Sunday, October 17, 2010

Books of a Lifetime - Meghan from Medieval Bookworm

We are thrilled today to welcome Meghan from Medieval Bookworm to share her Books of a Lifetime. You may recall that Meghan was the winner of the Best Historical Fiction blog as part of the recent BBAW celebrations. We were honoured to be on the shortlist with her.

Don't forget, if you would like to participate by sharing your favourite books, then please email us and we will work out the details. We would love for this to become a historical fiction blogging community event! And Alex has been working her magic again, and we have some fantastic buttons for you to use on your blog too!


There’s never been a time in my life when I was not a reader. My parents read to me when I was little until I turned around and started reading to them myself; I’m sure I loved it from day one. The first book I ever read was called Mickey Mouse and the Magic Peanut, and I went on to read it to a variety of younger classes throughout grade school. Reading started out as an escape, and as I began to discover more genres and authors I realized just what a wonderful world awaited me. I’ve never had a time in my life when I wasn’t reading, no matter how slowly or how little time I had.


I’ve also loved history throughout my life, even though I didn’t actually realize it until I hit college! A few of my favorite books in childhood were historical. For example, I absolutely adored the Dear America series and loved the Royal Diaries spinoff series even more. I didn’t acquire books nearly so frequently as I do these days, so my childhood favorites were read over and over again.

Anne of Green Gables was another that I read so often that I can still remember the entire plot and even a few sentences, though I now haven’t read it in years. I read hardly any of the following books, something I’ve always regretted and intend to remedy someday. Anne remains one of my favorite literary characters.

My last childhood hurrah was really Princess Nevermore by Dian Curtis Regan; it wasn’t historical, but part of the fantasy world was based on medieval history. The coming of age and falling in love of a young princess spoke eloquently to my twelve year old self. I’ve reread this one and it held up surprisingly well, as did its newer sequel.


As a teenager, I first discovered romance novels, as I think many teenage girls do; of course, I stuck to the historical ones and I do to this day. My favorite at the time was Prince Charming by Gaelen Foley; it’s in a made up country, but that just meant Foley could mash together all the good bits and leave out the bad ones. And I loved the idea of an aristocratic girl bandit.

When I was in high school, a few friends introduced me to epic fantasy novels, which weren’t a hard sell with me. I love big sweeping worlds and storylines that feel truly epic. My favorite series is by George R.R. Martin. It’s not finished yet, possibly not even close, but no other series has equaled the adoration I felt towards his first three of the Song of Ice and Fire series. They’re dark, gritty, and based very loosely on the Wars of the Roses. What’s not to love?

My other big favorite fantasy series that I discovered at the time was Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel trilogy. Not only did the series feel beautifully epic, but it featured an absolutely fantastic love story between Phedre and Joscelin, the latter of which is another of my favorite characters ever. I’ve also managed to reread this and loved it equally the second time; Carey has written plenty more since then but not much can stack up to the original for me.

My last big discovery in high school was Stephen King. I was afraid of everything as a child so I never expected to like scary books, but along came a paper in junior year where I decided to read and analyze Carrie and It. It in particular just blew me away. I thought it was unbelievably fantastic; it again had that epic feel and was just creepy enough to keep me up at night.


As an adult, I fell in love with history. Looking back, I see echoes of that everywhere. My favorite fantasy series, mentioned above, are based on medieval Europe, and all of my childhood favorites have historical elements to them. Somehow I never put the pieces together, until I managed to read Sharon Kay Penman at the same time as having a fascinating history class at college. The Sunne in Splendour is a landmark for me; I may not agree with Penman’s interpretation of history any longer, but I can’t deny that it is a powerful, moving, and beautifully written book. She’s absolutely one of my favorite authors.

Combining two of my favorite things is Guy Gavriel Kay, another adulthood discovery, though I seized upon everything he’d written as soon as I could. My favorite is The Lions of al-Rassan, which desperately needs a reread from me; it’s set in a fantastical version of medieval Spain and is both beautifully written and heart-wrenching.

The most recent addition to my absolute favorites list isn’t precisely a historical novel, but still has echoes of it. It’s The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, about a reserved butler who struggles to face his past. It’s a beautiful story of old and new England, of a man who isn’t sure who he is anymore and can’t face who he was. Since I had no idea what to expect, I was just blown away. Ishiguro has become one of my favorite authors for his gorgeous writing and his slow, quiet reveals.

I have many more books I could add to this list, but I’ll leave it here for now or you’ll be here all day!


  1. I just love the books of a lifetime feature -- so many books I've forgotten I loved or new ones I'm unfamiliar with!

    Meghan, I'm very intrigued by your comment "I may not agree with Penman’s interpretation of history any longer..." -- can you elaborate?

  2. I just don't have such a sympathetic view of Richard III after reading so much history on him! He was the topic of my senior honors thesis, so I learned quite a bit, and developed a bit of pessimism as a result. Still love the book though!

  3. I really need to read Guy Gavriel Kay and the Kushiels Dart series!

    Thanks Meghan

    Audra, if you would like to participate just drop us an email!

  4. The Dear America series was a favorite of mine during childhood too!

  5. As a writer of same, I am happy to say--Best Historical Fiction Blog: congratulations!

  6. Meghan, thanks for sharing your favourites with us! The Lions of Al-Rassan is one of those books I've wanted to read for ages.

  7. Sunne in Splendor is a fantastic work of historical fiction.