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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?



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.