Peter Gross’ Top 5 Favorite Books

Peter Gross’ Top 5 Favorite Books

By DCE Editorial Thursday, November 12th, 2009
We all love a good story, right? The creators of THE UNWRITTEN certainly do. The series references major and minor works of literature alike. We've traveled across the globe from the India of the British Raj to the Villa Diodati, the Swiss Villa where John Milton penned Paradise Lost and Mary Shelley conceived Frankenstein. We've seen cameos from famous writers (Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling, and Mark Twain) and fictional characters (Frankenstein and a character named Lizzie Hexam, from Charles Dickens' last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend). It's like a literary scavenger hunt. Peter Gross, artist of THE UNWRITTEN has been kind enough to share his Top 5 Favorite Books with us: Last month Mike Carey listed his top 5 favorite books and here I am a month later as the bookend to that piece! Working with Mike on THE UNWRITTEN has resulted in a lot of conversations and emails about great literary classics so it was fun for me to see what a low brow fantasy geek Mike really was underneath all that education and sophistication. I think I look positively worldly in comparison… 1. The Oz books by L. Frank Baum. Ok, I’m cheating right off the bat by mentioning 13 or so books in one fell swoop but I don’t really have a favorite among these (I have a least favorite—the first one, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, because it wasn’t illustrated by the brilliant John R. Neill). I first read these when I was in Catholic school (grades 2 and 3). They were probably the only books in the tiny school library that transported me out of that dreary place. And what I loved most were the drawings. I remembered them long after the stories were forgotten. They were fabulous then and they’re even better now. About 12 years ago there was a set of hardbacks released recreating the original editions and I felt compelled to buy them even though I had no intention of reading them and only a vague recollection of enjoying them back in the day. For some reason I just needed to have them all in a row on a shelf in my house. Then, a couple years later my daughter, Alice was born and from the age of 2 on they became her religion. We’ve read them out loud, listened to them on book tape and collected old Oz toys at the San Diego con. She’s playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on the piano as I write this. Like Claude Chadron with his daughter in next month’s THE UNWRITTEN, (how’s that for a plug!) I bonded with my daughter over a series of books. But happily, we have a better relationship than poor Chadron seems to manage. The more I’ve read them the more convinced I am that Baum was a genius. The books essentially have no plots; they’re more like travelogues through a strange world that he seemed to make up as he was going. It’s a world that can be infuriating to an adult’s logic but is absolutely in sync with a child’s. 2. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. This book is about Winter and New York and the magic of bridges—but mostly it’s about the love of language. I’ve read it numerous times and loved it every time. I recently downloaded an unabridged audiobook to listen to on those long nights when I’m inking pages and my mind is free to roam. Some things are better read than heard… 3: The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. Best time travel book ever. Probably because that isn’t what it’s really about. It’s really about inserting a modern character into the world of 19th century literature and letting him fall into the secret history of the poets and authors of that time. Wait a minute—that sounds vaguely familiar… 4. The Clown by Heinrich Böll. I read this in college and was blown away by the melancholy of lost love and lost hope in post WWII Germany. And the guy can smell cabbage over the phone! This is a great book. 5. Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge. Another melancholy tale of doomed love and a way of life coming to an end. (Come to think of it, Winter’s Tale was about doomed love too.) LaFarge wrote this in the late 1920’s as his master’s thesis in anthropology and it won the Pulitzer Prize for novels in 1930. It’s about a Navajo Indian trying to live traditional way of life in a time when a new civilization is engulfing the old. I loved how unexpected this book was in it’s honesty and uncompromising look at culture clash. It seemed years ahead of it’s time.

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