With only a handful of exceptions, most of my reading this year has been revisiting my favorite novels. New books can be a little anxiety-inducing—all the more so if it’s a author you have never read before. Will you like their writing? Do they know how to tell a good story? Are you going to get to the end and feel like you’ve wasted your time?

When you re-read, you avoid all those questions. You know what to expect. It’s all very comforting.

I haven’t kept a list of all the books I’ve revisited since January. It started with Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings and The Simarillion.* I’ve read most of the Patricia McKillip I’ve got on my shelf**—The Bell at Sealy Head, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, the Cygnet books, the Riddlemaster*** trilogy—and Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown. Guy Gavriel Kay, of course, Tigana and Ysabel and Under Heaven. At the start of summer, on the heels of watching the Game of Thrones television series, I plunged into a re-read of the first four books of the series, followed by the fifth when it came out.

A Dance with Dragons touched off a brief spurt of new-book-reading, though it only lasted a few weeks.**** Since autumn began, I’ve been back to the old favorites again. Dunsany. Yolen. Nix. I’m trying to pick between The Name of the Wind, The Shadow of the Wind and (unthematically) Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for my next book. Or maybe I’ll reach for the ever-so-familiar Chronicles of the Deryni.

It’s hard to decide between them. They’re all good choices. I know. Because I’ve read them, and I’m looking forward to reading them again.

What favorite books do you like to return to from time to time?

* I’m halfway through The Hobbit with Anna, but we’re stuck on the chapter in Mirkwood, with the spiders. She doesn’t like spiders.

** More are in storage, or I’m sure I would have read them too.

*** Riddlemaster! It still stuns me that I only read that book for the first time a couple years ago. How did I miss this for so, so many years?

**** I think I’ll save those titles and thoughts about them for a later post.

2 Thoughts on “The Year of Old Books”

  • I reread Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun every several years. Also, many of Moorcock’s books, most notably the Elric and Corum series. Tolkien maybe once a decade. Leiber’s Fafhrd & Gray Mouser. I keep rereading Song of Ice & Fire as new books come out, but I’m not certain that’ll be the case when they’re done. I’m teetering on a third read of Thomas Covenant, but haven’t managed to commit yet. I’ve read through Zelazny’s Amber a few times.

    • I am increasingly ambivalent about Song of Ice and Fire. I don’t believe anymore that it’s going to hold up to the hoopla, but I plan to expound on that more in later posts. I liked Amber when I read it, about 10 years ago, enough to revisit it sometime in the future. But of the others you list, Wolfe, Morcock and Covenant never captured me– I struggled through the last and finally gave up halfway through the sixth book, wondering why I was bothering why I was reading it, which i hardly ever do — and I’ve only read the odd excerpt by Leiber. Something to add to the to-be-read list, I’m sure. Thanks for sharing!

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