A week ago Thursday marked the biggest holiday in Chinese culture: the Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year. Each year is associated with one of twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. On Thursday, we transitioned from the Year of the Horse to the Year of the Sheep. (Or Lamb or Ram or Goat, or whatever you want to call it. They’re all the same in Chinese.) When the year you were born in comes back around (as it will every twelve years), it’s an extra special year for you. Chinese superstition says being born in the year of the sheep means bad luck, but apparently that doesn’t preclude becoming a famous author!
So what better way to welcome the Year of the Sheep than by reading the works of some famous authors born in past sheep years? Lists of celebrity sheep are everywhere but I had to do some real digging to find specifically authors, so please check out my list below:
- Jane Austen — born in 1775, Ms. Austin is my earliest example of a Sheep author. Her book Sense and Sensibility was also born (or, rather, published) in a Year of the Sheep, 1811, so I might suggest you start with that one, although she is of course most known for Pride and Prejudice. Or you might want to try one of her slightly less mainstream works, Northanger Abbey, of which DG editor, Julia, is particularly fond for its role as both an example of, and a parody of, the gothic novel.
- Mark Twain — Mark Twain was born in Sheep Year 1835, and is the famous author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He has been called the “father of American Literature” and “author of the Great American Novel.” It is stunning, then, that I as a major bookworm have never actually read any of his works. Perhaps this 15th year of the Sheep since his birth is the ideal time to delve into them then.
- Jane Rule — A Canadian author born in 1931, Jane Rule may not be particularly famous in literary circles, but she is notable for her contributions to queer literature, writing both lesbian-themed novels and non-fiction. her most famous work is called Desert of the Heart, which was later made into a movie called Desert Hearts and became a cult classic, described by the Globe and Mail as “one of the first and most highly regarded works in which a lesbian relationship is depicted favourably.” She became a bit of a spokesperson for the Canadian queer community after the success of her works, although her ideas were sometimes controversial. Other works of hers include This is Not For You, Against the Season, Lesbian Images, and many more.
- R.L. Stine — This well-known author of children’s horror was born in Sheep Year 1943. He is most famous for his Goosebumps novels. Notable titles included The Werewolf in the Living Room and Earth Geeks Must Go! He also wrote a horror series called Fear Street with teenage protagonists. I distinctly remember reading Fear Street Superchiller #9, The New Year’s Party for a thrill as a middle schooler. If these books were a staple of your childhood, maybe the Year of the Sheep is a good time to go back and revisit them.
- Janet Evanovich — Also born in 1943 was author Janet Evanovich, author of the Stephanie Plum series, or as I used to call them, “those books that all have numbers in the titles.” From One for the Money to Top Secret Twenty-One, the readers follow protagonist Stephanie Plum, a down-on-her luck lingerie seller-turned-bounty hunter through mysteries, romantic interludes, and all sorts of ridiculous situations. Ms. Evanovich has also written several spin-off series of the Stephanie Plum books as well as a range of stand-alone romances and several other works. These are the kind of books that get passed around the neighborhood ladies’ unofficial bookclub and get chatted about in between juicy tidbits of real-life gossip. So if you’re looking for something light to share with the girls on ladies’ night out, reading one of these wouldn’t be a bad way to spend your Chinese New Year.
Bonus: Morena Baccarin, — She’s not an author, but I couldn’t resist including her in this list because I know many of you geekettes will recognize this geeky woman from her role as Inara in Joss Whedon’s Firefly. She also appeared recently in a television mini-series adapted from the book The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. It provides the untold story of Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob and sister of Joseph, who receives only a few intriguing lines in the book of Genesis. So if you like historical fiction and/or Biblical retellings, pick up this book and then check out the TV version by Lifetime.
Do you know of any authors I missed born in a year of the sheep? Have we got any sheep readers celebrating a 12th, 24th, 36th, 48th, 60th, 72nd, or 84th birthday this year? Got any other book recommendations appropriate for Chinese New Year? Let us know in the comments below!