After finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (started: 5:30 pm, finished: 1:45 am), I had an urge to turn back to the first page and start all over again. In fact, I wanted to read the whole series again. I really don’t have anything to say about the series that hasn’t already been said, but I wanted to comment on it.
That got me thinking about the books that I read over and over again. Even though I know the books very well, it’s a rewarding experience to read them again. The words greet me like old friends, and just like seeing old friends again, I find out new things each time. I’ve learned not to lend these books; I will not see their return and have to buy a new copy when I want to read them again.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Probably the greatest literary work of the 20th century, a masterful epic tale with the most intricate world ever created for a fantasy.
- Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game. This is a book that is seemingly a simple page-turner but really a dense morality story that pops up new favorite parts every time I read it.
- Frank Herbert, Dune. Herbert’s society is complex, politically, religiously, and culturally (actually, they are inseperable in this book). Paul Muad’Dib is a great character, struggling with what he is and what he is willing to give up to achieve his goals. (I probably care less for subsequent Dune books, even though they are Dune‘s literary equivalent, because Paul is either not shown in the same detail or not the major character.)
- Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I believe that two things shaped my political views: growing up with Ronald Reagan as president and reading Robert Heinlein. This tale of libertarian revolt by the (originally penal) colony on the Moon is a great story combined with Heinlein’s musings on society, governance, and responsibility.
- Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers. The classic novel of military sci-fi, page-turning reading combined with Heinlein’s eye for dissecting society. (Any of Heinlein’s so-called “juvenile” novels is a good read; Starship Troopers is the best of them though.)
- Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash. A book that sucks me in from the first line, with a plot about computer viruses, Sumerian myths, and what the Internet may become. Also brilliant social commentary with its exaggerations of things from modern life (the Burbclaves, pizza delivery in 30 minutes… or else, et al.).
- Neil Stephenson, Cryptonomicon. Denser than Snow Crash, more ambitious, more complex, and more fascinating, with a sprawling cast and multiple plots.
- Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline. If I were written as a literary character, I would be Will McLean. Pat Conroy captured what makes me tick in that character, down to the neuroses and needs. He’s even slightly color-blind, like me. (I would only hope to be as heroic as Will in his situation; thank God I am not in his shoes.)
- Stephen King, The Eyes of the Dragon. A good story told by a good storyteller.
- Richard Adams, Watership Down. A rousing adventure tale about seeking a new home after destruction of the old (think: The Aeneid with rabbits instead of Romans).
- Lloyd Alexander, The Chronicles of Prydain (The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, The High King). A coming of age story full of heroism, sacrifice, and adventure.
- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows. A childhood favorite that endures the test of time.