Margaret. It has always been a part of my life, it seems like–an old friend.

    Stormfire–this is a romance set in Ireland in the early 1700’s. The characters are just phenomenal–lots of gritty reality. Christine Monson was an extremely talented writer. She committed suicide after her husband was killed in a freak accident, so there are only 7 books of hers out there.

    The Education of Little Tree–this one is just wonderful. Seeing the world through the eyes of a Cherokee child who is growing up fast. Be sure you have a box of tissues handy.

  12. Has anyone read
    Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
    A white child kidnapped and raised by Indians for a few years who is returned to his white family and can’t make the transition back to the white world.
    This book I read at a pretty young age and it really changed me. Changed the way I look at the world. Changed how I viewed nature and toughness and comfort….

    Not many books you can say that about.

  13. And The Black Stallion books….all of them…Walter Farley and the way he wrote …. those were the first books I remember reading that…at the end…I thought, “How did he do that? How did he drag me right into a horse race? How did he make a two minute race last for fifteen pages and I could smell the horses and hear the pounding hooves and feel the surging horse and it’s will to win.”

    I try to bring that sensory experience that drags the readers right into the page into my own work and I can feel when it’s working….I hope.

  14. Hello All! What terrific lists! Some titles are famous and familiar and others will go on the “TBR” list.

    Mary, You’re so right about Walter Farley. I wanted to be jockey for the longest time!

    And Charlene — about Susan Elizabeth Phillips. How could I forget “Dream A Little Dream”? It’s one of my all time favorites.

    I’m skimming the posts and thinking, “Oh yeah, that’s a great story!”

  15. Mary, Light in the Forest sounds soooo good. I’m making my list! Ashamed to say it but I never read The Black Stallion books–yes, they are going onto my list too. LOL There was a group of German immigrants who settled near the town of Stillwater, OK back in the early 1800’s. Indians raided and took many of their children. Several years later, the children were rescued. The way one mother found her daughters was to sing the lullabyes she sang to them as children. They recognized the songs, and came to her. They’d been missing for so long they didn’t speak German anymore, but they recognized those songs.

  16. 1. Julia’s Hope-Leisha Kelly
    2. Green Grass of Wyoming-Mary O’Hara
    3. Gone With the Wind–Margaret Mitchell
    4. To Kill a Mockingbird–Harper Lee
    5. Centennial–James Michener

  17. Oh my, so many wonderful books! I read through the whole post before starting my list and I was thinking about the books mentioned, ones I’ve read and others I haven’t, and my list never got beyond the first one I thought of The Virginian by Owen Wister. Then I read the comments and what a wide variety of books on everyones lists. I never read A Light in the Forest but I loved the movie. I need to make a list and head for the Library.

  18. I’m actually reluctant to ever read any Black Stallion books again. What if they’re not as great as I remember?
    What if they’re LAME!!!!!!!!!

    I should give them a try.

  19. Madam Will You Talk by Mary Stewart (actually any of her romantic suspense books)
    Flowers In The Storm by Laura Kinsale
    Nobody’s Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
    And for my last two choices I’m going to cheat and list series
    Elswyth Thane’s Williamsburg series
    Piers Anthony’s Xanth series
    Oh wow, I just realized I left off a bunch of my faves
    Simple Jess by Pam Morsi
    The Barefoot Bride by Rebecca Paisley
    I Do, I Do, I Do by Maggie Osborne
    and so may more….

  20. Oh, Vicki, I must confess I only “saw” The Outsider. Gotta get the book on my list for sure.

    In no particular order:

    To Kill a Mockingbird ~Harper Lee
    Little Women~ Louisa May Alcott
    Centennial~ James Michener
    Island of the Blue Dolphins~ Scott O’Dell
    Bride of the MacHugh-Jan Cox Speas.

    Oh, the memories you just evoked, Vicki. Thanks. xoox

  21. 1. My first favorites were read in high school: Mary O’Hara’s trilogy: MY FRIEND FLICKA, THUNDERHEAD, and GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING. The last was my first introduction to “romance” with sweet first love.
    2. Lydia Bailey by Kenneth Roberts, another book I read in high school. We were assigned to read a historical novel in American History class. I grumbled and grabbed one. This book opened the world of historical fiction for me and was an adventure to read. It has been 50 years. I should go back and reread it to see if it is as good as it was then.
    3. THE PRIZE by Julie Garwood (and all her historical romances). This was the first romance I read and I was about 50 when I picked it up. I fell in love with the genre and read all her historical books in a matter of months.
    4. IMPATIENT WITH DESIRE by Gabrielle Burton. The story from the viewpoint of Tamsen Donner of the infamous Donner Party. Written partly in journal form, it wrung my heart. I didn’t want to finish it because I knew she was going to die and it was like losing a good friend.
    5. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. This was never on our reading list at school. It was written when I was in high school and hadn’t yet received the recognition it deserved. I finally read it this past year and am sorry I waited so long. It will be one I reread and be recommending to everyone who hasn’t yet read it.

    These are in chronological order of when I read them, not what I thought of them. There are so many more. I just remembered THE SOURCE by Michener, THE WOLF AND THE DOVE by Woodiwiss, and…………

    Thanks for bringing back good memories and making me want to do some serious rereading.

  22. 1. Sweet Savage Love -Rosemary Rogers
    2. The Flame & the Flower-Kathleen Woodiwiss
    3. The Wolf & the Dove – Kathleen Woodiwiss
    (These three changed the genre & I was hooked completely. While they may not be “politically correct” nowadays, the epic stories were fabulous!)
    4. The Raging Winds of Heaven – June Lund Shiplett. (This started an incredible series that I still love to this day.
    5. Twice Loved – Lavryl Spencer
    6. Hummingbird – Lavryl Spencer
    (Spencer’s books were all some of the best ever!)

    Ok I picked 6, but this was hard!! LOL

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