Mystery writer Sara Paretsky, author most recently of Total Recall (Delacorte Press, $26), the 11th novel in the V.I. Warshawski series, chooses six of her favorite books.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Puffin, $7). This was my favorite book as a child. I read it every time I was home sick, wishing I had sisters and a warm, compassionate set of parents. I hated finding out the story behind Alcott’s life, although it confirms my belief that we often write about the world we wish to inhabit rather than the one we do inhabit.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Penguin USA, $7). I know it’s not most people’s favorite, but the structure in this novel is perfect-and unlike most readers, I find Fanny Price and her struggles quite compelling.
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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Everyman’s Library, $20). My favorite coming-of-age novel. The portrait of the artist as a young woman; the heroine who chooses her own path rather than having it chosen for her-these qualities appear again in later heroines, but Bronte was the first to present them in a significant novel.
Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham (out of print). I have a lot of favorite mysteries, but this one is a wonderfully constructed thriller. The smoke is the London fog, where a ruthless killer is stalking a family, for reasons both awful and compelling. Allingham has an amazing capacity for portraying the mind of the killer, and an equal capacity for compassion that never becomes maudlin.
The Poison Oracle by Peter Dickinson (out of print). Dickinson is my favorite contemporary crime writer. All of his books are arresting in construction and subject, and brilliant in their development of character. In this one, the use of a chimpanzee to solve the crime is set against the background of a wealthy oil sheikh in the middle of whose desert lands lives a shadowy African tribe. The issues of language and communication make this a tour de force.
A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell (Algonquin Books, $22). This book is my favorite recent novel-a haunting fable, a Holocaust novel that teaches, strengthens, and is so moving that each time I read it I have to start over again from the beginning. Only after I’ve read it through three times can I bring myself to put it down again.
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