Friday, July 22, 2011

Open Friday: Re-reading

Recently, my daughter asked me to read The Lord of the Rings to her before she goes to bed each night. As it turned out, this was a serendipitous request, as I was planning to begin re-reading it myself, as I try to do every year or two. The Lord of the Rings is one of those books I feel the need to return to often; my appreciation and enjoyment of it increases with every re-reading. The same is true of many of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, H. Beam Piper, and Poul Anderson.

This made me wonder: what are the books or authors you return to again and again and find that you enjoy more each time that you read them?


  1. The are so many new books out there waiting to be read, that I almost can't afford the time to re-read any of the ones I already own. That being said, I highly enjoyed re-reading some of the Lovecraft classics–they also seem to get better with each time. Like you're finding things you haven't read earlier (but which you've likely only fogotten by now).

  2. I'm currently reading HP Lovecraft again, and in the past I have revisited the Shannara books as well as the first Riftwar ones. But finding the time to re-read books when I have so many new ones to read is hard... I look forward to retirement and time to sit and read as I slowly die :)

  3. Terry Pratchett's someone I find myself rereading constantly and in batches. They're such quick and fun reads that I don't find myself worrying about all stuff I haven't read once still awaiting my attention.

  4. The ones I re-read are typically earlier works in a series when a new one comes out. Every decade or so I re-read LotR. Every once in a while I re-read Dune, but not any of the rest of the series. Other then that I tend to re-read whatever I happen to leave in the car. I tend to forget to change the car book until another long car trip.

  5. I'm in the "so many books to read, hard to re-read" camp, mostly. Short stories are easier for re-reads, of course - Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, E. A. Poe. Novels take more time but I have re-read Tolkien and Joseph Heller.

    I've really been itching to re-read the original 'Black Company' trilogy by Glen Cook.

  6. I plan to re-read JRR, someday. The novel I re-read recently from my youth was Emile Zola's realist classic 'Germinal' (1880s).

  7. Michael Slade's Ghoul, Tolkien's The Hobbit, McCammeron's Swan Song, and Card's Ender's Game are the books I frequently re-read.

  8. Certainly Lord of the Rings. I also try to reread it every three years or so. Always find something new.

    With all the talk in OSR-related blogs I have also had the desire to go back and re-read all the Elric books again. It has been over 20 years since I last read them.

  9. H. Beam Piper is one I always return to.

  10. Charles Tanner's Tumithak stories. Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame. Philip K. Dick. Susan Cooper. Richard Matheson. Lord Dunsany.

    And all the ones you mentioned.

  11. I think the hobbit is the only book I have ever read twice. I have so much I wish to read that I never make the effort to re-read something I still remember.

  12. Tolkien, of course; John Bellairs' *The Face in the Frost*; short stories by Robert E. Howard, Poe, Conan Doyle. Used to reread Dumas' *Three Musketeers* from time to time, but haven't picked it up again recently.

  13. Sadly, when I last tried to re-read Lord of the Rings I enjoyed it far less. I have little fondness for Tolkien's wandering writing style. He enjoys the scenery a bit too much and the actual goings on a bit too little.

  14. Neither of these are fantasy, but I often reread Joe Haldeman's _Forever_War_, as well as Bernard Cornwell's _Winter_King_ trilogy, mainly because I find his description of England in 500 AD absolutely compelling.

  15. Tolkien. I reread LotR every year. "The Hobbit" not so much, although I do enjoy it. And the "Silmarillion" ever 3-4 years or so.

    Herbert. I have read "Dune" AT LEAST once a year since I was twelve. some years, it's been read 2-3 times. Easily approaching my 45th re-reading. And I still notice some odd little detail or have a different take on the characters every time.

    Watt-Evans. "Lords of Dus." The saga of the Overman Garth as he works for the "Forgotten King" who is actually the King in Yellow from grim Carcosa. I read this once again every so often.

    Lovecraft. Mostly re-read the "Dreamlands" stuff that he wrote like the "Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath."

    Howard. Not necessarily Conan. I like his "Cthulhu" tales of horror and Solomon Kane the best actually. His western short stories are pretty good, too.

  16. John M. Ford's books - The Dragon Waiting, Web of Angels, The Princes of the Air, The Last Hot Time, and his Star Trek books, The Final Reflection and How Much For Just the Planet?.

    Susan Cooper, C.J. Cherryh, Samuel R. Delany, George R.R. Martin are others.

  17. Definitely Dune, although it's been a while, I used to do it every year.

  18. Glen Cook's "Black Company" series; Lois Bujold's Vor books; and Terry Pratchett's "Guard" Discworld novels.

  19. Tolkien: Everything gets re-read fairly often, but primarily The Hobbit, The Book of Lost Tales, and The Lays of Beleriand.
    Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy
    Eddison: The Worm Ouroboros
    Anderson: The High Crusade
    Chrétien: Arthurian Romances
    Malory: Le Morte d’Arthur
    Burroughs: Princess, Gods, Warlord, Master Mind, and Llana
    Guilty pleasures: The first few books of Gord, Riftwar, Dragonlance, ASOIAF

    At one time The Lord of the Rings and Harold Shea would have been at the top the list. Now I am more likely to pick up a story by HPL, REH, CAS, or Vance.

  20. I've never gotten through LotR, i've tied several times, and it just doesn't appeal to me. I read Wheel of Time and Ice & Fire everytime a new book comes out, about the only thing i consistantly reread is Dune and Nueromancer, but i've always been more of a SciFi guy than a fantasy fan.

  21. The Icelandic sagas. Books like Gisli's Saga and Njal's Saga are full of human drama and subtle psychological insight, as well as seafaring and swordfights.

    Dunsany. Eddison. Tolkien. Peake. CAS and HPL. (REH not so much these days.)

    Gene Wolfe's novels have such unreliable narrators that they almost demand re-reading to unravel the puzzles.

    And, for pure pleasure, Jack Vance. Always Jack Vance.

  22. The Hobbit, The Prydain Chronicles, The Age of Unreason series (J. Greg Keyes), and Dune are all books I've read many times, especially when I was younger.

    Now I'm looking forward to many rereads of L. Sprague de Camp (Harold Shea, Krishna, Tritonian Ring, Novaria), Dorothy Dunnett (Lymond and Niccolo series), and Tros of Samothrace.

  23. Too many to list, really.
    Right now I'm too busy tapping into Project Gutenberg with my Kindle to reread anything. (I'm reading the Cosmic Computer actually and then its on the space viking.
    However, I have hard time finding authors that I like and I also find that sometimes when I reread something I actually enjoy it more because I'm not so driven to find out what happens next and I take more time to actually pay attention.

  24. I routinely re-read books by Milan Kundera and Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov, in fact, insisted that his books were written specifically for re-reading and not for reading. The initial reading phase is just to build familiarity with the material (the plot and characters) and the second and later readings are for the real enjoyment.

  25. There was a time that I used to read LotR about once a year, either in Finnish or in English. I still have the badly-torn paperback version that I used to haul about during the 8-month conscription duty, for example. Now the story is so ingrained in my head that I hardly need to read it anymore, just to browse a bit, or to check something. The Tolkien I read these days are parts from the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales etc. And now that my most favourite Tolkien story, the Children of Hurin, has it's own book, I'll be returning to that quite often.

    Other than Tolkien, my Most Often Read list includes Watership Down, Name of the Rose, Earthsea whateverlogy, The Mists of Avalon, and The Vampire Genevieve. There was also the time that I was very fond of Robert Silverberg's short story Enter a Soldier, I must have read that one half a dozen times in a very short period.

  26. Gene Wolfe. It's almost impossible to sift through all the layers of one of his stories without multiple re-readings.

  27. Definitely Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey. Both of them have written numerous series that I love and adore. Of all the series they both have put out I particularly love The Dragon Jouster series which I just recently reread and blogged about, The Elemental Masters series again that I just recently reread, and a selection of the Valdemar novels all by Lackey along with The two Talent series, the first Powers that Be trilogy, and a selection of Pern novels all by McCaffrey. I also plan to reread the Pegasus named talent trilogy soon having just recently bought them all.

    Oh and I like Ender's Game/Shadow and occasionally go back to them along with an assortment of other books that I read as the mood strikes me.

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  29. Glen Cook's Black Company books, Steven Brust's Jhereg series and Feist/Wurts Empire series are the books I've regularly re-read. (Similarly I re-read a number of graphic novels - Planetary, The Ultimates, The Authority, the X-Men Norse saga).

  30. I reread Walden each year and I enjoy and understand it more each time.

  31. While not strictly fantasy, Roger Zelanzy's Roadmarks is one of those books I find myself picking up and leafing through once every couple of years. Same thing with a couple of his first set of Amber books (though admittedly less often). I find his writing style visually impactful in the mind's eye. Same thing goes for Cook's first Black Company book.

    The Hobbit is always there, though it's definitely a mood thing.

    I'm with Andrew when it comes to Brust though his last couple didn't do that much for me. Of course, I read them on my kindle which seems to dull the entire reading experience for me.

  32. Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light and sometimes the first chronicles of Amber (but definitely not the second one). Beowulf is another I like to reread and I'll sometimes pick up and read various parts of the Silmarillion.

  33. I re-read the hobbit and LotR every couple of years. I managed to go my whole life up until this year without reading Dune, but I could instantly tell that it would be one of those that I'd have to visit again and again. I've been told the sequels are crap, Godfather III level crap.
    I haven't read the Prydain books since I was in middle school, do they still hold up?

  34. The Dune sequels aren't bad, there just not the same quality. Messiah and Children are fairly good. God-Emperor is a bridge book. Heretics and Chapterhouse are completely different, but ok. Brian and KJA's prequel and the end to the last trilogy are GF3 bad, tho.

    I forget to mention Kurtz's Deryni series. I re-read those periodically. But, then, I'm Roman Catholic. :)

  35. (1) The Once and Future King (every 5-10 years)
    (2) Thomas Covenant books (less often)
    (3) Comics like Secret Wars, Dark Night Returns, and Walt Simonson's Thor run (currently reading via recent Omnibus release)

  36. As much as I do love reading, it is something I have some trouble with. (It took me a year to finish Dune.) So, there are very few novel-length stories I’ve re-read. LotR is actually one, since I re-read it just before the movies came out.

  37. I read LOTR and the Hobbit every couple of years. I just scored really nice hardbound versions of each at Half Price Books for a steal. I'm very much looking forward to reading them!

    I'm ALWAYS rereading something of REH's. Short stories appeal to my sporadic reading schedule. HPL is also very frequently read for the same reason. I've read the first six books of the Black Company series probably 3 or 4 times.

    I'm actually much more likely to re-read books I like than put the time into something new. Most new fantasy seems to be an endless series with each book being thousands of pages. The Sword of Truth series really sent me over the edge in the mid '90s.

  38. William Gibson! Specifically Neuromancer.

    "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."

  39. There are so many books I revisit either for a refresher or to slip into an old feeling. Off the top of my head there's Vernor Vinge's Fire upon the Deep I have to read every few years. *Frank* Herbert's Dune series, Ursula le Guin's The Dispossessed, Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame, Poul Anderson's Heechee saga and that Damn Song of Ice and Fire series as well.
    Oh and John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent because its just perfect.

  40. I have returned to Moorcock, Leiber, Howard, and Lovecraft, on several occasions throughout my life. I recently reread the original Elric series and fell in love with it all over again. I'm currently rereading the Iliad. I have also re-read 100 Years of Solitude, Geronimo Rex, by Barry Hannah, and, of course, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

  41. During my teenage years I reread the following several times (most have been already mentioned):

    The Hobbit by JRRT (I enjoyed reading it more than LOTR, while respecting the latter more)
    Once and Future King series by TH White (the ending of 'The Ill-Made Knight' still brings tears to my eyes)
    Amber 1-5 by Roger Zelazny (Found the follow up series incomprehensible)
    The Narnia series by CS Lewis.
    Dragonlance and the Belgariad series (forgive me, I was young)

    I also loved gamebooks, my copies of the 'Blood Sword' series by Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson and the 'Sorcery!' series by Steve Jackson virtually fell to pieces from overuse. Rose Estes wrote a few CYOA adventure style books which I also really reread and enjoyed.

    As an adult I read the Bible cover to cover, Old and New Testament, once a year! All the excitement of the best fantasy trilogy with the additional advantage of being, as JRRT described it, a 'true myth.'

  42. PKD, Clark Ashton Smith, and Raymond Chandler. You and I read Piper's Space Viking at around the same time, and I read purely to see how it might have influenced Traveller.

  43. The "Amber" series by Zelazny is a set that I re-read at least once every few years.

  44. A Song of Ice and Fire- Criminally under appreciated by OSR crowd.

    Tombs of Atuan- Easily my favorite fantasy novel.

    Lord of the Rings- Less so now, but I read and re-read them for many years.

  45. I'm glad to see Raymond Chandler make this list (kudos to Keith418).

    Actually, the authors whose works I re-read wouldn't fall in the fantasy/sci-fi genre, but I find inspiration for fantasy campaigns in their works, nonetheless. These include Dean Koontz (modern day suspense. "The Taking" a brilliant modern-day apocalyptic tale), Robert Ludlum (espionage) and the aforementioned Raymond Chandler (mystery, hard-boiled style).

  46. Used to reread LOTR every year from 9 to 35--then I had my first child, and the rereadings tanked. One of the reasons I'm going to be routinely teaching our fantasy course from now on is to provide a space in which I can regularly reread my favorite books. :)

  47. The Hobbit. HP Lovecraft. The Water Margin. Except for these, I usually do not re-read books. I prefer to discover new ones.

  48. Lois McMasterBujold - Vor Series and her fantasy series, there is so much hidden in her prose.

    Tolkien of course - I am in awe of his world building and pore over the appendices regularly

    Frank Herbert - Dune but also his other books ie. White Plague, Dosadi Experiment etc.

    Robert Heinlein - his juveniles and short stories work with me

    Elizabeth Moon's Paksenarrion, Glen Wolfe - Books of the Suns, Glen Cook - Black Company, David Drake (for his takings from History), and David Gemmel they are among the many authors I revisit on a regular basis.

  49. Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Once a year. There are few that I re-read, primarily because of time constraints, but since I joined a book club, I have managed to go back to a few favourites. Going to re-read The Big Sleep next.

  50. Dune.

    Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series.

    R.E. Howard's Conan stories.

    Moorcock's Elric, Hawkmoon and my favorite by MM, The Warhound and the World's Pain.

    Stephen King's Dark Tower series.

    I'm re-reading Fritz Leiber's F & GM now.

  51. Thomas Pynchon
    William Faulkner
    Barry Hannah

  52. Thank you, James, for this post. It is the first one I have Pdf'd and will reference for future reading. Dune, of all books, huh? I have read it twice and remember most the characterization, dialogue, and seamless skein of science, fantasy, and story. Now, however, ill read again with this post as part of my background knowledge. Please keep it up!

  53. David Eddings Belgariad and Malorean

  54. Almost everything I reread from my favourite authors (which are too many to mention offhand). Especially if I've been reading a lot of new authors (whose quality may "vary"), rereading an old favouite author is relaxing. Comfort reading, which I keep finding myself returning to.

    For example I can always wax ecstatically over every word and turn of phrase in Peter S Beagle's The Last Unicorn, regardless of the number of times I've read it.

    Although I do have a tradition of rereading The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri every other Easter or so. In either Italian (which I picked up to enjoy the original prose [and to read Il Principe in the original language], or the Dorothy L Sayers translation.

  55. I used to reread the Hobbit and LotR every few years but upon my last reading of the Rings Trilogy I could barely get through it. As Brandon noted, Tolkien does love himself some winding roads and rolling hills and I find myself thinking, "Get on with it man!"

    I've reread most of the early Discworld books two or three times, the Hitchhiker's Guide series two or three times and many of the books of Heinlein, Niven, Pohl, Norton and Herbert at least twice.

    I constantly reread my comic books and graphic novels, regardless of age or continuity, as those often inspire gaming ideas more than anything else.

    Well, those and artbooks. I think I've read through Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials and Lee and Froud's Faeries more times then I can count.

  56. After reading the Dying Earth books this year, I find myself going back to Cugel again and again. I would like to re-read the Guardian of the Flame series, including the last few books which I never have read. Middle-earth books, especially Silmarillion I re-read every now-and-than. The Dune series (and yes, the new ones too). I want to re-read The Broken Sword since it was really good (I liked it more than Children of Hurin). I also have audio books of some of the mentioned books so I can listen to them at work too, which is usually these days the way I "re-read" books I've read.

  57. As it seems with so many folks, I've re-read Dune, Lord of the Rings and the original Dying Earth books. I could also go back through any given story by Leiber, Howard or Lovecraft basically at will. I read a good chunk of the History of Middle-Earth series back in college, which was like reading every draft of the Silmarillion (the Turin and Beren/Luthien stories are IMO Tolkien's best tales).

    I periodically revisit Orwell's 1984, a fascinating book. During high school I was devoted to it and would go back over certain passages again and again. These days not as much.

  58. Dune - Frank Herbert
    Time and the Gods - Lord Dunsany
    Lyonesse - Jack Vance

  59. @zerohero...
    Tombs of Atuan is fantastic. Trying to match the narrative to that great map, and the fascinating religion Le Guin crafted.

    How could I forget The Rolling Stones and Have Spacesuit Will Travel!?

  60. Sticking to fiction, I'd start with The Lord of the Rings and Dune, of course. Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood books. Lovecraft. Burroughs's Mars books. Tanith Lee's Flat Earth books. The two Arafel books by C.J. Cherryh (lately published in one volume as either The Dreaming Tree, with a re-written, and better, ending, or Arafel's Saga with the original ending). Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix stories. Howard's Conan stories. I may be adding Jim Butcher to this list. I used to re-read a few Heinlein books regularly, but that has become infrequent.

  61. Oh! And Raymond Chandler. I must have re-read The Long Goodbye a dozen times, and I occasionally read the others.

    And, though not frequently, I have re-read the Amber books of Zelazny a couple of times.

  62. I reread a LOT of books. The ones I've read the most include:

    The Hobbit (Tolkien)
    Armor (John Steakley)
    Siddhartha (Herman Hesse)
    Starship Troopers (Heinlein)

    Hmm...even leaving out the New Agey and non-fiction books that's kind of a weird selection, I admit.

  63. Princess of Mars, Llana of Gathol, Chessmen of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs, Dune - Herbert, The Final Reflection - John M. Ford, The Hobbit - JRRT, Pratchett's Discworld, C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith, anything Leigh Brackett.

  64. JB: I know what you mean about the non-fiction (and "New Agey", since some people dispute their fictional/non-fictional status). I didn't even try to list those. I also left out martial arts philosophy (my personal favorite, which I re-read frequently, is Tengu Geijutsuron, in its translation by William Scott Wilson (as The Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts).

  65. Tolkien, Lovecraft, Howard, and Bujold often draw me back, maybe every few years for each of them. I recently finished rereading Asimov's Robot and Foundation series. I'm currently rereading the Honor Harrington books, feeling as ambivalent about them as I did the first time. I just started rereading The Hobbit thanks to your recent posts. I'm setting aside the Thomas Covenant books to reread next thanks to that post and the debate it stimulated; I'm curious to see how I'll react to them the second time through.

    I most often reread Miyazaki's graphic novel Nausicäa of the Valley of Wind, which I like better than Dune (though the latter is due to hit my reread cycle soon). Nausicäa may be the only work I know that is equally apocalyptic and uplifting, a worthy story for our times.

  66. The Princess Bride. I probably alternate watch the movie or read the book every 6 months.

  67. Arthur Machen.
    Algernon Blackwood.
    Dion Fortune.
    Lord Dunsany.
    Clark Ashton Smith.
    Jack Vance.

  68. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. I've been re-reading it like clockwork, at least once a year.


    The World of Tiers By Philip José Farmer.
    The Demon Price series by Jack Vance.
    Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman.
    Lord of light by Roger Zelazny.

  69. @ Soren

    Very nice. Dean Koontz's The Taking is definitely worthy of a few reads, especially for GMs looking to do horror well, rather than just throwing vampires and zombies in their players' faces and calling it horror.

  70. Lyonesse.
    O'Brien's Aubrey/Maturin books.
    Stephenson's Cryptonomicon & Snow Crash. Segments of his Baroque Cycle too, though I haven't invested the time yet in a complete re-read of those.
    Ender's Game and (moreso) Speaker for the Dead.
    Paksennarion in the past.

  71. There are so many books yet to read, and so little time! I read The Lord of the Rings aloud to my three boys (ages 8-13) over the course of June 2009-December 2010, which was re-reading, and I noticed and appreciated many details anew (though I had re-read it many times in my teen years). They then prevailed upon me to re-read The Hobbit aloud this year, which took much less time. To get my Tolkien fix nowadays, I don't have to re-read when there are 12 volumes of the History of Middle-Earth to delve into. The details on the dwarves in vol. 12 are a trove of material.

  72. Leiber, Vance, LeGuin, Burroughs (E.R., not W.S.), Aldiss, M. John Harrison, Mieville, and G.R.R. Martin have all been read in the last 2-3 months, though the last two were for work and I grew to dislike both.

  73. I turn to The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch whenever I feel terrible, or want to feel terrible-er.

    I like to comfort myself with the thought that, despite how banal the mundane evils we face every day, there are truly monstrous things just out of sight, or just waiting for us to lift our eyes up to see a larger picture.

    "Faith of our Fathers," and some of his other short stories, too.

  74. The Hobbit and Watership Down for me.

  75. I reread Tolkien every few years and just finished the Hobbit again. I also return to the stories of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser with some frequency. Then there is Promethea by Allan Moore, Astro City by Kurt Busiek and Sandman by Neil Gaiman.

  76. In my teens I must have re-read LOTR every year or so; these days I’m lucky to revisit it once a decade. As others have mentioned, I also tend to re-read earlier books in a series when something new comes out.

    I have a number of “old favourites” that I turn to when I’m in need of a stress-free, good story – I guess the literary equivalent of comfort food. These tend to get read about once every 5 years or so. Examples would include:
    Steve Miller & Sharon Lee’s very Travelleresque Liaden tales;
    Robin McKinley’s novels (especially The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, Beauty, & The Door in the Hedge);
    David Weber’s Honor Harrington novels;
    Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series;
    Andre Norton’s Witch World books;
    Piper & Co.’s Lord Kalvan stories;
    and David Eddings’ Elenium series.


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