All time favorites....
The Aubrey-Maturin Series Patrick O'Brien -- I have read the series twice
This may be the best series of books I have ever read. An
unending novel of 20+ books, sequentially told, wonderful
characterization, near accurate history, wonderful moments.
The characters of Stephen and Jack and Diane are as familiar to me as
my family. "Jane Austen in shipspeak" is how i would characterize
them - adventures of an English ship's captain and his ever present
partner, a doctor, during the Napeonic Wars. Jack is as wonderful
at sea as he is abominable on land. Stephen is the opposite
a master spy, - sort of a Don Juan and Pancho Gonzalez, but much
higher art. You learn all about England and its sea faring
abilities during the Napoleonic wars, oftentimes via explanations to
Stephen, who is clueless about all things to do with ships and
sea. If you only read one, maybe "Desolation Island" - the scene
of the two tall ships in a breakneck chase in massive waves and
following seas in a hurricane in the South Atlantic, trading stern and
bow shots is unforgettable. Especially when Jack eventually makes
a lucky shot to dismast the Dutch ship -- 300+ souls disappear in an
instant. Or how about the time Jack fell off the ship in the
middle of the Pacific, and Stephen dived in to rescue him and watch the
ship disappear over the horizon. Or the time in the East Indies
when their ship grounded, destroyed in a storm, was wrecked and they
wound up on an island defending themselves against the natives.
Or Diana, blue-eyed black-haired, driving the post and four at
breakneck speed and Stephen holding his breath the whole time.
Stephen and Diana is priceless literature. Or Jack in a
stockade, and his shipmates surrounding him to prevent the abuse of the
mob. It has shown me what full wonderful lives and adventures
people of "ancient times" experienced, possibly something that we can
never know. One thing about the novels underappreciated is the
absolute authenticity of the language as spoken then, like I said "Jane
Austen" in shipspeak.
"Master and Commander" captured the essense of the characters Stephen
and Jack, but the story is not authentic - the book is better!
The Baroque Trilogy Neal Stephenson -- I have read the series twice
England and Europe in the 17th century. Wonderful stories,
continuity of telling. Isaac Newton, Herschel, Liebniz, all the
wonderful people. Wonderful description of London in the 17th
century. Near 3000 pages of storytelling. Daniel Waterhouse
meets a young Ben Franklin in the beginning. Eliza is a wonderful
character. Following Jack on his occidental adventures is
terrific, especially the Spanish galleon returning from the
Alan Furst novels
Europe in pre WWII. Spy-like novels full of gorgeous period detail.
War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
The Andrei and Pierre discussions are what I remember after all the
years. I read the book twice. Once in the Army, and again
35 years later. I have watched the recent Lifetime War and
Peace presentation. Very Decent. I think they absolutely
got the character Marya! Very impressed with her
Dune Trilogy Frank Herbert
I read this many years and was very taken. Wonder if I still would be.
Poldark Saga Winston Graham Like an epic Jane Austen novel, comparable to Aubrey Maturin, only on the home front.
Erik Larson books Very entertaining
William Boyd Books Any Human Heart, Restless are precious.
Jane Austen Books. I love Jane Austen books. Wonderful dialog
Jane Eyre - probably better than Jane Austen.
Wives and Daughters - Wonderful book, even more wonderful movie production