Monday, March 19, 2007


I love reading. It’s one of my all time favorite activities. When I was younger and had lots more free time than I do now I could read hundreds of pages in a day – even to the point of reading whole novels in one day. I still love reading although it usually takes me longer to finish a book than when I was younger.

I find a lot of pleasure in reading beyond just having a story too. I love the feel of the book in my hands and the sound of the pages as I turn them. I especially love the smell of a book – the glue and paper and ink. It evokes a feeling of goodness and safety that I just eat up. In fact the smell of books is one of the things that make libraries so great – smelling all those books in the same building is one of my favorite parts of going to the library.

I go to the library a lot. There are tons of books to read and more coming out each month and I’ll never read them all. The library is a good way to try and stay up on the oncoming tide of books. Most of the books I read all the way though I enjoy but for most of them I’ll never read them again. There are some special books that I love to read over and over. Those ones are my favorites. Those are the ones I buy – and put proudly on my bookshelf. Those are the ones I loan out to get other people “infected” with the series. They are almost always a series.

Lists are ephemeral things – always changing and shifting depending on mood and sun spots, and what I read last, and what is happening in my life. So for your pleasure here is a list – presented in no particular order – of books that I like to re-read. The ground rules for the list are: 1) Fiction – I’m going to leave off religious and non-fiction books that I have re-read. Even though some of them I have re-read many many times and often find enjoyment in them. This is a fiction list. 2) A series of books will get a single entry. 3) I am allowed to change any of my rules at any time for what ever reason I feel like, thus reflecting the basic ephemeral nature of lists that I posited above. Heh.

1) The Dresden Files – I’ve just started re-reading this series and I must say it’s better the second time around. I’m picking up on nuances that I missed before that foreshadows things that have happened in later books and also items that portend major events still to come. My favorite is still Dead Beat – since that one created my most powerful emotional response to any of the books but they are all lots of fun.

2) The Lord of the Rings – This is the series that started it all for me. I reread this every few years or so. In fact I’ve had to purchase the series twice now because my first set of books had fallen apart from being read so much. It still has the ability to evoke powerful emotions in me as I read through it.

3) The Company Novels – Kage Baker created a wonderful character in the Botanist Mendoza and I’ve enjoyed reading all of her works in the company series. Literature Specialist Lewis is also a fascinating character. The primary draw to this series are the compelling characters and the drama they find themselves in – but the meta-story of the creating of the company and what happens in the future are also lots of fun.

4) Cryptonomicon – one of the few “alternate history” novels that I have ever really enjoyed. This one uses several different viewpoints to create a larger story – a near future, a past, and a further-past. Jumping from viewpoint to viewpoint is a refreshing change (although it does make the reading more complex) from most simple stories and it allowed for a richer story line where I as the reader know more of the nuances than the characters in the book do.

5) Snow Crash – Another book by the author of Cryptonomicon, Neil Stephenson. This one is a fascinating what-if story about could a virus be created that will crash a human brain. It’s very sic-fi in nature and includes one of the most fun opening chapters I’ve ever read – The Deliverator!

6) Neuromancer and all the sprawl novels. In 1984 I read Neuromancer and couldn’t put it down. I re-read it almost immediately after finishing it the first time which is quite rare for me. I loved the way William Gibson creates a chewy (for lack of a better term) novel where things are described in allegory requiring me to pause and imagine things as they go along. This has one of my favorite opening lines of all time too “The sky was the color of a TV tuned to a dead channel.” I have liked all of Gibsons novels but the Sprawl Trio and the complementary book of short stories are my favorites by him.

7) The galactic center series by G. Benford – This one almost didn’t make the list. I have reread it several times but some of the stories are definitely more fun than the others. If I wasn’t just a little weird I might skip some of the stories and stick with the others – but a part of me likes completeness and so I start at the beginning and read through to the end. This series posits a machine intelligence living around the galactic center that believes that biological life is a threat to it and so wages war on biology where ever it finds it. The story starts on earth with man exploring orbit and the solar system. The later stories skip ahead and show tribes of people living on abandoned colony worlds – fighting the machine invaders and others in space ships trying to reach safety. All in all the middle of the series is the best part but the beginnings and ending serve to make a nice framework.

8) Foundation novels - this is another series I read long long ago. The first three Foundation novels seem to be written for younger audiences and I can see why they appealed to me as a child. I like them still when I read them now but it no longer fires my imagination as it once did. The later stories in the series were more complex and longer and hold up better when reading them as an adult. However, the first three are the ones that remind me of the sense of wonder that good stories can create and when I read them again I am transported back to that feeling I had when I first read them.

9) The Order of the Stick – This isn’t technically a book but since I’m allowed to break any of my own rules I’m going to include it. I have three of these books currently (book 0, 1 and 2) and I love them all. A comic that can make me laugh out loud when I re-read it is definitely a keeper and one that I’m happy to pay money for to support the artist. Most jokes loose their power once you have heard them once but in OotS the comedy is often derived from the characters and situations but even the sight gags and rules jokes are often funny enough because of which character is participating that I will often break out laughing every time I see it.

10) Dilbert – The Dilbert books also have the ability to make me laugh when I re-read them. They are not as funny as OotS but a few repeated laughs in each book makes them keepers. Some of the lines really stick with me and I find my self anticipating panel when I know it will be uttered.

11) Shermans Lagoon – I really liked these at first but they seem to be more repetitive lately. I think I have all the ones published to date and these do pass the “make me laugh again” test but I’ve noticed that the later books feel very familiar – as if covering the same ground over and over. I’ll probably keep buying them for a while in hopes that it changes but if nothing does I’ll just stick with what I have and enjoy them for what they are.

12) Hitchhikers Guide novels – I’ve read these dozens of times. My favorite books are still the first three but all of the series has good stuff going for it. Seeing Arthur Dent finally get some happiness in the later books was lots of fun but nothing has matched him discovering that his good friend Ford Prefect was an alien and his adventures through time and space are by far the highlights of the series. I should add at this point that I also enjoyed the Dirk Gently Holistic Detective Agency novels as well and they are very re-readable too. I was surprised to learn that one of these novels was VERY much like an episode of Dr. Who but when I watched the episode again and saw that Douglas Adams was the writer for that episode the surprise vanished.

13) The Discworld novels – how can a list of things to re-read not make mention of Terry Prattchet? This guy is hysterical. The novels are delightfully silly and fun to read but there is also a deeper level of humor to them that is just as delicious. I can still remember the moment of realization I had when the thought occurred to me: “Ank-Morpork is America!” Suddenly a whole new level of the story was opening to me and I re-read the series looking for the subtler layers and jokes woven through out the entire series.

Well there you have it. A list off the top of my head of…. Ummmm… 13 good stories to re-read. I’m sure there are others and you list may vary. In fact my list tomorrow may vary too – but I expect that any variations in my list will be only to grow it as I realize I totally forgot something else that I just love.

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