The Avid Reader
Photograph Luisa Porter
Retired three years from Mississippi State University where she taught literature, composition and served as associate dean for the College of Education, Sue Minchew’s days are filled with political intrigue, espionage and crime-fighting — or at least her books are.
Minchew credits her mother, who had a flair for dramatic recitation, for her love of reading. Robinson Crusoe, Black Beauty and Little Women standout as childhood favorites, while William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury was a favorite to teach.
Converting students into readers was the most rewarding part of teaching says Minchew. She once taught a freshman extra-credit literature class at MSU, choosing sports as its theme. The class allowed only 35 students, 120 tried to sign up. One student told her The Natural was the first book he’d ever finished. “Teachers who say they can’t get kids to read just haven’t tried the right topic,” she says.
It is apparent that Minchew inherited her mother’s penchant for reading aloud, for she has spent many a road trip reading to her husband Doug. “I give her the privilege of reading to me,” Doug says with a smirk. The two met when she was 12. He taught her to dance, and it’s still one of their favorite things to do together. That, and read, of course. If a book is not finished by the time they reach their destination, it is not uncommon for them to remain in the car or find a quiet place to sit and finish, putting off unpacking or sleeping, no matter the hour, no matter the risk of sunburn.
Minchew is a firm advocate for reading a book series in chronological order. For our purposes, she has chosen her five favorite installments from within her favorite series.
1. Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva — Daniel Silva’s background as a journalist covering the Middle East has proven to be a fertile source for stories filled with international political intrigue so realistic he’s been called in to consult for the U.S. government. Silva’s main character is art restorer and sometime Israeli secret agent, Gabriel Allon.
2. The Affair by Lee Child — Series protagonist Jack Reacher certainly meets Minchew’s requirement for complex, well-drawn characters. Set in Carter Crossing, Miss., The Affair is not the first book in the series, but it does offer readers Reacher’s backstory as it is a prequel set six months prior to the events in his first book, Killing Floor.
3. Stone Cold by David Baldacci — This series details the exploits of the mysterious Camel Club, a group of government watchdogs led by main character John Carr, aka Oliver Stone.
4. Storm Prey by John Sandford — Storm Prey is the 20th book in this series about the charismatic maverick detective Lucas Davenport. Davenport is the creation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp, for who Sandford is a pseudonym.
5. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson — Stieg Larsson was a Swedish journalist and writer whose own short life was just as intriguing as that of his cult-inspiring heroine, Lisbeth Salander. Minchew says reading the posthumously-published Millenium Trilogy in order is a must. “And for once, the movie was really close to the book. The actress who portrayed Lisbeth was just as I imagined she would be … she should have won an Oscar. … It’s really sad that Larsson didn’t live to write more about Lisbeth.”