10 Books (or Series of Books) I Will Gladly Read Again and Again
I am sure many if not most of you will wonder why certain books are not listed. How can I possibly not include this book or that series? And I will admit up front that this list changes as I read new stuff, and there are currently books on my shelf in my queue so to speak that likely will alter this list, such as the Middle Earth books which I have managed to make it to age 39 without reading somehow. But as of now, these are books I continue to pick up again and again because they touch me in some way, and with every one I seem to discover something new when rereading them.
As I mentioned, this list changes as I age and grow. Now, 4 years later, this is my list as it currently stands...
1. Little House on the Prairie (the whole series)
I know, they are "kids books." I, in fact, still have my boxed set from when I was in elementary school and first read them. I have reread them at least every other year since then. When I moved to Colorado from Ohio I spent a few days in Missouri visiting the author Laura Ingalls Wilder's home. I am an admitted "Little House geek!" Her books open up to me another era, when things seemed both more simple and more difficult all at once. I love that she manages to leave me with a complete image of a character without going overboard. I have read these books more than any others, and yet something strikes me new or different every time. That, to me, demonstrates how great they are. My favorite of the 9 books is The Long Winter, at least it currently is. I am fascinated by real severe blizzards, and always imagined myself going through what the Ingalls family did.
2. The Chronicles of Narnia
These found their way to my bookshelf because I am the granddaughter of a Presbyterian minister and spent a large portion of my younger years at church. C.S. Lewis' series epitomizes the type of gift you should give the avidyoung reader in a Christian family. I actually resented them for that fact when I first received them (the long explanation is best left for another hub, let's just say my family's beliefs never quite became mine), and I skipped over them numerous times when looking to start reading something new. Thankfully, I reached a day when nothing else was handy and picked the first one up, and if I remember correctly I read them non-stop until I finished them all. The beauty of his writing is that almost anyone can enjoy the story, despite the intended message, and that many people can also find a message in them that applies to their beliefs. And they are also just incredibly well written and amazing stories!
The publisher has changed the order in which the books are numbered, a change I don't necessarily agree with 100%. I read them in publication order, which is how they were originally numbered. They are now numbered in chronological order. The Magician's Nephew explains the creation of Narnia. It was originally book 6, and is now book 1. Frankly, I think that learning about the creation of Narnia, and the people connected to the events, after you have met some of those people (without knowing you had!), and after you have fallen in love with the world it is imbues it with a sense of mystery that you'd lose when reading them chronologically. The other changes, don't really bother me so much, though I do wonder if it was truly Lewis' intent, as is indicated by the publisher.
I stumbled upon Gregory Maguire's amazing book years ago, before the musical was on the stage, likely before it was even a concept. I have recommended it to numerous people since, and would likely have reread it many more times than I have, were it not for the fact that I have loaned it out so many times! I have always loved The Wizard of Oz, so that is why the story first appealed to me. I fell in love with it not for that, but for what it says about good and evil, and how they are largely based on perception and are both largely born of the life one leads from the start--regardless of whether that is by choice or not. The re-imagining of the main characters from Baum's classic stories is brilliant, and so fully presented you will be wondering why you never thought of things in such a way yourself!
4. The Little Country
This book was recommended to me by a friend. We were in a book store and I recommended Wicked to her. She then said that she would read it if I would read a book she recommended. Charles de Lint writes what is best described as "urban fantasy." Wonderful, beautifully written fantasy stories that take place in modern (or close to modern) times. I finished the book in one night, and immediately went in search of other books by him, but this remains my favorite of his stories so far.
5. Outlander (the whole series)
Diana Gabaldon is amazing! Her books carry me away entirely, and yet they have also managed to teach me numerous things about history I never learned in school. Her characters are great, especially the main character, Claire, who is a great mix of fragility and strength. I grab up the next book in the series the minute it comes out (the next one is due out in March of 2014 and I am chomping-at-the-bit!); and then, once I finish it, I spend the next few years anxiously awaiting the release of the next. It is best described as an adventure saga set in motion by time travel and intertwined with an epic romance. Don't avoid it because of the romance aspect...I DON'T read romance and almost skipped it because of that, but the romance aspect enriches the story, it does not drive it or overpower it.
6. Earth's Children (the whole series)
Clan of the Cave Bear is the first book in the series--and PLEASE ignore the awful 1986 movie version of it from the book, it does not even come close to doing the story justice! The series is the story of the life of a young Cro-Magnon girl named Ayla, raised from a young age y a clan of Neanderthals, and then her life after leaving them, as she becomes a woman and learns to live the life set out for her by her genetic heritage. If there is one thing I hate about Jean Auel and her series of books, it is the fact that it takes her so long to publish the next in the series! It is because of her books that I fell in love with anthropology and archaeology. Her research is impeccable and so thorough, the only times you will find inaccuracies is when new discoveries are made after books were written, and even then she tries to make adjustments to incorporate new research. Her books are packed full of love and hate, war and celebration, and so much more, and she manages to depict all of these just right, never going overboard. She does occasionally carry the sex that takes place a bit far, but I am a good skimmer and tend to skip some of it!
The series has now been completed. I will say that if there is any frustration I have with the series, it is with the last book. Though it does wrap up most story-lines, and in most cases this is done in ways that avid followers were hoping for, it also felt a little dragged out and the pacing seems slow. Definitely still worth reading, and I didn't hate it by any means, it just wasn't all I had hoped it to be.
7. The Ghosts
This is another "kids book." I used to spend a lot of time at the library in the years before I hit my teens, and I befriended one of the librarians. This was amazing because my father was not a big reader, and I didn't have a close relationship with my mother, so there was nobody to really foster my absolute obsession with reading. She used to walk with me through the aisles and pull out books she thought I would like and add them to my pile. This book, by Antonia Barber, is one of those books (don't worry, I returned it and eventually bought my own copy!). The story was made into a movie, and I actually like that too. But, the book is by far my favorite of the two. Nothing spectacular, just a good, unique and well thought out story. It is about 2 children, the ghosts they encounter, and the way they end up helping these ghosts, and, in turn, themselves.
This is was my first glimpse of the genius that is Neil Gaiman. It began as a miniseries for the BBC, written by Gaiman, who later put in to novel form. It is an urban fantasy story set in London, mostly in old subway tunnels and depots underground in an area known, in the book, as London Below. The world he created to set this story in, and the story that unfolds, are amazing--right from the start. I was essentially hooked by the third page or so, and read the book in one night!
9. A Wrinkle in Time
This is another book recommended to me by the librarian I mentioned above. And I, in turn, as a bookseller by day, recommended this book over and over and over again. A brilliant book for Young Readers, though it just as easily could have been written for adults, it is the winner of the Newbery Medal as well as several other book awards. Though it is is the first book in a series (5 in total), it is the only book of the 5 that I have read more than once. The main character, Meg, is a wonderfully depicted strong female character and role model--something that was not very common in 1962 when the book was written. And speaking of its publication date, it is genius that could easily be accepted if initially published in the present day, which is sometimes hard with Science Fiction as a genre. The story is that of Meg, her brother Charles, and the search for their father who disappeared (and, they find later, is on another planet) because of something called a tesseract. I finished this in one sitting (not, by any means, because it is short or a quick read) when I was 9...and if you know anything about kids that age, you know that says a lot about how good the book is! Get it here!
10. I Heard the Owl Call My Name
This is a rather obscure book that most people have never heard of. I honestly cannot say how I found my way to it, but I am glad that I did. It is the story of a young vicar (not a character I would usually connect with in ANY way!), who is sent to live with a tribe of native peoples in British Columbia in their remote village. He is sent their by his Bishop who knows the vicar is dying, something the vicar is unaware of. It is a beautiful story about knowing yourself, being true both to yourself and to what you come from, and coming to terms with the hand you have been dealt. It touched me and changed me.