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Books you long to revisit

When you're in the middle of reading a book you like well enough and intend to finish, but it isn't entirely enthralling you, do you long to go back and re-read books that did enthrall you? I certainly get that way. I seldom actually get around to the re-reading, because there are so many new books I still need to read and discover, but the temptation is strong enough to pull me back to former loves once in a while.

Lately I've particularly wanted to re-read A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, and Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin. (As well as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and, as ever, The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, but those I've read more recently than the first two.) I think what I crave is the grace, romance, and wildflowers of the Forster book; and the crazy magic, the sparkling icy scenery, and the gorgeous vocabulary of the Helprin.

What books do you long to return to?



( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
I always find time to reread my old favorites. Some of the ones I have read approximately seventy billion times:

-- Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg
-- The Hobbit and the LOTR books
-- The Wolf's Hour by Robert R. McCammon
-- The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
-- The first three Shannara books by Terry Brooks
-- The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
-- The Narnia books by C.S. Lewis

Jan. 23rd, 2009 07:02 pm (UTC)
Every time I see that icon I just fall over laughing.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks! ceruleanst made it; go read his comics! They're damned funny too.

Jan. 25th, 2009 05:16 am (UTC)
Yes, that's a great one.
Jan. 25th, 2009 01:20 am (UTC)
Hmm, I haven't read several of these. Will have to look them up!
Jan. 25th, 2009 05:44 am (UTC)
A while ago I re-read some CS Lewis arcana -- the Perelandra trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength). SF -- the first and second books are set on Mars and Venus, respectively. They both show CSL's genius for creating memorable fantasy worlds with a few brush strokes, quite different from Tolkien's unflagging attention to detail, yet equally effective in a quite different way. They also suffer, if that's the word I mean, from his lack of a similar genius in creating memorable characters. As with Narnia, the first time I reread them as an adult I found that I remembered all of the settings vividly, but none of the characters.

The first book, in particular, has become sort of a writer's-writer classic -- most recently (that I'm aware of, anyway) Larry Niven sampled it pretty extensively in Rainbow Mars. The second book must surely have inspired Leonard Wibberley's Encounter Near Venus. (Leonard Wibberley is the guy who wrote, inter alia, The Mouse That Roared.) The Perelandra trilogy is explicitly Christian (as, for that matter, is Encounter Near Venus), but it's much closer to the syncretic vision of Prince Caspian than to the rather more stringent one of The Last Battle. (Suddenly recalled a (C of E) priest of my childhood years, in whose rectory parlor a bunch of us kids used to play -- yes -- Dungeons and Dragons -- declaring indignantly "CS Lewis was a third-rate theologian!" Several of us were quite uncomfortable about that, but as none of us knew a thing about theology, we were in no position to challenge it.)
Jan. 28th, 2009 04:17 pm (UTC)
I actually found the Perelandra trilogy in one paperback volume, in a bookstore in Inverness, Scotland. I keep it mostly because it's a souvenir that way. I've only read the first of the three books. As you say, great premise and setting; can't recall much about the characters.

And I've at least seen the movie version of The Mouse that Roared. My family raised me to be a Peter Sellers fan.
Jan. 26th, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC)
The first one I mentioned, Lord Valentine's Castle, is actually my single favorite book of all time (and that's saying something, considering how many thousands of books I own and read). It's kind of a mix of science fiction and fantasy and is set on an immense world named Majipoor which is far larger than Earth, though much less densely settled.

The Wolf's Hour is quite simply the finest werewolf novel I've ever read, and it takes place in an unusual backdrop: during World War II. The lead character is a spy for the Allies, using his "talents" to do things like go behind enemy lines, go undercover and other interesting tasks. The characters are well done and compelling.

The Long Goodbye is one of the best crime noir books you will ever read, featuring his famous creation Philip Marlowe.

King's Eyes of the Dragon is something unlike anything he'd done before: a fantasy with true "storyteller" elements. I can reread it endlessly and still be swept up in its sense of mystery and magic.

Brooks's Shannara series began with The Sword of Shannara, the first fantasy novel to ever hit the NY Times Bestseller List. It was there for a reason: the story and writing are excellent (although admittedly some elements do owe a lot to Tolkien). The Shannara books now number past fifteen at last count, in multiple series, but the first trilogy still holds a special place for me.

Jan. 28th, 2009 04:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'll definitely have to sample some of these. Been too long since I read King in particular. And I saw Brooks talk at a writers' conference a few years back. His sense of humor and perspective on the Shannara phenomenon was refreshing.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:25 pm (UTC)
Oh, I reread Jonathan Strange within a year of my first read, and I keep wanting to go back to it. It's so lovely and weird.
Jan. 25th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
Indeed. She accomplished something so unusual in it, and haunting.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC)
Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I read it a few weeks ago and I was sad when it was over. I long to return to the world she invented, and am eagerly anticipating the prequel she's working on.
Jan. 25th, 2009 01:23 am (UTC)
Looks interesting! Will have to put it on my list.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC)
I definitely get like that, although more often for me it's because I had a conversation about the book or lent it to a friend, and my interest in it is renewed. Also, I often realize that I've forgotten whole huge chunks of books that I loved (I so need to re-read Strange & Norrell for this reason) and this distresses me and makes me want to flee to them.

Then there are the comfort reads that I go back to because I'm tired or sick or I just need something that I know will work for me, like Till We Have Faces and The Last Unicorn. LOTR, as well, though I tend to pick it up and just read a chapter here or there rather than re-reading the whole thing.
Jan. 25th, 2009 01:28 am (UTC)
I definitely need to re-read Till We Have Faces. I read it twice when I was young, but I think I'd really "get" it now.

And somehow I've never read The Last Unicorn! Must remedy this.
Jan. 25th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
Yeah, I get Till We Have Faces a little more every time i read it, which I seem to do every five years or so. And I think you'd really like The Last Unicorn. It has such a cool lyrical quality to it and such wonderful characters.
Jan. 25th, 2009 05:17 am (UTC)
It's my sister's all-time favorite.

Sodding depressing if you ask me. Gender gap?
Jan. 26th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
I'll give it a try and see what I think. It's actually good to know its tragic nature before I go in. I'm more likely to be forgiving then.

I just ordered this book called 'The Pickpocket's Tale' from Amazon. That won't be depressing, will it? :)
Jan. 27th, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)

No, not at all... At least, I found it pretty uplifting!
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 25th, 2009 01:28 am (UTC)
I've heard she's great fun. Must get around to reading something of hers already!
Jan. 23rd, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC)
Winter's Tale: gods, I love that book. I own four copies on two continents, and keep buying it for people I love.
Jan. 25th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
Hee, you even have an icon! I admire all the Helprin books I've read, but that one really shines.
Jan. 25th, 2009 02:28 am (UTC)
Yes, I am only too aware of the rabid dorkiness required not only to have a Winter's Tale icon, but to actually use it with a Winter's Tale post. Sad, sad.

But hey, if any book I love deserves some pictorial LJ love, it's that one.
Jan. 24th, 2009 02:36 am (UTC)
If I ever need a break from a book I always pick up Hawke's Harbor by S.E. Hinton. It was the first book that she published in 15 years and is fantastic. I can't really explain what makes it so fantastic... it just is. I reread it 3 times in a row once.
Jan. 25th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
That is high praise! I read Rumble Fish a long time ago...she's quite the legend.
Jan. 25th, 2009 01:39 am (UTC)
Out of all her books that was actually the one I disliked the most. I read it in about an hour in middle school.

Taming the Star Runner & That was then, This is Now are my top faves after Hawke's Harbor & The Outsiders.
Jan. 24th, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
George Orwell's 1984 and The Road to Wigan Pier. I know they're depressing, but I really love his writing style.

I almost forgot - Brideshead Revisited, though I'm sure Waugh would be none too pleased if he knew that I read it for the guy on guy romance and couldn't care less about the religious aspects.
Jan. 25th, 2009 01:32 am (UTC)
I've definitely got Brideshead on my list--and at least in part because of that guy on guy romance. ;)

I need to read more Orwell. I don't think I've read any since 1984 in high school (and indeed, it was good). There's a fence in our neighborhood on which someone has spray-painted "ORWELL WAS RIGHT." I imagine they mean something about Big Brother watching us, but I always flippantly think, "You mean we should keep the aspidistra flying?"
Jan. 25th, 2009 05:18 am (UTC)
Burmese Days.
Jan. 26th, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC)
D'oh - I also meant to mention Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London.
Jan. 27th, 2009 01:11 am (UTC)
What stands out in my mind from D&O in P&L is the horrifying descriptions of what goes on in restaurant kitchens, and this adage that I'm never able to dine out without recalling: "Remember, the more you paid for your food, the more people touched it before you did." Or words to that effect.
Jan. 27th, 2009 01:20 am (UTC)
It's kind of the British equivalent of The Jungle, upon which author Upton Sinclair lamented, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."
Jan. 24th, 2009 06:38 am (UTC)
Man I felt so hick town when I read the comments because I hadn't even HEARD of most of these books much less read them!

I always feel sad when I put a book down in the middle of reading it because I had such high hopes for it! To be let down in such a way is so disappointing. Sometimes I wish I could forget I read some books so I can read them again for the first time again. There's nothing like your first time. : )

My 'comfort books':

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Diary of an Unlikely Call Girl by Anonymous
Jan. 25th, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
That's okay; I haven't heard of several of those either. :) There are a lot of books out there, though, and hopefully we can all acquaint each other with some of the good ones via this post.

I've heard of all yours--but haven't read the last two. Shall look 'em up.
Jan. 25th, 2009 12:55 am (UTC)
Just used my Christmas Borders gift card to buy Diana Gabaldon's entire "Outlander" series in paperback.

The Great Santini
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
Corelli's Mandolin
Jan. 25th, 2009 01:38 am (UTC)
You are the first man I've ever met to admit to reading the Outlander books. :) (I, in turn, will admit that I've read the first one, and thought it one of the few actually sexy and romantic romance novels I've ever encountered. With a fun premise, of course.)

Conroy's 'Prince of Tides' stayed with me a long while. I should add 'Santini' to my list. And 'Corelli's Mandolin' is already on it. My poor, long list...
Jan. 25th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC)
My daughter bought me The Drums of Autumn - I haven't read it yet. Neither has she, being a bit young for it; it was a somewhat-random pick. I'm secure enough in my masculinity to give it a chance, anyway. ;-)

But I never even considered the possibility of reading Prince of Tides -- blame the movie.

( 38 comments — Leave a comment )