What Are Your Favorite Re-Readable Books?

The Thanksgiving holiday is looming, and I’m actually traveling right now, so I’m going to keep this fairly brief, and I probably won’t be able to respond to comments due to lack of internet access.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t continue this discussion amongst yourselves.

I’m doing some graduate student mentoring at a university, helping a student with her thesis project and also instructing a couple of independent courses with her.  This is something I’ve done before at this school, and I enjoy it a great deal.  For the courses, I’ve assigned lots of reading — classics of speculative fiction for one course with another student, and most recently examples of terrific worldbuilding for this fall’s course.  And so I’ve gotten to re-read some of my favorite books in fantasy and sf.  This got me to thinking that it might be fun to share our favorite reads — books that we go back and read again and again because we love them that much.

It’s always dangerous for a writer to make a list like this, for the simple reason that with every book we leave off the list, we risk offending a colleague.  So let me say up front that none of my books are on my list, and I’m not taking it personally.  I don’t expect that my books will be on many (or any) of your lists either.  And I’m fine with that, too.  Just because it’s not on this list, that doesn’t mean I didn’t love the book.  It’s just that some books lend themselves (for me) to periodic re-reading.  Okay?  We good?  Phew!

Moving on…

My list of favorite books to re-read every now and then, in no particular order:

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card — Ender is one of my favorite heroes, and I find the storyline utterly compelling.  The second book in the original sequence, Speaker for the Dead, is also very good.  The other two books I found somewhat less compelling.  But this first one is brilliant.

Slow River, by Nicola Griffith — Her shifts in POV and voice are so masterful, and her character work is so good.  Reading this book is like taking a writing course.

Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien — I expect this one will show up on many people’s lists…

Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay — Masterful worldbuilding, lovely prose, achingly beautiful story.  That rarest of things in epic, alternate world fantasy:  a stand alone novel.

The Fionavar Tapestry (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, The Darkest Road), by Guy Gavriel Kay — See above.  I love Kay’s work, in large part because he proves false with every book the snobbish assumption that genre fiction can’t be literary.

Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune, by Frank Herbert — The worldbuilding and political intrigues of these books totally do it for me.  Yes, they’re complex, at times to the point of bewilderment, and yes, after the third book the story becomes a bit too much for me.  But I love these three.

The Earthsea Trilogy (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore) by Ursula LeGuin — I just read these three again for the worldbuilding course.  They are gems.  Understated, quiet, but magnificently written and stirringly beautiful.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman — This is a somewhat controversial book.  I know lots of people who loved it and lots who hated it; very few in between.  I loved it and think the concept and execution are both brilliant.

I’ll stop there with my list — eight projects; fourteen books in all (if you count LOTR as a single book, as I do).  Not a round number, but those are the titles that come to my mind.

How about you?  What does your list of favorite re-readable books look like?

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

David B. Coe
http://www.DavidBCoe.com

Filed under For Novelists, learning to write, reading, writing life. You can also use to trackback.

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  1. 1. Sam Graham

    Mostly series for me rather than single books, but:

    The Deverry Books by Katherine Kerr and the Malazan Books of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, both as masterclasses in theme and world-building and for still on the 4th or 5th reading going “Oh, that little throwaway one-liner links these two events in these two books, I never noticed that, never needed to know that, but it’s been there all along and is awesome.”

    Foreigner series by CJ Cherryh and Taltos series by Steven Brust, both make fantastic writing seem utterly effortless and really let you nestle inside the head of the protagonist with as much joy as the first time you read them.

    Ditto what you’ve said about Lord of the Rings, Earthsea and Dune.

  2. 2. Adele

    I tend to go back to comfort reads, The Magicians Nephew and The Horse and his Boy by C.S.Lewis are two absolute favourites that never seem to get included in the TV cannon.
    Clive Barker’s Weaveworld and Imagica because I know that no matter how many times I read them there will still be new things to discover, wonderfully written, rich and complex. They are my main reset reads, when I am struggling to get into anything new and need to take a break and revisit old friends. Of course the reason I have so many bookshelves is because I love to re read as much if not more than I love the first read. At some point I shall give up reviewing new titles completely and just indulge in a lengthy revist of my shelves.

  3. 3. Mindy Klasky

    Fun post, David!

    I do very little re-reading; there are just too many new-to-me books that I want to get to. I recently embarked on a re-read of a very favorite fantasy series from my junior high years, and I was disappointed to see that it didn’t hold up – that sort of frightened me off re-reads for a bit! (Although it did evoke an interesting philosophy session on what makes that sense of wonder for first-time readers…)

    That said, with the recent passing of Anne McCaffrey, I’ll likely pick up the first dragon trilogy again.

  4. 4. Elias McClellan

    I’m relunctant to be contrarian, but you know I will.

    “Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien — I expect this one will show up on many people’s lists…”

    Honestly, this is on my I-want-my-week-back and I’ll-never-take-that-person’s-recomendations-again, lists along with KS Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, and Suskind’s “Perfume.”

    Whew, got that off my chest. Now, to bit’ness.

    1) Any of Mr. Shakespeare’s plays, (best. fantasy. writer. ever.)
    2) Mr. Herbert’s Dune novels; every couple of years to see if I’ve grown as a reader.
    3) Machiavelli, EVERY year. We must always keep our wits as as clean and sharp as our tools.
    4) The bible, the greatest text on polictical theory every writen.

    @Ms. Klasky, you said it. This is a fun one, Mr. Coe. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  5. 5. Joe Iriarte

    Two of the ones you listed are probably my top two reread books: Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead. I actually don’t do much (read: any) rereading anymore, but I probably read each of those close to a dozen times.

    Back when I used to reread, I reread Heinlein’s Door Into Summer a bunch of times (when I was young enough that a lot of the creepiness of the plotline went straight over my head) and really most of Heinlein’s novels. Also Piers Anthony’s On a Pale Horse and Asimov’s Foundation series.

  6. 6. Linda Adams

    I have a few books that are like old friends, all in omniscient viewpoint:

    Sing the Light series by Louis Marley (now out of print, so I have to be careful with the book. The author is revising the series in close third).

    Sahara by Clive Cussler. One of his best action books.

    Lady Night series by Tamora Pierce. Honestly, a knight who is a woman, lots of action. How can I resist?

  7. 7. Elias McClellan

    @Linda Adams, thanks for the tip, my neice expressed interest in fantasy and I think Ms. Pierce’s books would be a good entry point for her.

  8. 8. justdeb

    Hoping someone can help here; I have been trying to remember the name of an old sci-fi book my dad gave me to read about 20 years ago. I would love to re-read it but I cannot remember the name. All I remember is that it was set in the future, in a big city where people didn’t need to work because everything was automated, although some people chose to work for their own satisfaction. And the prostitutes wore “flicker-knickers” (!) So that when they were ‘available’ their knickers flickered to advertise the fact. They each had a personal theme too (like one could have a tribal theme). If anyone could help in this strange, obscure and random search that would be fantastic. Thanks.

Author Information

David B. Coe

David B. Coe (http://www.DavidBCoe.com) is the Crawford award-winning author of the LonTobyn Chronicle, the Winds of the Forelands quintet, the Blood of the Southlands trilogy, and a number of short stories. Writing as D.B. Jackson (http://www.dbjackson-author.com), he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a blend of urban fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction. David is also part of the Magical Words group blog (http://magicalwords.net), and co-author of How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion. In 2010 he wrote the novelization of director Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Visit site.

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