Thanks to all of you for your emails letting me know what a great job my staff did while I was on vacation. I received so many email that I haven’t had a chance to respond to everyone yet.

I had a wonderful trip visiting family, traveling to Prescott, AZ, Albuquerque NM, Washington, DC, Sparta, NJ, then back to Albuquerque. Of all the places visited, Sparta, which none of you will have heard of, was by far the most beautiful. Situated on Tomahawk Lake, it is lush, green, and peaceful. Forget any negative stereotypes you have of New Jersey and visit Sparta if ever you get a chance.

Last month Grael Norton, Wheatmark’s director of marketing, posted a blog that included a list from The Telegraph of the “100 novels everyone should read.” I was very happy to see that a book, Under the Net, by my favorite twentieth-century novelist, Iris Murdoch, made the list. It was the first time that I’ve seen one of her books included on such a list. (Oddly enough, of Murdoch’s twenty-six novels, Under the Net was my least favorite.)

Murdoch’s novels have elaborate, sometimes gothic, plots, that keep you turning pages, while dealing with serious themes like morality, good and evil, the unconscious motivations of human action, and the nature of free will. If you’re an aspiring or active novelist, I recommend you read one or more of her books to see what one of the masters of your craft can do. The Unicorn, Henry and Cato, and A Fairly Honorable Defeat are all good first reads.

Unfortunately, in the late ’90s, Murdoch fell victim to Alzheimer’s disease. Her decline and death are chronicled in the book Elegy for Iris by her husband, John Bailey, and in the film of the same name staring Kate Winslet and Judi Dench.

By the way, some of the books on the list of “100 novels everyone should read” I really don’t get. Why is Tristram Shandy by Laurence Stern considered a classic? I slogged through it to the bitter end hoping to find out why, but never did. And, Moby Dick must get interesting at some point, but it didn’t happen in the first chapters, which I’ve read a few times during my various unsuccessful attempts at reading the entire novel.

Who are your favorite novelists? Let me know in the comments!