Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Beloveds

We all have books we enjoy rereading, particularly the ones we designate as keepers. Even the crustiest, jaded bookworm out there has a shelf or a stash of favorite reads. My collection is about average, I think -- two authors' complete works and one full bookcase of individual titles by others -- but I know a couple of readers who have keeper rooms.

Then there are those rare books that go beyond keeper/favorite status into the realm of beloved. Stories we never tire of reading, no matter how many times we do. First editions lovingly cherished, dusted, and placed in a position of honor in our personal libraries. Books that we keep lender copies of so that no one has to touch our favorite copy and get their cooties on it.

What makes a novel transcend to the level of beloved is in the eye of the reader/beholder, I guess. One of my best beloveds is The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which I've been reading once or twice a year for the past thirty-two years. The original copy my Aunt gave me is sealed in a ziplock bag at present, as its pages are brittle, brown and falling out of the crumbling spine. If the house caught on fire, I will grab the kids, my guy, the pets, and this book. I have twelve other copies of TLW all over the house, and a box of giveaway copies to hand out to whatever kid I can convince to read it.

Why is TLW so beloved by me? It's a kid's book, and I'm really not much on kid fiction; I was reading Shakespeare by the time I was ten. But this one spoke to me when I was a girl who had never seen snow, a girl the same age as the author was when she struggled to survive with her blizzard-bound family during a endless winter. I can't eat a baked potato without thinking of one of the meals described in TLW. I once gave my sisters duplicates of the Christmas gifts described in the story. I even tried to twist hay into sticks and then set the results on fire to see how they burned (and kids, don't try this at home. You'll get grounded until you're thirty.)

Not all beloved novels are easy books to love. There are some with which we have odd, love/hate relationships. #1 on that list for many people is probably the Bible, another beloved I've wrestled with most of my life. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier is one of my most unreasonable beloveds, though. It frustrated me to the point of ripping out the last pages and feeding them with enormous pleasure into my office shredder (I did a similar thing to A Tale of Two Cities in high school but got a detention for it. One of the greatest joys of adulthood: being able to buy and vandalize books when I feel like it.)

Last week I received an unexpected and lovely gift, a copy of the newest addition to my keeper shelf, signed and sent by an author I admire a lot (who also apparently reads my books, can I dig a hole in the ground and hide in it forever now?) I don't know if it will become a beloved -- I've only read it once so far -- but I'm already itching to take it down from the shelf and dive in it again.

What are some of your beloveds, and why do you think they mean so much to you?

50 comments:

  1. I have a battered copy of Greek Myths and Legends bought by my mother second hand when I was a child. It has all these grissly illustrations in it. I love it. I can't get rid of my Dorothy L Sayers, Margery Allinghams or Doris Lessings either. They were a major part of my life. Got me through some hard times.

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  2. Anne of Green Gables is one of my beloved books. I recall reading it when I was about 11 years old. I can't even explain why I love this book so much, but needless to say, if my house was burning, I'd gather my full collection of 'Anne' books before I'd think to look for my purse.

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  3. Malory's "Le Morte De Arthur" - it's my ultimate comfort read. I first read it when I was 11. I've probably reread it every couple of years since then. Something about the language, the imagery and the stories.

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  4. Anonymous6:42 AM

    Hmmmm.... good one.

    How about:

    "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" by Richard Bach - a great parable that I read years and years ago. It talks about striving for what you believe in, for breaking out of the confines of "normal", for continually trying to be better.

    "The Illustrated Man" by Ray Bradbury. Listed as SF but IMHO just a collection of great, great stories that transcends genre.

    "The Talisman" by Stephen King and Peter Straub - The first SK book I read. It hooked me from page one.

    "To Kill A Mocking Bird" by Harper Lee. Great.

    "Magic Kingdom For Sale, Sold!" by Terry Brooks. One of the first fantasy novels I ever read. Very good.

    "Macbeth" - First Shakespear I read that I understood! School project. Excellent.

    "Becoming A Writer" by Dorothea Brande. There are plenty of books on the technical aspects of writing, here's one about the rest.

    "Zen and the art of writing" by Ray Bradbury. Great book for writers. Can't recommend it enough.

    "On The Art of Writing" by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch - My wife bought me this in a second hand shop.

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  5. Anonymous7:16 AM

    Ursula le Guin's "Earthsea" books - I read the first three when I was 11, and loved them, have re-read them ever since, and then she wrote some more 25 years later, from a more ambiguous, adult woman's point of view, just when I was old enough to appreciate them. What a gift.

    And for brain candy, when ill - Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn mysteries.

    And Stella Gibbons' "Cold Comfort Farm". Don't bother with the 25-odd books she wrote afterwards, though. They're not the same.

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  6. I haven't read them in ages, but I still love the Little House books. I bought my daughter her own set, cuz I don't want her reading mine.

    Nora Roberts' Donovan series, the Quinn series and Irish Jewels.

    One of my beloveds is an ARC I got from a friend~only had it a few months and I know I've read it five times easy.

    Laurell K Hamilton's Nightseer and Mercedes Lackey's Children of the Night.

    And the Stardoc books. I've had to buy a second set of almost all of them~Endurance and Shockball are my favorite books period.

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  7. Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars and the John Carter series in general. ERB's books made me want to be a writer.

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  8. I was forced to give away all my favourite childhood books when we moved to another country when I was 13 - I cried bitterly for my fairy stories, Little Golden Books and Enid Blyton's then.

    My favourite children's books I hogged from the library were:

    The Narnia Chronicles by CS Lewis, especially "A Horse and His Boy" which I re-read again only 2 weeks ago (although I haven't seen the film yet).

    The Moominland books by Tove Janssen - brilliant, eerie books with wonderful illustrations by the author which I re-read to death when I was a child. Couldn't get enough of them! Will definitely be buying these for my nieces when they get older.

    Adult books - my favourites are novels of ideas:
    "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand. I've only read it twice but there's not a day goes by that I don't think about the issues it raises of personal creative integrity vs "mob" mediocrity. And how I fall desperately short of the ideal.

    "The Dispossessed" by Ursula K Le Guin. Strange barren utopia. I wanted to live there.

    All of them place a healthy emphasis on the love story - no doubt that's why I keep reading them!

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  9. Anonymous8:05 AM

    My top favorite (which is battered and must be handled carefully) is Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. I bought the book a month after I was gifted with the musical's soundtrack; I had fallen in love with the music, and the fat, unabridged copy of the shelf called to me. Now I read it once a year, without fail. *-* I can't begin to describe what the book means to me.

    Other favorites are: Madeline L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planet (which, unhappily, I need to rebuy as my copy came apart - been read WAY too many times since 5th grade *~*), which I read before the other two books, and first picked up simply because it had a unicorn on the cover.

    Tad Williams' Tailchaser's Song, though I'm not exactly sure why - might just be the cats. ^-*

    And Peter Benchley's White Shark. I had refused to read anything Benchley wrote after researching Jaws and discovering the shark slaughter it prompted. Then I happened across an article in a science journal (I don't remember which one), where he discussed being an advocate for the protection of sharks, admitting he was ashamed of what Jaws had caused. I picked up White Shark, and he redeemed himself. *-*

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  10. The first one that comes to mind is "Lord of the Rings". Most books don't make images in my head; I'm not a visual thinker. But the Battle at Pellenor Fields leaps into my head, complete with smells and noise. I can pick this book up and open randomly and still enjoy it.

    The two original Sackett novels by Loius LaMour, "Daybreakers" and "Sackett". Always enjoyable; the characters stay as fresh as when I first read them thirty years ago.

    That is all I can think of right now. I have always read books, rereading the good ones. I guess the impact of the total book (not just the characters) is less than I realized.

    By the way, I remember reading "The Long Winter" when a young teenager. The trips to the barn and the finding of the stash of grain are the snippets I can remember. An excellent book of an excellent series.

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  11. Anonymous8:24 AM

    "The Secret Garden." I didn't read this until I was an adult, but now I read it every year--at least once.

    Also, "The Egg and I." I first read that when I was 12. Like you, I have multiple copies around the house (even large print!) and at our family's summer cottage. I read it at least once if not twice a year. Written about the 1920s (in the 1940s), the writing is still fresh more than 60 years later.

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  12. Wow, I didn't know it was unusual to keep all your books. I keep them all, unless I really hate them; I reread a lot, so I have to keep them around.

    My beloveds tend to be books with characters that make me think, "There are actually people out there who experience the world the way I do!" Three of them are kids' books; The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, Welcome to the Ark by Stephanie S. Tolan, and the Emily books (Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily's Quest) by Anne M. Montgomery (there are three of those, but I'm counting them as one; they're like Anne of Green Gables, except with a writer as the main character). Heartlight by Marion Zimmer Bradley is another of my beloveds. So is the Last Herald-Mage series by Mercedes Lackey, because they were the first "grown-up" fantasy books I read.

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  13. Dennis Lehane. I wasn't as crazy about Shutter Island, but Mystic River and his entire Kenzie/Gennaro series. LOVE. THEM. I go back to a couple of them every year. His stories are like a nice, warm quilt to me.

    Stephen King's older stuff, like The Dead Zone, The Shining, Christine and It.

    Patricia Cornwell's older stuff, and all Val McDermid.

    I know these aren't really considered the classics, but they are to me :)

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  14. Anonymous9:38 AM

    To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. To me it speaks of the innocence of children, coming of age, nobility under stress, the importance of friendship, the love of family, the guidance of parents and how they mold their children, how even when common opinion and practice is wrong, there will often be one voice of man's better side that will speak up, and a host of other things. All I have to do is open it and read the first sentence and I know I will read it to the end, even though I've read it so many times before. It touches my heart, my mind, and my soul.

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  15. My Trixie Belden books, that I've been trying to collect first editions of. (I have 5 now and numerous later editions!)

    And

    Pride and Prejudice. Sadly I cannot get a first edition of this one as $80,000 is way out of my price range for book collecting! :-)

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  16. Anonymous9:48 AM

    Coming out of long-time lurkerage:

    Sharon Lee and Steve Miller''s Conflict of Honour, Agent of Change, and The Tomorrow log.

    The Lord of the Rings, even though I bounced off it half a dozen times before finally finishing it.

    And Lois McMaster Bujold's Paladin of Souls. Because it was simply the most moving book I ever read.

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  17. Oh and I adore my Little House books, given to me by my Grams! (Did you ever read the one written by, I *think* Rose her daughter? It's on Lauras life in later years ...

    I have Cold Mountain in my TBR pile. Number 1 I decided I have to see Ruby in print, Number 2 I like his prose.

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  18. Among my favorites on my shelves are ALL the poetry books... and my collections of works by Thoreau, Shakespeare, and many others... My fingers can alight upon any spine on those shelves and grab immediate gratification along with their pages.

    Next to those are my copies of The Secret Garden, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodle, The Mists of Avalon, and The Forest House among others... stories that are always fun to read.

    And by the way, I LOVED the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and it's been ages since I've read them... thank you for the memories - I think I need to get myself a new set to enjoy as soon as possible! I don't know which is my favorite, but it might be On the Banks of Plum Creek... I loved the thought of living in a dugout!

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  19. In the kiddie set, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising and Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles.

    I have a love hate relationship with Robin McKinley's Sunshine and Deerskin. In the case of the first, the pacing annoys me, but I still love the overall story. In the second, some of the story elements--incest, rape--are icky, but I love the unconventional love story (hero is slightly paunchy and not all that good looking).

    Emma Bull's War for the Oaks is my favourite love story.

    For reliable chuckles, the first five books in the Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series...

    Actually a certain someone's Blade Dancer also makes the cut. [wiping brown stuff off nose]

    Many, many more.

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  20. Anonymous10:20 AM

    The Dragonlance series. I was forbidden from role playing games and anything that had a Dungeons and Dragons vibe. I had to sneak around to read the books. There is nothing like reading a book you are not allowed to read when you are in junior high.

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  21. Strandia by Susan Lynn Reynolds was my first, discovered when I was 12, I think. It had just gone out of print when I found it at the library, and the resultant search for a copy of my own turned into some bizarre Indiana Jones-type-quest (I think that may have been the first emergence of S.D. -- Sarah Danger and the Tome of Obscurity). I found it, though, and damn near wore out my copy in six months. But it was about a girl, and dolphins, and the ocean, and love -- how could it not appeal to me? It was the first book in my bag when I went off to university, the first book out when I arrived there, and kept me company on the long nights when I was adjusting to life on my own. I only just last summer thought to send a letter to the author thanking her for writing it, and received a lovely response.

    The search for my own copy of Beauty by Robin McKinley was almost as trying (before they finally reissued it). I discovered this one in high school -- it was a time that really sucked for me, full of angsty teenage poetry about masks we wear, laden with body issues and such, and my greatest comfort was to sit in the stairwells on my lunch period and read. I discovered Beauty quite accidentally, and fell instantly in love with it. The comfort it brought pretty much saw me through the rest of grades 9 and 10 (things improved a bit after that).

    And I haven't had the chance to read it often enough yet (our store ARC has a very long waiting list now because we can't stop talking about it), but His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik has all the signs of becoming a new beloved. I'm already itching to read it again, my manager has read it three times as it comes back and goes out again, and thus far it's one of the rare books to be loved by all the staff (usually at least one of us hates something the others like). It's just so wonderfully told, and the relationship at the heart of the story between Laurence and Temeraire is so compelling that I can't stop thinking about them, and I'm desperate to find out what happens next.

    Those are The Big Three, but other books on my shelf that have been worn down by all the sick days and emotional upsets that required comforting over the years are War for the Oaks, the Stardoc books, The Last Unicorn, early Lackey, early McCaffrey, lots by Meg Cabot, Enchanted, Inc by Shanna Swendson, and A Little Princess, among others.

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  22. Anonymous10:33 AM

    I've lurked for a while, but I couldn't resist commenting on the most beloved books question. I think I'm a bit strange as I only keep my most loved books.

    Stored away to keep it safe is Katherine Kurtz's Adept series, and it's related prequel Lammas Night are stashed away. In the same box, hidden from damage by my kidlet, is her Deryni series. I am so glad the earliest books are being 'director's cut' and reissued in hardcover.

    I also keep, as a reference for my own writing, all of retired FBI profiler John Douglas' books. Mindhunter, Journey into Darkness and Anatomy of a Motive should be required reading for anyone trying to write a profiler.

    And last, but definitely not least, I'm slowly acquiring hardback copies of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Atlantis/Avalon/Light series. The three series of books are interconnected so subtly that you often miss the connections unless you read them in order from start to finish. The world building is so utterly believeable. I can easily place myself in the story, watching everything unfold before me. Now that's a talent for storycrafting!

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  23. I am constantly on the look out for a true old edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales. I'm always reading those.

    The Inkheart series is rapidly becoming my new favorite children's book.

    Old favorites include Secret Garden, Peter Pan... though the pile of books are quickly growing with a lot of new editions coming out. I am very happy to have a hardback first edition of A Rumor of Gems. This one has turned out to be one of my favorites for the year.

    Also, Stardoc is starting to grow on me. It took a moment to switch to sci-fi reading. I've never read it before. I think I like it though. :)

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  24. From decades ago, my beloved books include Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, Little Women, The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, and My Friend Flicka. (I was a total horse-nut kid.)

    If I tried to list the books from my romance keeper shelves that I love the most, I'd be here forever. Yes, I'm still on keeper shelves, not rooms or keeper storage units. At the very first RT Convention I attended, they had people stand up and say how many keepers they own. I believe one woman said over 9000!

    Amazing.

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  25. William Goldman's The Princess Bride, and Herman Hesse's Narcissus and Goldmund. Love em.

    I wanted to squish Frazier like a bug after reading Cold Mountian. I've never been so pissed. I didn't even watch the movie because I wanted to read it first. That's what you get when a guy writes a romance.

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  26. Time and again, I return to "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell because it keeps telling me who I am and where I'm going. I am, simultaneously, the very worst and the very best I can be as my life's story unfolds.

    I catch glimpses of myself in "Memories of Rain" (Gupta) and the "Alexandria Quartet" (Durrell) and "A Scot's Quair" (Gibbon). So, I keep these books close at hand.

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  27. I definitely have a Keeper Room. It would be a shorter list to name the books I've ever got rid of by library donations and second hand sales. :-)

    I also collect the complete works of writers like Dostoyevsky, Balzac, George Eliot, Thomas Mann and a score others.

    Some of my all time favourites:
    Lord of the Rings, War and Peace, Der Zauberberg (Magic Mountain).

    Fondest childhood memories:
    Sutcliff, The Eagle of the Ninth; Bartos-Höppner, Tausend Schiffe trieb der Wind; Sonnleitner, Die Höhlenkinder.

    Books that meant much to me in difficult times:
    Dostoyevsky, The Possessed and The Karamassov Brothers; Laxness, The Great Weaver of Cashmir; Peter Bamm, Die unsichtbare Flagge.

    Favourite Old Books:
    Illiad, Song of the Niblungs, Laxdoela saga.

    Favourite Romances:
    Pride and Prejudice; Selma Lagerlöf's Charlotte Löwenskjöld (though it's not strictly speaking a romance).

    Favourite genre fiction:
    Tad William's Osten Ard series, almost everything by GG Kay and GRR Martin, Sara Douglass' Crucible trology and Carey's Kushiel books. Cornwell's Warlord trilogy and the first three books of Colleen McCullough's Rome series, the books by Rebecca Gablé and Iris Kammerer (both German hist fic writers). And of course, the Three Musketeers plus its sequel, and most of Sir Walter's Scotts novels.

    I better stop now. :-)

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  28. I forgot Vonnegut's Slaughter House Five. But it may be who gave it to me. Jury's out on that one.

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  29. Anonymous12:36 PM

    Bluebeard by Vonnegut. This is the only book that makes me cry.

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  30. I guess I'm crustier and more jaded than even I knew.

    I have a lot of books but I've never re-read a single one, and there isn't one that I'd not consider giving away.

    Maybe if I had a copy of "The Island of the Blue Dolphins." I didn't have any books when I was a kid but my third grade teacher read that aloud to the class and it made quite an impression on me.

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  31. I’m like Zoe – I keep all my books. Floor to ceiling bookshelves packed to the gunnels with them. It always winds me up when I go to re-read something only to find it’s not there. Lent out, or lost in one of our various house moves.

    But the one I reread the most is Frost At Christmas by R.D. Wingfield. Brilliant, brilliant book. If I’m ever able to write half as well as that man I’ll consider myself very lucky indeed.

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  32. Anonymous1:14 PM

    "The Last Convertible" by Anton Myrer. I stopped counting how many copies I have around the house at around a dozen (one in the each bathroom, next to the bed and on every bookshelf. My husband thinks I just keep moving the same one copy around) This is a great story about the coming of age of young Americans, the "Camelot generation". I don't actively seek it out, but I just can't leave a copy behind when I spot it at a book sale or flea market.

    My other favorite? "Senior Prom" by Rosamond duJardin. She wrote a 4 book set of Marcy Rhodes stories as well as mamy others for young teens during the 40's and 50's, but this is my favorite. Set in the innocence of the 50's, its right up there with Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames stories. My mom gave me my first copy back when I was in elementary school after I asked if her life back then was like the tv show "Happy Days". I read it, loved it and lost it. It took me years of searching, but the joy I felt when I finally found it again, as an adult, at a yard sale was unmatched.

    Of course, with the internet one can find just about any book out there now a days...sort of takes the fun out of the hunt.

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  33. Anonymous1:30 PM

    I've been a LM Montgomery fan my whole life. If I'm lonely or depressed (or I've just watched Blair Witch and scared myself stupid), I grab my Anne of Green Gables and cuddle with my cats until the bad stuff goes away. I'm still on my first copy of it too. My great aunt gave me the first three as a box set when I was 10 or so. I'll be devastated when those ones go. I read Lord of the Rings at least once a year. I finally got the last of my Dorothy L Sayers Lord Peter books with Christmas money.

    I live in a very small townhouse so I am very picky about what I keep. The only books I keep are beloved authors, or books I read over and over. I'm looking forward to the day when I can have more books (either I kick my boyfriend out so I can put books in his office or we move to a bigger house - his choice)

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  34. Anonymous1:35 PM

    I wish I'd read the other comments before writing mine - people kept mentioning things that made me gasp in glee and rememberance.

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  35. Anonymous1:54 PM

    The Science Fiction Book Club has an edition of The Lord of the Rings with 150 pages of additional material from Tolkien's notes. It includes the history of the Numenorian(sp) Kings, a timeline to the end of the Third Age, geneaological trees of the major hobbit families, and lots more. It gets an annual read. I keep all my books, but to this point, LOTR is the only regularly recurrent reader.

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  36. What a wonderful question. No wonder so many bibliophiles have replied. :)

    And, since my house did burn down when I was a child, and all my books with it, I will keep my list brief.

    (You can't grab an armful of books when you are worried about being fully clothed and making certain every living thing is out of the house.)

    I have an autographed copy of my favorite book, Chocolat by Joanne Harris. It is the one with my favorite cover. (There are a few.)

    That, and my autographed copy of The Official Nora Roberts Companion.

    I keep both items in a bookcase in the front room. Everything else I can repurchase.

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  37. Anonymous4:53 PM

    I thought about this long and hard as I'm a regular re-reader. At first I thought perhaps Charlie & the Chocolate Factory but that was more of a "What started you reading" book (plus I can't find my copy so it doesn't count).
    I like to re-read series, whether there are new books coming out or not. So I'm picking the Kushiel trilogy by Jacqueline Carey. I know it's on the new side, but I find myself re-reading it about once every six months. Even before the second and third book in the series came out I was re-reading the first one faithfully.
    Regardless of what some say about the main character, the trilogy fills a spot in my thirst for a good book.

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  38. It's really strange. I'd have to say Stephanie Laurens' original Cynster series and Christine Feehan's Dark books. I don't think there's anything special per se about the writing, but both authors consistently bring me comfort.

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  39. I'm a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have every one of her books in paperback, have been collecting the hardbacks that have significant meaning to me (like the ones I bought at the Wilder House Museum in Mansfield, MO), and reread the entire series at least once a year. My favorite, though, is Little Town on the Prairie.

    Other beloveds include The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and Pride and Prejudice. I don't know what it is about these books, but no matter how many times I've re-read them, they never fail to enrapture me completely, so that I can't put them down until they are finished and then want to pick them right back up and start all over again.

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  40. Anonymous6:17 PM

    Ah, The Long Winter ... 'heap big snow, big wind', the way the twisted hay cut through the elbows of her dad's jacket, grinding the grain in the coffee grinder, and the nutty taste of the bread they made from it ... I read this probably twice a year all through my childhood. It's somewhere at my parents' house and I must go get it one day.

    All time favourite book in my house: Madame Bovary.

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  41. Madeline L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time series.

    Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven

    LOTR

    Patricia McKillip's The Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy

    I have bought multiple copies of these over the years to replace the worn ones.

    And, of course, the book I read to my kids when they were babies----Goodnight Moon. :)

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  42. I'm a definite re-reader, and I have seven large bookcases to prove it. But most books after several years (even keepers) get recycled out to make room for new stuff. Some stuff just get dated.

    There are a few things that I could re-read forever though:

    The Anne books were of course favourites growing up (I'm Canadian eh?) but my absolute favourite of her's is Blue Castle. If you haven't read it, try it. So romantic.

    And Dick Francis. I love most of his books and I can't tell you how many times I've re-read them. And don't ask me why. I'm not into horses, most of them aren't the least bit romantic, though there are romantic bits. I just like them. One of my favourites is Longshot, which is about a writer.

    And last but not least are Linda Howard's Mackenzie Mountain series. I can't tell you how hard I worked at getting a copy of all those now out-of-print books, and every once in a while I just get the urge to sit down and re-read them.

    Lots of memories brought back by the books listed here by others. I must check out the Laura Ingalls Wilder books again. It's been years.

    I always feel bad for people who are not re-readers, and I ignore the weird looks I get when I tell someone I've read something 6 times. LOL.

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  43. Anonymous8:34 PM

    LOVED "The Long Winter". I recently re-read the whole series and am currently saving to buy the boxed set.

    I don't keep all my books, just the ones that mean a lot to me. And only a few of them I reread regularly.

    One that's been reread multiple times is Rita Mae Brown's "Venus Envy". I love the wisdom in it and the truth and the thoroughly human way things are dealt with in there. Just behind "Venus Envy" comes "Riding Shotgun". There's just something about Rita Mae's writing - she packs truth into what looks like simple comedic writing, and it just speaks to me. (One of the favorite quotes of "Venus Envy": "Don't pray for an easy life. Pray for Courage.")

    I reread both "The Arrows of the Queen" and "The Last Herald Mage" series by Mercedes Lackey every few years. I had totally given up on fantasy for long years and those books showed me that there was something else out there than formulaic "shy boy enters strange fantasy world and ends up rescuing it" or yet another Tolkien clone. My favorite book of that universe, though, must be "By the Sword", Kerowyn's story. It's too bad it wasn't made a trilogy but had to be squeezed into one book.

    There are some Star Trek books that get reread every few years: "The Wounded Sky" by the immensely talented Diane Duane (in fact, I should go reread this right now, it's been too long), the absolutely hilarious "Q-In-Law" by Peter David, "Fallen Heroes" by Dafydd Ab Hugh and "Pathways" by Jeri Taylor.

    And what I've just reread and know without a doubt I will love to reread for years to come: J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince".

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  44. "The Silver Metal Lover" by Tanith Lee. (The sequel, "Metallic Love," isn't nearly as good.) Her language, metaphors, and depth of character stun me anew each time I go through it.

    Any "Star Trek" book by Diane Duane, although it's a virtual tie between "Doctor's Orders" and "My Enemy, My Ally" for first place. (I wish they could've used her version of Romulans [Rihannsu] for the various TV series.)

    "Seabiscuit" by Laura Hillenbrand. Love, love, love this book. It reads better than most "blockbuster" novels.

    "Song in the Silence" by Elizabeth Kerner. A beautiful, unconventional love story, and a fiendishly difficult writing style (multiple first-person POV). If you think everything possible has already been said about dragons, give this a try.

    (Just to suck up to the blogmistress a bit) "Blade Dancer." It had me hooked from the first sentence.

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  45. I rarely get rid of a book once I acquire it. I don't re-read many. Like firearms, I draw a sense of security just by having them. I probably have over 500 books in my TBR pile. To be fair, many of them are reference-type books that I'm unlikely to ever read cover-to-cover.

    With that parameter, my TBR pile is probably closer to 50 books. TBRR (To Be Re-Read)? An incomplete list to be sure, but here goes:

    Windows of Thought by Stillman J. Elwell--probably the only book I can recall re-reading regularly.

    Two I've recently made a note to re-read after nearly 30 years:
    1984 by George Orwell (because is seems so relevant today--so he was off by 20 years...)
    Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

    Others I will probably re-read as examples of how I'd aspire to write (not exactly but in effect and technique): Much of Jennifer Crusie's work, several of Holly Lisle's (specifically, Talyn, but there are more), and I saw things in Rebel Ice I want to look at again for technique.

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  46. Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia McKillip gets reread once every five or six years. Her prose is poetry, and my gold standard for good writing.

    Like Stuart said -- if I ever write half as well as that book, I'll consider myself doing all right.

    From the department of "got imprinted on me young": Arrows of the Queen and Magic's Pawn (both by Misty Lackey). Those are the books that made me long to write fantasy.

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  47. Gosh, there are so many. I keep two long plastic rubbermaid boxes of the type used for wrapping paper full of books under my bed.

    The childhood book that imprinted on me young woudl be "The Secret Garden" by Frances Burnett. It was, as I reacall, the first "big book" I'd ever read and the idea of the lonely child and the secret garden appealed to me strongly.

    Over the years, I've collected many others, most of the fantasy range. My current favorite would be the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. The characters are so engaging that even though the books seem a trifle long and in at least the second book fo the three, very harrowing - it's too godo to resist.

    Other books I keep around would be all of Mary Stuart's novels and all of Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series. I'm very fond of Terry Pratchett's works, and "A hatful of sky" is by far my favorite.

    I love many of Mercedes Lackey's book, especially the two series that she started and then didn't finish, the Diana Tregarde series and the Elf series. I'm more interested in her "fairy tales retold" series than I am in the Valdemar books. Something about them began to pall for me as I've gotten older. Gosh, I could go on and on, but hopefully that's a start. ;)

    Eve

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  48. Anonymous1:55 PM

    Marlene - The Blue Castle is my favourite too. I love Anne because my name is Ann and I've always been compared to her, but Valancy is my favourite. I bought my copy of the Blue Castle (and Kilmeny of the Orchard - she's sweet too) at Cavendish when I went to PEI with my family in 1992.

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  49. The Blue Castle - L.M. Montgomery
    Beauty - Robin McKinley
    The Changeling Sea - Patricia McKillip
    The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley

    And Elinor Brent-Dyer's Chalet School books.

    Hmmmm, I see a vaguely YA theme here. Maybe my comfort keeper books take me back to my childhood?

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  50. Anonymous10:57 AM

    I have certain books that I re-read in certain seasons. Right after Christmas I'm usually in a Louisa May Alcott mood, and usually read Rose in Bloom. In early spring I get in a malt-shop mood and read Rosamond duJardin (Wait for Marcy) and Eliza Bialk (Marty). In late spring I usually read Peter S. Beagle's Folk of the Air. In the summer I often re-read either the first three in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series or the Harpercrafthall trilogy. And in the fall it's Pamela Dean's Tam Lin. Although I'm actually re-reading that one right now, just because I found it when I was weeding a bookshelf and couldn't resist. :-)

    Oh, and I read Leon Uris's Mila 18 whenever I feel like life is treating me unfairly, just to get some perspective. :-)

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