Diane Diekman
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Books I Like

In a lifetime of reading and collecting books, I've often recommended those I like. My current library contains more than 500 books, and here are some that impressed me. An asterisk (*) marks my special favorites.


*Jane Austen -- Pride and Prejudice (1813) -- One of the first romances I ever read, and still a favorite.

*Charlotte Bronte -- Jane Eyre (1847) -- After I told parts of this story to my daughters, they wanted the whole thing. So I read the book as a bedtime story. Then they wanted me to read it again. I said no; it will have to wait until they're old enough to read it themselves. Obviously, this is a story that will never be outdated.

Martin Caidin -- The Final Countdown (1980) -- A novel from the screenplay of one of my favorite movies.

Roy Chanslor -- The Ballad of Cat Ballou (1956) -- A paperback Western about a beautiful outlaw, and the source of one of my favorite movies from my youth.

Winston Churchill -- The Crisis (1901) -- A Civil War novel I read as a teenager.

*Franklin Dixon -- Hardy Boys series -- I kept a list of these books as a child, so I could avoid repetition when checking out books from the library during our weekly trips to town. As an adult, I bought the entire 54-volume series in an updated version (1975).

H.B. Gilmour -- The Electric Horseman (1979) -- A paperback novel from the screenplay of one of my all-time favorite movies.

*Fred Gipson -- Old Yeller (1956) -- I first read this several years ago, from the viewpoint of a writer. It's both a classic tale and an excellently crafted piece of writing.

*Victoria Holt -- Mistress of Mellyn (1960) -- This gothic romance from my youth started an interest in the genre that lasted many years. I read every Victoria Holt book I could find, and this remained the best.

John Jakes -- The Kent Family Chronicles -- This 8-volume set (The Bastard -1974, The Rebels, The Seekers, The Furies, The Titans, The Warriors, The Lawless, The Americans) provided a great lesson in American history. I enjoyed traveling with the Kent family throughout the country from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War.

Louis L'Amour -- The Sacketts series -- How I admire those Sackett men, soft-spoken but tough, winning against all odds. I've collected most of the L'Amour westerns, and will someday get them all read.

Anna Seyton -- Devil Water (1962) -- This started my interest in historical romances and the topic of struggles for the British throne.

*Ernest Tucker -- Dan Morgan, Rifleman (1955) -- This is one of my favorite books from elementary school, a fiction story about a real person. I was excited to find Dan Morgan mentioned in my American history books. It brought history alive. I could feel the betrayal of learning an acquaintance named Benedict Arnold had gone to the other side.


Jeff Bacon -- The Best of Broadside (1992) -- I always looked forward to seeing Broadside cartoons in The Navy Times, and purchased this collection upon publication. Most of it is inside humor; you had to be there to understand it.

Mark Barent -- Rolling Thunder (1989) -- I bought this novel of an Air Force pilot when I ran out of reading material in an airport. I enjoyed it so much I purchased the 5-volume series about Vietnam combat as each new book became available.

Tom Clancy -- The Hunt for Red October (1984) -- I'd still be buying Tom Clancy books if they were this short and interesting.

Tom Clancy -- Red Storm Rising (1986) -- I liked the detail in this story as it covered places I had been.

*Stephen Coonts -- Flight of the Intruder (1986) -- A great story about a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War.

W.E.B. Griffin -- Brotherhood of War series (first 6 of 8 volumes): The Lieutenants (1982), The Captains (1983), The Majors (1983), The Colonels (1983), The Berets (1985), The Generals (1986) -- I learned a lot about Army history and society while following the adventures of these fictional soldiers.

W.E.B. Griffin -- Semper Fi (1986) and Call to Arms (1987) -- Although I bought the entire 7-volume The Corps series, I eventually got bored with the writing style.

*James Webb -- The Sense of Honor (1982) -- When I found this paperback, I was surprised to learn the former secretary of my Navy was a writer. And what a writer! He's now my hero as both a leader and a writer.

*Herman Wouk -- Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978) -- It took me almost a year to read this three-volume set during my military travels. I felt like I'd lost a friend when I finished, and could no longer take Pug Henry's family along on trips.


John Barron -- MIG Pilot (1980) -- I attended a classified presentation during this timeframe and was thrilled to discover Viktor Belenko was the guest speaker.

Gregory Boyington -- Baa Baa Black Sheep (1958) -- The TV show starring Robert Conrad made me a Boyington fan and started my interest in collecting books on the WWII air war in the Pacific.

*Rhonda Cornum -- She Went to War: The Rhonda Cornum Story (1992) -- This Gulf War POW is the epitome of a military leader.

Charles Henderson -- Marine Sniper (1986) -- Impressive story of Carlos Hathcock.

Phil Hirsch, editor -- The Kennedy War Heroes (1962) -- This book was distributed in our neighborhood 40 years ago, probably by Senator McGovern forces. It's a collection of 14 stories about "the fighting men who run the U.S." It includes JFK's PT-109 experience and McGovern's emergency landing of his Dakota Queen B-24 bomber.

*Richard Marcinko -- Rogue Warrior (1992) -- I enjoyed reading about this SEAL and his experiences.

Bill Mauldin -- Up Front (1945) -- I've always liked the Willie and Joe cartoons. It feels like holding history in my hands to read this decades-old book I found at a garage sale.  I visited Bill Mauldin in the nursing home shortly before his death.

John McCain -- Faith of my Fathers (1999) -- A true leader and one of my heroes.

Colin Powell -- My American Journey (1995) -- Excellent autobiography of a military leader.

Ernie Pyle -- Here Is Your War (1943) -- Words fail me in trying to describe the writings of this famous World War II correspondent, especially knowing he was killed at Okinawa before war's end.

*Saburo Sakai -- Samurai! (1957) -- I bought the Classics of Naval Literature volume (1991) after reading a library copy. The top-surviving Zero naval ace of WWII, Sakai had realistic and controversial opinions of Japan's role in the war. I visited him in his Tokyo home and hosted him during a visit to NAF Atsugi. This book shows that combat warriors on both sides have the same thoughts and concerns. They worry about their families and complain about their leadership.

*E.B. Sledge -- With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa (1981) -- I discovered this wonderful book in the Classics of Naval Literature series published by the Naval Institute Press in 1996. Combining the combat perspective of a PFC in the Marine Corps with the writing talent of his later years makes this book possibly the best ever written by an enlisted man fighting a war. It filled me with admiration and awe.

*Robert Timberg -- The Nightingales's Song (1995) -- I bought this book after I read it. It's a well-written and objective account of five Naval Academy graduates who worked for the nightingale-like President Reagan.

Darrel Whitcomb -- The Rescue of Bat 21 (1998) -- An eye-opening and well-told description of U.S. military coordination problems in the latter years of the Vietnam War.


Robert Amerson -- From the Hidewood (1996) -- This memoir describes life in my neighborhood a generation before I was born. It uses a unique fictional viewpoint technique, and the story took place two miles from the setting of my Hidewood memoir.

Bill Anderson -- "I Hope You're Living As High On the Hog As the Pig You Turned Out To Be" (1993) -- He sent me this book, along with Whisperin' Bill: An Autobiography, to help me in writing Faron Young's biography.  It contains hilarious stories about life as a country music entertainer.

A. Scott Berg -- Lindbergh (1998) -- I can see why this book won a Pulitzer Prize. Although it's too long and contains too much detail for my taste, it's a model of good biography writing--well-researched and objective. The author maintains his distance. I especially liked the way he wrapped the end back to the beginning. At a writers' conference I listened to Scott Berg describe his quest to make Anne Morrow Lindbergh's acquaintance, and it motivated me to get started. He encouraged me to pursue my dream of being Faron Young's biographer.

Daniel Cooper -- Lefty Frizzell: The Honky-tonk Life of Country Music's Greatest Singer (1995) -- A well-written biography of a great singer who lacked a good manager.

Colin Escott -- Hank Williams: The Biography (1994) -- This is a good example of how to write a biography, especially when so much has already been written about this legendary singer/songwriter and unhappy man.

Ralph Emery -- The View From Nashville (1998) -- Entertaining stories about various country music personalities.

Ralph Emery -- 50 Years Down a Country Road (2000) -- More entertaining stories about country music personalities.  He sent me this book to help me in writing Faron Young's biography.

Homer Hickam, Jr. -- Rocket Boys (1998) -- This memoir draws the reader into the dreams of a teenage boy in the West Virginia coal country.

Jan Howard -- Sunshine and Shadow: An Autobiography (1987) -- She is one tough and admirable woman.  Jan Howard overcame many hurdles in her personal life before and during her years as a country music star.  She wrote this book herself, without a ghostwriter, which shows one more aspect of her numerous talents and capabilities.

Loretta Lynn -- Still Woman Enough (2002) -- This book is like sitting at the kitchen table while Loretta tells the amazing story of her life and marriage.

Betty MacDonald -- The Egg and I (1945) -- This is the story of the real Ma and Pa Kettle. After watching all the movies with my daughters, I bought this book so we could learn where the stories came from. The author amazed me with her sense of humor. My 10-year-old commented on the unexpected twists that often changed a sentence into something totally hilarious.

Barbara Mandrell -- Get to the Heart: My Story (1990) -- Her description of recovering from a serious automobile mishap should offer understanding to families of severely injured individuals.

Dr. Jerri Nielsen -- Ice Bound (2001) -- Vivid story of "wintering over" in Antarctica, written by the doctor who was airlifted out because of cancer.

Charley Pride -- Pride: The Charley Pride Story (1994) -- An enjoyable autobiography of one of my favorite singers.

Tanya Tucker -- Nickel Dreams (1997) -- Her feisty personality comes through in this autobiography.

Peggy Vincent -- Baby Catcher (2002) -- I hesitated to buy this book because childbirth stories hold no interest for me. But Peggy and I belong to the same writers' critique group, and I know what a good writer she is. After reading this book, I feel like becoming a crusader for expectant parents to choose their childbirth method and for insurance plans to encourage midwifery. This is much more than a "pregnant women" book. It offers the suspense of a lawsuit and an education in medical care and insurance practices. I highly recommend it.

*Laura Ingalls Wilder -- Little House series (8 books) - I grew up with these books, and Laura became my role model when I decided to write about my South Dakota childhood. Upon learning that she published her first book at age 65 (Little House in the Big Woods in 1932), I knew there was hope for me.


Frank Bettger -- How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling (1947) -- A friend gave me this book, and I reread it as soon as I finished the first reading. It contains great advice on selling yourself as well as your product, and it's a lesson in how to treat people in general.

William Brohaugh -- Write Tight (1993) -- One of the first writing books I purchased. It's an enjoyable read and full of good advice.

John Erickson -- Panhandle Cowboy (1980) -- Humorous stories of modern cowboy life.

John Fuller -- The Ghost of Flight 401 (1976) -- Astonishing story of the aftermath of a 1972 airliner crash in the Florida Everglades. 

Philip Gerard -- Creative Nonfiction (1996) -- This book should be read by the many writers who think creative nonfiction means being creative with the truth. Gerard says, "The hardest part of writing creative nonfiction is that you're stuck with what really happened--you can't make it up." Creative nonfiction has an apparent subject and a deeper subject. It's timeless, tells a good story, includes the author's reflection, and uses elegant writing.

Michael Holmes -- King Arthur, Military History (1996) -- As a fan of Arthurian literature, I enjoyed this look at the historical evidence of a real Arthur.

Robert T. Kiyosaki -- Rich Dad, Poor Dad (1997) -- What I learned in this book changed my attitude toward finances and is changing my life. Wealth is based upon how long you can exist without getting a paycheck, not on how big a paycheck you receive. I've changed my thinking from middle class to that of a rich person. And in a few years my financial statement will be that of a rich person, too.

Levinson/Frishman/Larsen -- Guerrilla Marketing for Writers (2001) -- This book gave me the idea to post a list of favorite books on my web site.

*Susan Page -- The Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book (1997) -- I used this book to write a proposal for the biography of Faron Young.  As well as giving an excellent guide for proposal writing, Ms. Page offers much easy-to-follow advice for authors who want to learn about publishing and marketing their books.

Leonard Shlain -- The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (1998) -- Although I haven't verified the historical accuracy of this book, it's an eye-opening description of the appalling treatment of women throughout the centuries. An intriguing theory, too, that women are treated better in cultures that don't rely on written language.

James Stewart -- Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction (1998) -- Great advice and examples for writers who want to turn people's experiences and lives into riveting stories.

*Deborah Tannen -- You Just Don't Understand (1990) -- These descriptions of the differences between male/female communication styles are valuable to improving relationships with family and coworkers.

*Martha Welch, M.D. -- Holding Time (1988) -- This book changed the way I disciplined my daughters. I started holding them while they worked through their tantrums and anger spells. I highly recommend this book to all parents of young children.

--List prepared by Diane Diekman