OK, there’s this meme going, about the Ten Books of Your Life.
Like there was only ten books that important in my life.
And I was talking about this with my friend Claire – and she’s doing two lists of ten books, because she knows.
And as we chatted about it I thought I can’t actually set down a list of ten books that are all-important – because I can’t decide what they are important for.
But I can do set down a list of ten books I re-read regularly.
Because sometimes I do re-read some of those books.
Mervyn Peake – The Gormenghast Trilogy
Peake created a world using words to paint images – reading his Gormenghast books shows me why I’ll always be just a hopeless hack. But it also inspires me to work harder.
Gene Wolfe – The Book of the New Sun
Shadow, Claw, Sword, Citadel and Urth are so complex and deep and multi-layered that every time I read them I find something new. Just trying to imagine the amount of planning and work that had to go into the writing of these books is awe-inspiring.
Harlan Ellison – The Essential Ellison
This is a big fat collection of writings by Ellison – not just stories, but also scripts, critical essays, editorials. I sometimes need to retrace my steps through these stories, because there’s so much to learn, in here.
The Arabian Nights
I have a number of different editions, and I often re-read a few stories to catch the old magic. I like to compare different versions, or find thebest version of each story.
Roger Zelazny – Lord of Light
I re-read Zelazny like I re-read Ellison, to try and find out how it’s done. Having to single-out a title, I say Lord of Light, but I like to re-read his short stories too.
John D. MacDonald – The Travis McGee Novels
This is a relatively recent re-reading fave.
I like the language, the economy in the building of the phrases, the attitude of the main character.
Wu Cheng En – Journey to the West
To me, this is the Chinese equivalent of the Arabian Nights, and it’s another deep and multi-layered novel that reveals new angles avery time I read it. I’ve yet to discover the secret mystical Taoist teachings hidden within, but I have good hopes.
Fritz Leiber – the Lankhmar stories
Leiber is probably my favorite author, and I have multiple copies of his works. Once I used to say it was for colelction’s sake, but let’s be honest – I re-read every single story every time I bought a new edition.
Leiber was a giant.
Sam Shepard – short stories
Shepard was sort of an idol of mine when I was a teenager – he was cool, laid back, creative. While I read his theater works, I prefer is short stories, for the way in which he approaches his subject matter obliquely, and drives home the core of his concerns.
Carl Sagan – The Demon-Infested World
The older I get, the more Sagan comes back to me and I re-read his books, and miss him.
Demon-Infested World should be read in schools, I think, as it is a powerful witness to the importance and beauty of science.
And this is it.
My list of often-re-read authors and books.
I don’t know what it reveals about me.
If it does reveal anything at all.