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Favorite books

I can tell you about my favorite books and the story can run to more than ten pages. However, to make it short, I selected four of my books, those already dog-eared and have been read countless times.

They are written by four different authors who live in this time. I especially like well written tales, even though fictional, they are till believable and full of facts which are educational.

I can tell that the favorite books have been well researched, and some of the facts are based on true events.

Four of my most favorite books of all time

Here they are, in no particular order of preference:

A Sparrow Falls (one of my favorite books by Wilbur Smith)

I own almost all of Wilbur Smith books about Africa. However, this one takes the cake. This is a story about Mark Anders, a South African sniper who were sent to serve with the Allies to France during the First World War and almost died there. Upon coming back, he discovered that his land, supposed to be inherited from his grandfather had been taken over by a corrupt rich man, Dirk Courtney.

Ironically, Dirk's father, General Sean Courtney, was Mark Ander's commander in the army. Both father and son were estranged because of different moral values. Sean Courtney became Mark's protector and finally employed him to become his assistant.

The story then weaved through the revolt by the white socialist workers influenced by the communist party. Even though the strike was subdued, both good men were greatly traumatized by the incident.

Mark left the civilized world and went into the wilderness. His love for the wildlife eventually led him to be appointed as the first warden of Chaka's Gate, the first South African National Park.

However, this did not come at great cost. General Sean Courtney and his wife ended up being murdered by his own son. Mark Anders managed to get back his land and spent the rest of his life for educating and promoting awareness about the importance of preserving part of nature.

Reading the synopsis above, you probably think it is a serious book and full of tragedy. In a way it is, but it is also full of funny twist and witty dialogs which are very entertaining. The characters are so life-like and the description is so vivid you can almost see them played in your mind. Umm, I also almost to forget to mention that Storm Courtney (Sean Courtney's daughter) became Mark Ander's wife after some bitter sweet events. Their love story itself is a treat on its own.

I recommend it one hundred percent. Otherwise, it would not be listed in my favorite books.

The da Vinci Code (by Dan Brown)

I finished this book in a day and re-read it again the following night! It is such a clever book. So it makes its way into my favorite books list.

Professor Robert Langdon was rudely awakened by the French police from his Ritz Paris hotel room one night. Little did he know he was a suspect of the murder of Jacques Sauniere, the curator of the Louvre museum, also the Grand Master of the Priory of Scion, a secret society supposed to guard the bloodline of Jesus Christ.

In less than two days, the readers are brought to a whirlwind adventure of him as a fugitive and at the same time unraveling the secrets of Mona Lisa, the famed painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

Assisted by delightful Sophie Neveu, he finally cleared his name and brought the true murderer to justice.

Before reading the book, I never fully understood the significance of that mathematical number of Phi, what the meaning of "divine proportion" truly was and how cracking anagrams could tell you answers.

Controversy about the bloodline of Jesus Christ set aside, this is a book that is truly refreshing, which opens your mind and gets you to think.

Once in a while, I would pick up the book and re-read it again, looking for some things that I might miss. The movie made based on the book is not good enough. However, I truly love the last scene when Tom Hanks cut himself by shaving and seeing the blood made him realize something. He followed the rose line and reached the secret place where Mary Magdalene was entombed under the glass pyramid at the Louvre.

favorite books
The pile of my most favorite books

Icon (by Frederick Forsyth)

Russia in 1999. It was a fiction, but a scary one. I love spy stories. Stories about the cold war always attract my attention, especialy those which are well written.

Other spy-related favorite books that I like are written by Tom Clancy. That would take another time to tell.

Do you know that spies are run by spy masters? Spy masters give tasks, determine the dead drop points and use devious ways to recruit the spies. They find weak spots of potential spies andexploit it ruthlessly. All in the name of national security.

In the '70's and 80's a CIA agent Jason Monk recruited four Russian spies to work for the US.They were given code names "Orion the hunter", "Pegasus", "Delphi" and "Lysander". Jason Monk hated the fact that the safety of his agents could be compromised by a mole in CIA itself.

Therefore, he did not submit details of his spies in file 301, which could be accessed by 104 different personnel in the CIA.

And there was a mole and in one shot, the cover of fourteen Russians who worked for the CIA were blown and prosecuted. The KGB had no mercy for traitors.

However, when the upper level of the CIA was replaced, Jason Monk finally had to submit his files. As a result, his four treasured agents were captured. One of them escaped execution but was sent to the gulag instead.

Three years later, agent Lysander who was still alive, managed to smuggle a note to Jason Monk and told him about the horrible situation. Monk resigned from the CIA and swore never to set his foot in Russia or become involved in the game again, ever.

It was the letter to Monk from Lysander that really touched me. Here is an excerpt:

"...When it was over, I prayed for death as I have many time since. There have been many suicides in this camp, but somehow one day I always hoped that if I could hold on, I might one day be free. Not that you would recognize me, nor would Ludmila or my boy Yuri. No hair left, no teeth, not much body and that torn by wounds and fever."

So, back to 1999, Jason Monk left the agency for 20 years. However, his service was sought again by another spymaster. The reason is because, in Russia, a very right wing leader, Igor Komarov, has emerged and appeared to be advocating genocide just like Hitler.

Monk was cleverly blackmailed to come back to the game. This time, he's the one ran the dangerous mission himself.

His mission was completed amidst an attempted coup to topple the Russian government. Patriotic Russians, because of the lack of a competent leader, was persuaded to accept an English prince who has Russian blood as the new Tsar.

This book becomes one of my favorite books because it plays with the emotion. The author is very good in describing scenes that become alive. I read other Forsyth's books before but I cannot recall any of them to warrant becoming my favorite books. This one is the best.

Cryptonomicon (by Neal Stephenson)

I never heard of Neal Stephenson before. I read the book for the lack of other books to read, and I was hooked. It started with a haiku. After finished reading the book, all 1153 pages of it, I now know what a haiku is and also the basic principle of digital computers.

Cryptonomicon refers to the science of cryptology, mainly developed during the war, so that messages could be sent through securely. During the second world war, when the Axis knew that they would lose the war, tonnes of gold were sent out of Japan and Germany by U-boats to the Philippines for safekeeping. Some ended up at the bottom of the sea and some were buried insecret caches in Filipino mountains.

Randy Waterhouse, whose grandfather was one of the pioneers in digital computer, went to the Philippines to set up a telecommunication company. Over there, he stumbled upon the secret of the Japanese gold and the adventure began. His life was in danger because obviously there were other parties who wanted the gold.

This treasure hunt was very interesting and included the story of how the secret gold cache was built by making a dam and an artificial lake. Also the sacrifice and the atrocity to the prisoners of war who were doomed to build it.

The story was also related to his grandfather, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, who was responsible to decipher the secret codes of the Enigma machine (the codes used by the U-boat). He left a chest full of coding books which were finally used by Randy to break the codes to find the location of the buried gold.

A lot of snippets of conversation in this book are really hilarious. All sort of dry and sick humor are involved. There are many lines that I would read over and over again. Do not beintimidated by lines of mathematical equations or UNIX codes. The author was merely illustrating his points. You can skip those without losing understanding about the rest of the book.

One time read is not enough since this is a hefty book. I only get the whole picture after the third read. One thing I can say, this is one of my favorite books that is truly satisfying.

The story spans two generations of determined people, who despite all odds, triumphed in the end. The kind of stories most of us would label as our favorite books.

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