What are your comfort books?


The Bloggess brings up an interesting question about comfort books — those books you read multiple times, because they inexplicably make you feel good.

I was just talking with Victor about comfort books…those books that you read over and over because you find them comforting even if you don’t understand why. He thinks I’m insane and possibly I am, but there are certain books I turn to when my head is in a weird place and I need to go somewhere I’ve been before and relax. I’d tried to explain it to him and he almost understood until I started listing a few and then I realized that most of my comfort books are full of murder and angst and bizarreness and are not really what anyone in the world would consider to be a happy or relaxing read. Books like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Geek Love and From the Dust Returned and The Stranger. Worn copies of Bloody Business and Stiff and The 3 Faces of Eve and Alice in Wonderland and pretty much any of the Sookie Stackhouse series. Books that may not make it on my top ten list, but that I compulsively read again and again.

I thought about it, and I mostly lack anything like that — I like newness, so I keep digging up new authors and new stories, and I don’t do much re-reading. But there’s one exception, one book that I dredge up every few years to re-read. It’s probably one you never heard of.

It’s The Far Arena, by Richard Ben Sapir. I nicked it off my father’s bookshelf way, way back in the previous millennium, and I’ve kept the ragged paperback around ever since, because it was out of print otherwise (although now, finally, it’s back, and you can even get it on your kindle!)

It’s a strange story, which sounds like it ought to be a sensationalist action-adventure. An oil company drilling through a glacier cores through the thigh of frozen human being, and they dig him up and thaw him out, and miraculously, he lives (there is a huge leap in believability you have to make in the science, but once you get past that, it’s OK). As it turns out, he’s a Roman gladiator.

This could be an opportunity for some real cheese, but no — it turns into this very thoughtful consideration of what it means to be human, and the meaning of mortality, and also an interesting character study. The story revolves around multiple people: the gladiator himself, the nun brought in as a Latin translator, the corporate flunky who’s trying to protect the oil company interests, and a Russian socialist who keeps trying to inject ideology into everything. And they’re all treated sympathetically! There aren’t any bad guys at all in the story, but there’s still conflict between all these well-meaning people.

And no, it’s not about gory swordfights. There is one sword fight in contemporary times (and a few others in flashbacks to the arena), when doubters test him in a duel with a fencer to see if this little Latin-babbling guy could possibly have been a professional gladiator…and it’s treated as a horror rather than a glorious moment. Don’t bother with it if you want something like that awful Spartacus series on Starz.

I think I re-read it because it’s such a sensitive exploration of time and loss and memory. While the idea of having a conversation with a person from the distant past is a common idea of time-travel stories, in this one we have our time-traveler gradually becoming aware that everything and everyone he loved is long gone, forgotten dust.

I guess that says something about me, that the obscure book I look upon most fondly is all about time and death.

Now your turn. Confess. What book have you read a half-dozen or more times?


  1. cmotdibbler says

    Anything by Terry Pratchett but “Small Gods” in particular. “Hogfather” is a nice yuletime tradition.

  2. freemage says


    The entire Watch arc in Pratchett’s Discworld series.

    Good Omens, by Pratchett and Gaiman.

    Gaiman’s Neverworld, and some of his short story collections.

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.

    Gail Carriger’s aetherpunk series, starting wtih Soulless.

  3. says

    Boy… The Far Arena sounds really familiar. I think I read it once, but I don’t remember the title or author, only the story.

    It really did stick with me though — I vividly remember the fight with the modern fencer.

    I like to re-read books. One of the ones I re-read many times in my adolescence (but not since then) was Watership Down.

    Latetly, I haven’t had time to read as much as I’d like, and I’ve mostly been reading new stuff, although I did just reread Wildbow’s Worm serial ( https://parahumans.wordpress.com/ ) — that’s a heck of a re-read at over 1 million words. I took it to Mexico on my phone so I wouldn’t run out of material to read while I was traveling.
    It took me another month after I got back to finish reading it again.

  4. Vivec says

    It’s probably either Dune by Frank Herbert, or Imajica by Clive Barker for me.

  5. felicis says

    “The Far Arena”! I remember that book – I read it ages ago, and liked it a lot, but after so long, I couldn’t even remember the title! Thanks for bringing it back to me! (And the happy news that I can easily get a copy)…

  6. says

    The Far Arena sounds great. My main comfort book is probably La Rochefoucauld’s “Maxims“, which is the life’s reflections of a 17th century French aristocrat, turned into maxims (statements of mostly three sentences or less). He talks about politics, love, money, friendship, and more. Cynical but not nihilistic, classist and sexist as you might expect from a man of his time. But also penetrating and often hilarious.

  7. Matrim says

    I’m big into rereading. Most books I like I’ve read at least twice, there’s a few I’ve read probably upwards of two dozen times.

    I wouldn’t say I have “comfort books” though. To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the closest thing. There are parts of books, though, that I’ll read to get my spirits up.

  8. says

    What book have you read a half-dozen or more times?

    The Adamsberg books by Fred Vargas. Oh, her Three Evangelists books too.

  9. says

    Some favorite comfort books I reread, most of which live in the headboard bookshelf in the bedroom: The Barchester Chronicles, Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye series, most of Robin McKinley’s work, especially Chalice and Spindle’s End and Rose Daughter, and when I really need it, Deerskin, Georgette Heyer’s A Civil Contract and Cotillion, Little, Big by John Crowley… I read when my brain hurts, I read when I’m depressed, I read when I’m stressed, I read when I’m sick.

  10. frog says

    Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber.
    Kurtz’s Deryni novels, usually gravitating to the 3rd one (High Deryni).
    Hitch-hiker’s Guide, but more often Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
    The Three Musketeers

    And of late I’ve read The Hunger Games et al several times when I just wanted something to read that would go down easy yet have thinky aspects for my brain to chew on.

    I think the common thread here is books where characters are plotting against each other, or avoiding plots leveled at them by the antagonists. There’s action aplenty, but the main “oh shit” moments are all in the mental and emotional fuckery. Even in Restaurant.

  11. oliver says

    “The Dispossessed” by Ursula LeGuinn. I must have read it at least seven or eight times, as written, alternating between two earth-like planets in flash-forward and flash-back fashion, or chronologically as the main character (a theoretical physicist) grows up in an anarcho-syndicalist world and then travels to a class-divided capitalist one. In my opinion, LeGuinn creates an alien culture much more believable than Herbert’s “Dune” and tells a story that has informed my own political leanings. I have been carrying this novel around for at least 30 years and now that I have had my thoughts jogged, I will probably read it again this summer.

  12. says

    I second (or third?) the Watch arc in Discworld, as well as Small Gods. An advantage of the Discworld books is that you can go back to them without relly having to reread them, as there are 40.

    More worryingly, by the age of 15 I had read each of the first 12 original Tarzan books five times, and some of them six times.

  13. paercival says

    The Belgariad and Mallorean by David Eddings. Read Pawn of Prophecy for the 1st time in 6th grade, tore through the rest. For the next 10 years, reread them every year – then it became every 2 or 3 years. It’s been awhile now, as I spend too much time finding awesome new authors (seriously, why didn’t I discover Kate Elliot earlier?), but I will always think of them fondly

  14. says

    I read all Pratchett’s Discworld books more than 6 times, as well as all parts of Harry Potter saga in last years. Without these I would probably succumb to my depression already.

    But those are not the only books I read that much. Since childhood I read a lot of books multiple times. If I read a book only once, then it mostly means I did not like it that much.

  15. johnmarley says

    Include me in the Discworld and HHGttG groups. Also “The Innkeeper’s Song” by Peter S. Beagle.

  16. birgerjohansson says

    Dicworld novels are good Comfort books, and the odd Neal Asher science fiction title.
    I don’t like all of Koontz, urban gothic novels, but I keep going back to the Odd Thomas series.
    Oncde upon a time, as a wee laddie, I read and re-read van Vogt’s the War with the Rull (in Swedish translation).

    Comfort books that need to be written: Stories where “beards” actually are Alien parasites:

  17. MHiggo says

    Good Omens for me, as well.

    Also, weirdly enough, Death From the Skies by Phil Plait. I will admit to skipping straight to the last chapter a time or two, though.

  18. flyv65 says

    I’ve read and enjoyed most of the books listed here, but one I keep coming back to is “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter Miller. I first read it in high school and it struck a chord for me…

  19. Donnie says

    The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
    The Deeds of Parksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon

  20. says

    Another vote for Moby Dick.

    It took me several tries to get into it, but once I did, I understood why it’s a classic.
    That’s one I’ve read several times since I finally got through it the first time.

  21. vereverum says

    Richard III – Shakespeare
    The Blue Carbuncle – Doyle
    The Epiplectic Bicycle – Gorey
    Beware of this and that.

  22. jtdavi3 says

    Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (nice fun fantastic escapist quick read).
    Songmaster by Orson Scott Card (yes, he’s nuts and a bigot, and in retrospect what I thought was inclusivity of homosexuality in the book as an adolescent actually now seems to be thinly (?) veiled homophobia, but the story and prose are gorgeous – it’s the first book that ever made me weep).
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein (also a little colored by time for me, with previously-unrecognized misogyny that is a product of its time, but still a wonderful story).
    I re-read the entire Culture series by Iain Banks about every 5 years (so sad he’s gone…).

  23. Storms says

    Likewise “Small Gods” by Pratchett, also the Black Company series by Glen Cook and CS Friedman’s “This Alien Shore”

  24. Menyambal says

    I read _The Far Arena_ a long time back. I still remember the gladiator being short, and using that to his advantage.

    I think what I liked about the book was the quiet working through of the implications of the various situations. It wasn’t just about sword-fighting.

    Along those lines, two of my favorites are _The Mote in God’s Eye_ and _The Pride of Chanur_. Space aliens and thinking about life.

    Terry Pratchett, of course, but by comparison his books are new. Georgette Heyer’s regency romances are family favorites.

  25. carter says

    Oliver, yes “The Dispossessed” by LeGuin (my wife and I read it aloud to each other while courting 38 years ago) and others by her. The Arkady Renko books by Martin Cruz Smith (beginning with “Gorky Park”). The Russell & Holmes books by Laurie King (beginning with “The Beekeepers Apprentice”) with all the Doyle stories already part of me. Tolkien (though I tend nowadays only to reach for them every ten years or so, since they soaked into my bones fifty years ago). Richard Dawkins “The Ancestors’ Tale”.
    Anything that takes this complicated world and makes it richer and my perspective different. I reread most of the books I like a lot, so my advance into new books is slowed down. And having them at my fingertips in electronic form as well as on the shelf makes a huge difference in my rereading rate.

  26. chigau (違う) says

    Lord of the Rings
    most of Ursula LeGuin
    all of Christopher Moore
    alot of Robertson Davies
    and more

  27. Becca Stareyes says

    It’s hard, since I cycle through so many series — books I read as comfort reads as teenagers don’t hit the spot quite like they used to. That and there’s so much to read. I can think of a few short stories, actually.

    “The Mountains of Mourning,” by Lois McMaster Bujold and “How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea,” by Seanan McGuire (writing as Mira Grant).

    The Bujold is a sort of murder mystery that she partially wrote to show that having a truth drug doesn’t make any case open-and-shut, and it’s about the change in culture as we become more inclusive and how even those from affected groups might resist it. Bujold is also generally excellent at social science fiction, looking at how technology affects society.

    The Grant is post-apocalyptic but in the sense of rebuilding under a new status quo. It’s zombie fiction, but it plays with the biology a bit — wondering that if we have a zombie virus, what would our immune systems (and the virus) do to adapt to this. Like the Bujold, this is in an established world, and Grant also writes to show that the America that was in the novels is not the only country dealing with it, and that Australia (where the book is set) looks different in terms of their security precautions, thanks to a different culture, different infrastructure, and a different relationship with nature. (McGuire once stated that she liked writing this, but her dream for having other stories outside the US in her setting would be editing an anthology and asking foreign and foreign-born writers to set stories outside the US, to best capture how the world looks.) McGuire writes horror as Mira Grant, but her zombie books are kind of hopeful* in that it is very much a ‘humans will cope like we always do with disasters: sometimes well, sometimes badly, but the species survives even if a lot of us are eaten or become zombies’.

    * Many of the short stories end with a lot of people dying. Hell, the body count in the books is non-trivial.

  28. John Harshman says

    Everything by Jack Vance.
    Everything by Heinlein before 1960 or so.
    The Lathe of Heaven
    The Lord of the Rings

  29. carollynn says

    OM! The Far Arena! I loaned that out once and didn’t get it back and paid ridiculous prices to get a new/used copy a few years later.

  30. jacksprocket says

    I go for Troy Town by Sir Arthur Quiller Couch- no groundbreaking SF ideas, just a tale of a Fenian conspiracy in a small Cornish port with pretensions to gentility, and with many asides. Or if that doesn’t take you, Flann O’Brien’s story-within-a-story-within-a-story (with interspersed Irish legends), At Swim-Two-Birds.

  31. says

    Pratchett and Tolkien of course, but I love Thomas’s short “A Child’s Chritsmas in Wales” which I used to read to my kids every Xmas.

  32. strangerinastrangeland says

    I could add my name to the fans of Terry Pratchett´s Discworld and Jack Vance’s Lyonesse books – most of them I read at least twice if not more often. But my REAL comfort book is “The Bridge of Birds” by Barry Hughart. Clever, funny and with one of the biggest happy-ends ever. Nearly every time I am down with a nasty cold, this book lets me forget my fever, running nose and any other ailment.

  33. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    John Harshman:

    Everything by Jack Vance.
    Everything by Heinlein before 1960 or so.
    The Lathe of Heaven
    The Lord of the Rings

    Were we separated at birth?

    Jack Vance is my main one, though–just let the language wash over you. The Dying Earth stories especially….

  34. brucegee1962 says

    I agree with Anne, the Cranky Cat Lady — LIttle, Big by John Crowley is my go-to book. Though everything by Tim Powers is also very good and worth rereading as well.

  35. Steve Cameron says

    I love the Flashman series by George MacDonald Fraser. Historical fiction set during the height of the British Empire as told by an unrepentant cad who always manages to come out on top. Flashman’s Lady is a particular favorite, despite (perhaps because of) its longish digression into a cricket match, a sport that is unfathomable to me.

  36. Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff says

    Wow — what I like, but also the why . . .

    LORD OF THE RINGS – Because it is a complete WORLD to disappear into.

    THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW & THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER – So much to like here, but as a person with clinical depression, the Wood Between the World as a place of utter peace is very seductive. And again, the peace of the final part of the voyage, rowing the ship through the clear water covered by flowers) Really, all the Narnia books, but those two in particular.

    HEINLEIN – How many times reread? Top ones — Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, and the Door into Summer (the image of the cat going to each door in the house, looking for the Door in Summer . . . reduces me to tears of empathy), and Goldfish Bowl . . . . (the universe is stranger than we can imagine)

    SALEM’S LOT – The child protagonist and his new-found father-figure . . .

    And . . . a great sin here . . . . I have never understood a scintilla of the attraction of Terry Pratchett.

  37. bodach says

    Pterry of course, but no love out there for Nick Harkaway or Richard Kadrey? C’mon, man!

  38. says

    Any of the Discworld books. And I’ve reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy more or less once a year for over twenty years. Just finished it again last week. And, strangely, my old Living Invertebrates textbook.

  39. Richard Smith says

    I haven’t read them in a few years, so I’m really overdue: John Christopher’s Tripod series, The White Mountains, The Cities of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire; The Day the Tripods Came prequel, not quite as often.

  40. Steve Cameron says

    I shouldn’t leave out one of my all-time favorite comic books, DC: The New Frontier written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke. If I had to pick, I’m a Marvel guy more than a DC guy, as far as familiarity with the characters and the shared continuity goes, and the The New Frontier is a steeped in old DC continuity minutia, but I love it because it’s got compassion and optimism and heroism cranked up to 12. It’s a fundamentally satisfying read, especially as an antidote to the recent spate to grim’n’gritty superhero movies and tv shows.

  41. bpetroglyph says

    I’ll add my voice to the ones compulsively rereading Terry Pratchett and Jack Vance. Pratchett for the impassioned humanism and the gleeful parodies, Vance for the exhiliration of Tourism In Spaaaaace (and the language, of c).

    Another of my comfort reads is Amélie Nothomb — rapid-fire dialogue-heavy novellas full of slightly off-kilter perspectives on the world.

  42. Nice Ogress says

    Memory, by Lois McMaster Bujold, is the one book in the Vorkosigan series I’ll pick up again and again.

    I’ve mostly stopped binge-reading books, where I’ll pick something up and read it back-to-back twenty times, but I used to do it obsessively. Courtship Rite by Donald Kingsbury and the manga version of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind were my touchstones for a long time, and when I lost 2/3 of my library those were the books I replaced first. Most of my re-read books nowadays are graphic novels rather than text: My copies of Evan Dahm’s Rice Boy and Order of Tales, despite being less than five years old, have nearly fallen apart because I read them so often.

  43. says

    While I’ve never been able to read the entire series (because it falls off), I’ve always quite enjoyed the first 4-5 books of the Wheel of Time. Otherwise, I suppose most of my comfort reads are comics or things like that. I always love the Infinity Gauntlet cycle (and the follow-ups, to lesser extent). Several other things on there… but usually, I just go read some of the non-fiction or things like that.

  44. jack16 says

    Yeah . . .There is some fiction I like to reread. Most of the Dick Francis novels (One by his son; wish he’d write more),“Straight” is a favorite. A delightful fantasy by Rick Cook, “Mall Purchase Night”. Others that I don’t recall at the moment.

  45. redwood says

    Along with Steve @44, I’ve reread the Flashman books several times (there’s a new series out about his uncle that’s not bad). I’ve also reread the Horatio Hornblower series and the Sharpe series. For all around comfort, though, nothing beats Pride and Prejudice. Such beautiful language, such a wonderful story.

  46. John Harshman says


    I’m more partial to Emphyrio, the Durdane, Alastor, and Tschai books, and some of the Demon Princes.

  47. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    I’m more partial to Emphyrio, the Durdane, Alastor, and Tschai books, and some of the Demon Princes.

    Oh, I’ve read Emphyrio probably 20 times–Vance was very sparse in libraries when I was growing up, but that was really my introduction….

    Chiming in for Barry Hughart and the Flashman books–haven’t reread them lately since I lost them all in a move a while back.

    And Nice Ogress–I thought I was the only person in the world who loved Courtship Rite. It’s the only believable depiction of a human colony on an alien planet in the literature.

  48. says

    Steve Cameron@#44
    If you haven’t tried Fraser’s MacAuslan books – they’re another series I reread every few years. I tell myself I’m just going to read about Bo Geesty and the Constipation of O’Brian then the next thing I know I’ve fetched an old bottle of scotch and lit some candles and I’m wrapped in a blanket and it’s 4am…

  49. mwalters says

    As with many others, Good Omens and most of the Watch and/or Sam Vimes Discworld books (and Going Postal).

    Also Startide Rising and The Uplift War by David Brin.

  50. Knabb says

    I’ve read Far Arena (and like others the fencer scene stuck with me, though not to the extent that the soldier’s horror upon seeing a crucifix did). For comfort books though, The Reluctant King and a pretty big chunk of Alan Dean Foster’s work stands out. The Damned and The Journey of the Catechist in particular.

  51. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    LOTR was great, yes, for sure, absolutely, BUT its prequel The Hobbit was much more fun and comforting. He banishes the Dragon and reaps a prize, without all the destruction the LOTR entailed. While LOTR is the better book, Hobbit is more the comfort book.
    (… ummm in my opinion, of course).

    Foundation series, doesn’t count as “comfort” buts fits the “multiply reread” category, plus all his robot books, where he meticulously explores the implications of his 3 big Laws. Favorite Asimov piece, personally, was the tale of Thiotimeoline, and its bizarre chemical nature.

  52. moarscienceplz says

    Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins.

    I loved JP the first time I read it, but the second time I was left cold. Maybe I was just in a weird mood then, and should try again.

    I can re-read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories any time. Even though the mystery part is now to me lost forever, Doyle just had such a way to invoke mood. Horror, sadness, wistfulness, and humor can pop up at any moment.

  53. estraven says

    Jane Eyre. Anything by Jane Austen. Pickwick Papers. Anything about Antarctica expeditions.

  54. oliver says

    The more I think about this, I realized that aside from a very few favorites and some reference material, I rarely read any book more than once. Consequently, I rarely buy books at all (that is what public libraries are for). Once read, purchased books just become something to store or give away. So aside from a few keepers like “The Dispossessed” and “The Passionate Life” by Sam Keen, my repeat fun-read library is quite small.

  55. Rob Grigjanis says

    Steve @44 & Marcus @57: Yes to Flashy and McAuslan!

    Also, anything by Wodehouse, Le Guin, Zelazny, Tolkien. And Conan Doyle’s Holmes.

  56. Rob Grigjanis says

    Oh, also Dirac’s General Theory of Relativity (GR in 69 pages! Now that’s comforting).

  57. petesh says

    Many worthy suggestions here (I just reread Hogfather, not actually one of my favorites). I’ll add P.G. Wodehouse (especially Bertie & Jeeves), early Spenser & Hawk (even faster reads than Agatha Christie) and my true reread compulsion: Rex Stout. Archie Goodwin is a brilliant creation as narrator, Nero Wolfe is sickeningly hilarious, the feel of Manhattan, mostly, especially in the 1930s–50s is acute, and the rotating cast of stock characters makes for old friends it’s fun to visit. There is also a murder mystery in each of them, but I don’t pay much attention to that. Personal fave: The Doorbell Rang in which our heroes humiliate the FBI, including specifically J. Edgar Hoover.

  58. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    One Hundred Years of Solitude (Marquez),
    Good Omens (Pratchett & Gaiman),
    The Watch books from Discworld (Pratchett),
    The Plague (Camus)

  59. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    Not many books that I’ve reread very recently, but the Serenity Rose and Eldritch comics by Aaron Alexovich are nice when I’m even less well than usual. Was sorely tempted to get the first few floppy paper copies of SR before they went out of print several years ago, but did later get the first and second compilation books. Also backed the ’10 Awkward Years’ kickstarter, but mostly just reread the digital copy.

  60. zetafunction says

    Wodehouse, anything but especially the Blandings stories.
    Austen. All of her, including unpublished, unfinished and Juvenilia.

    When I want to feel stronger, I read LeGuin, DTWOF, and Woolf – except for Orlando, that’s in the comfort category.

    As a child and teen I used for comfort The Foundation trilogy by Asimov, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, anything I could get by Verne, The Three Investigators, and the early twentieth century retellings of classical mythology and Roman history by Laura Orvieto.

  61. JustaTech says

    Pretty much any Mercedes Lackey (except the Last Herald Mage trilogy ), but specifically “Oathbreakers”. I actually keep tally marks in the back cover of how many times I’ve read it.

  62. blf says

    The Lord of the Rings and most of the Discworld books — both, as said above, an entire world you disappear into — plus all of Glenn Cook’s Garrett series that I have (I haven’t got the latest few, need to fix that…) — which, come to think of it, is another entire world (I think we have a theme developing here!) — Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light — broadly, also another world — and two of the Lord Darcey novels (Randall Garrett’s original Too Many Magicians and Michael Kurland’s Ten Little Wizards) — not quite an entire other world, but certainly an alternative Earth(well, Europe).

    The multiple appearances of “Lord” and “Garrett” in the above are coincidental. Except for Lord of Light, that all of those books involve “magic” is perhaps not coincidental — and Lord of Light is a case of “a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

    Oh, and another Roger Zelazny, A Night in the Lonesome October — not an “other world” except in a generous sense (Victorian England / London, complete with a certain “Jack”, “the great detective”, “the count”, et al.), but has “magic”. I think it was Zelazny’s last book, and you can sense he was having fun writing it.

  63. rq says

    Fortress in the Eye of Time (Cherryh)
    The Left Hand of Darkness (LeGuin)
    The Hobbit (Tolkien)
    Vol de nuit (St Exupery)

  64. 00001000bit says

    The “Myth” series by Robert Asprin was pretty good up until his “hiatus” in the mid-90’s. They really didn’t seem the same after he returned (with a co-writer) as the internal voice just didn’t seem the same.

    Rather than the first book in the series (“Another Fine Myth”) – if you can get your hands on the “Myth Adventures” graphic novel, the story there is a bit better (seemed to clean up a couple of the nits to pick with the book) and is gorgeously illustrated by Phil Foglio (who many will know from “Girl Genius”).

  65. rietpluim says

    The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
    The Once and Future King by Terence White
    Dune by Frank Herbert
    Het eerste koninkrijk by Seamus Heaney (anthology in Dutch translation)

  66. Loree says

    A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
    A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller, Jr
    Trouble and Her Friends – Melissa Scott
    The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets – Lloyd Biggle Jr.

  67. matiibn says

    One that has stuck with me since high school was “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller Jr. Wikipedia has an interesting article about the book and author.

  68. blf says

    Oh yeah, the above-mentioned Another Fine Myth — another entire world with magic — but the series went downhill very quickly(I gave up on it at something like the third book).

    I kept being put off by the beginning of a A Canticle for Leibowitz, albeit I can’t really say why, but once I got over that initial problem, it was a good read. Doesn’t meet the “six times the more” criterion(for me), however; same with The Hobbit and a number of others which have been mentioned.

    I suspect I’ve read several of Tom Holt’s books that often, but (as-of when I last read a new one) they all tended to have the same-ish storyline: “The accountants did it”. He does, sometimes, put that storyline into an amusing, wacky, or simply different setting, though too many of his books(that I have read) are a bit too déjà vu-ish… (The
    ones that I suspect pass the “six” criteria are his first three, Expecting Someone Taller, Who’s Afraid of Beowulf?, and Flying Dutch, and the later ones Faust Among Equals, My Hero, and Snow White and the Seven Samurai.)

    Ah, yes, R. A. MacAvoy’s Tea with the Black Dragon.

    Richard Feynman’s Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman! (perhaps the only non-fiction book which(for me) meets the criteria?).

    And (how could I forget this!) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    And and and, last but certainly not least, Roy Lewis’s The Evolution Man (which has had a number of different titles over the years). Terry Pratchett wrote the introduction to one of the republishings, and in it told the story: “The famous French biochemist Jacques Monod subsequently wrote to point out one or two technical errors, but added that they didn’t matter a damn because reading the book made him laugh so much he fell off a camel in the middle of the Sahara.”

  69. stillacrazycanuck says

    I’ve bought literally thousands of books over the years: I used to read 2 or 3 a week. As a result, even tho we sold a few hundred at various garage sales, and gave away 12 boxes to an armed forces base library, I have a lot of books in the garage and a smaller selection in what passes for my library (a room that happens to have bookshelves). The latter are chosen precisely because I expect to re-read them periodically.

    Favourites from years past include:

    Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Ecco
    Dahlgren by Samuel Delaney
    The Aubrey-Maturin series by O’Brian, tho the last few books reflect his diminished skills/interest
    Any Culture novel by Banks
    The Diamond Age by Stephenson
    Any number of books by Stross, other than his Merchant series

    What I find odd is that there are several books that I think are probably ‘better’, in an entirely subjective way, than any of the above. I read the Mann Booker winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North shortly after it came out, and have recommended it to several friends as one of the best books I have ever read, but I doubt I will ever re-read it. I think that is probably because, until age takes a firmer grip on me than it has, the best scenes in the book will stick with me so vividly that I won’t forget it, as I do many of the details in other books as time goes by. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a (big) favour and get hold of a copy.

    My next big re-read will probably be the Baroque Cycle by Stephenson, but not for a few years. Rereading a 2800 page book (written as one, tho published in 3 hardcover and 9 paperback books) may have to wait until I retire.

    While I am (vastly) enjoying my belated discovery of Discworld, I doubt that I will ever reread many of them. A

  70. unclefrogy says

    reading the “Internet” has taken the place of reading books and magazines in the last few years not to mention old eyes and “worn out glasses” I have noticed that the glass does not work as well after you look through it for a few years.
    There are books and writers I have read over and over I could list or recommend
    Of course all 4 books involved with the war of the rings the Hobbit and LOTR
    any or all of Ursula Le Guin including The wizards of earth sea (all 6)
    all of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins mysteries
    John Dann MacDonald’s Travis Mcgee novels
    William Gibson’s first 2 trilogies ( all I have had time to read)
    Dashiell Hammett who besides being a master writer it is interessting to see his stories mirror his own increasing alcoholism
    there are probably others many many no doubt I could include.
    such as A Brief History Of Time,
    Animal Architecture by Von Frisch
    the one thing I think for me that connects them is their ability to create a sense of place and people in time
    I like these subjects as it gives me ideas what might be fun to read.

    uncle frogy

  71. greg hilliard says

    “The Cat in the Hat,” and “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” Sometimes a couple times per night. But that was when the kids were little.

  72. Ed Seedhouse says

    Well the list of books I’ve re-read is vast, because I think that if a book is worth reading once, then it’s usually worth reading twice and often a lot more.

    I suppose TLOTR is at the top of the list, mostly because you can just drop in anywhere and enjoy yourself. All of Heinlein’s “Juveniles” because I think they are by far his best books, with “The Star Beast” and “Citizen of the Galaxy” at the top, oh wait I forgot “Have Spacesuit will Travel”. The Foundation Trilogy many times.

    And all of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series when I can find them. Likewise Ross MacDonald. Oh dear, I could go on and on so I should stop here.

    And then there’s the Chess books – book about the game that is. As a decently good tournament chess player there are reams of books about chess that I return to often, usually coming up with new insights on each read.

    Aaaargh! Must – stop – Now!

  73. magistramarla says

    This former Latin teacher who also loves science fiction is very intrigued by The Far Arena. I’ll have to get that one on my Kindle.
    My comfort book has been Jane Eyre ever since I first read it at the age of 11. I probably re-read it at least once a year as a teen, and I’ve re-read it a few times as an adult. (It’s now on my Kindle) As an abused little girl, I identified strongly with the character of Jane. Reading about her having hope and finding the love that she deserved gave me a lot of hope, too.

  74. tbtabby says

    I love my Discworld and One Piece collections. They’re what got me into reading again. Not only are they superb reads, but when I open one, I’m reminded of being where I was when I first read it. It’s like being back in my old hometown again. I also like to read digital scans of old Nintendo Power issues for nostalgia.

  75. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I have a couple of mystery novels, Breakup by Dana Stabenow, and The Broken Promise Land by Marcia Muller. Both a thin mysteries, with most of the story revolving around the situations happening to the Heroines, and the aftermath thereof.
    I also like Edding’s Belgarian series, and The Redemption of Althalus.

  76. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    I used to have a lot of comfort books, many of which are mentioned here–LOTR, Watership Down, Hitchhikers’ Guide. I don’t do much comfort reading these days–the internet has taken over that niche, I’m afraid.

    But I’d also put in a plug for Roger Angell’s baseball books, especially Five Seasons, and most especially the essay “Agincourt and After”. (It helps if you’re a Red Sox fan, but his description of Luis Tiant’s pitching style is comic genius.)

  77. woozy says


    I have a couple of mystery novels, Breakup by Dana Stabenow,

    Whoa, I love the early Dana Stabenow! Play with fire, and a fatal thaw are also really good. I’d give anything to get my hands on her one Sci-fi novel which seems not to be anywhere.


    I bet *no-one* is going to put C.S. Lewis’ chronicles of Narnia, will they? Well, I must concede that in putting together a consistent and likeable and emotionally satisfying fantasy world he does succeed. It’s the very things that make it successful that make it equally poisonous and offensive but if you allow the emotion they are compelling and satisfying fantasies.

    As an anecdote, I’ll curl up with Ozma, the Patchwork Girl, the Scarecrow and the Lost Princess of Oz, the four best of the Oz books. Oz is about as believable and compelling as … Candyland or …. Heaven, but it’s a pure “what if” adventure fantasy for the sole purpose of curiosity and story for the sake of exploring an idea. A nice alternative to Narnia’s story to expound a platonic theology.


    But the strange one for me is “Herbert Rowbarge” by Natalie Babbit. A strange little Americana fiction of an existentially empty self-made man who builds an amusement park in Ohio. Don’t know why it speaks to me but it does.

  78. says

    I keep reading here more of my usual re-reads that I should have remembered right away; anything by Wodehouse, Dune, John D MacDonald’s McGee series. Also anything by Dorothy Sayers, and old “kids'” books, like Kidnapped by Stevenson, anything by Mark Twain, and the Anne books.

    I recently moved, and downsized by giving away most of my collection, except for the Pratchett and Tolkien books, and my reference books (nature guides, invertebrates, etc.) but I’ve picked up a couple of John D’s and a Sayers already.

  79. auntbenjy says

    Add me to the list of Pratchett fans…I’ll just choose one at random if I’m feeling a bit down.

    Christopher Moore is always good for a re-read, and Chuck Palahniuk if I’m in the right mood. Christopher Brookmyre’s “Quite Ugly One Morning” would have to be my favourite, however.

  80. woozy says

    Oh… and duh. The patternmaster series by Octavia Butler along with the stand-alone Kindred. Can’t believe I left those off.

  81. frankb says

    As with many of you others, I reread Pratchett and Tolkien. I also love the Foundation Trilogy, Dragon Rider of Pern, the Myth Adventures, and Glenn Cook’s Garrett series.

  82. serenegoose says

    I really don’t actually think I’ve read a book more than once. I’ve tried! I’ve tried to read any number of the culture novels by Iain M Banks more than once, but I always remember just a little too much of what’s happening in every scene, so I’m always waiting for X bit to happen and it just saps the joy out of reading for me. I do, however, re-read bits and pieces, just to see them again. I think in terms of books that I’ve referred back to time and again, it’s gotta be Pratchett. Any of the Tiffany Aching books, especially, which are just so important to me – but also Hogfather, which I adore. I know it’s a populist choice, but the rising ape meeting the falling angel part is just, dang. Tingles. Every time.

  83. says

    Growing up, “The Chronicles of Narnia” — so many reads that the books fell apart.

    These days? I dunno, I’ve been slacking in the reading books department and rarely re-read things because there’s so much new (new-to-me) stuff to read!

  84. jeffreylewis says

    Flatland – It’s the only book I’ve read 3 times. And the first time I read an excerpt was way back in elementary school.

    The list of books I’ve read twice is pretty short, but they include:

    House of Stairs
    Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
    The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

    The two Dirk Gently books I originally read in middle school, and then re-read as an adult. They’re definitely better from an adult perspective.

    I do have a decent sized list of books I would like to re-read, but they’re almost always lower priority than books I haven’t yet read.

  85. empty says

    I reread a lot. Sometimes I have to build up courage to read a new author. A partial list:

    1. Flotsam, by Erich Maria Remarque (This one I have been rereading since I was 12 though I really didn’t understand it much at that time.)
    2. Three Comrades, by Erich Maria Remarque (It’s been a while since this one so maybe it doesn’t count, but I have worn through two copies of this book.)
    3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, by John LeCarre
    4. A Perfect Spy, by John LeCarre
    5. Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold
    6. Shards of Happiness, by Lois McMaster Bujold
    7. Men at Arms, by Terry Pratchett.
    8. Stranger at the Wedding, by Barbara Hambly

  86. gijoel says

    I use to reread Neuromancer way back when. Though I don’t think I’ve reread it in ages.

  87. pacal says

    I have read at least 7 times Stranger in the Mirror by Sidney Sheldon. I really don’t know why. The book is the most awful pulp drek. Just think of Jacqueline Suzanne, Harold Robbins or Jackie Collins only worst. It is such over the top idiocy that it is funny. There is a sex scene involving a laugh track going off at the wrong time that has to be read to be believed. Enough said.

  88. DonDueed says

    I have a warning for those of you who have mentioned the Narnia books. If you want to keep a good opinion of those books, DO NOT read the deconstructions by Ana Mardoll (online at her blog). You will never be able to enjoy them after you do — take it from someone who has loved them since childhood.

    If you think they represent consistent and thoughtful world-building, you are hopelessly mistaken, as Mardoll demonstrates ruthlessly. She’s covered the books in publication order up through The Silver Chair and is currently in the middle of The Horse and His Boy — which was a favorite of mine… before.

  89. taraskan says

    The Iron Dragon’s Daughter by Michael Swanwick is one of my few re-reads. It’s one of the most depressing things you’ll ever set your eyes on, but something keeps drawing me back.

  90. taraskan says

    Let me add onto that Mary Shelley’s The Last Man and pretty much anything Voltaire wrote. Candide can’t be beat.

  91. beardymcviking says

    One more for Good Omens here :)

    The Dresden files though, particularly as audiobooks (read by James Marsters) are becoming a favourite for those long road-trips.

  92. dorght says

    When I want to believe again in the possibility of benevolent authority I re-read Night Watch by Pratchett. Likewise to conjure a feeling of that not all is lost in love I re-read So Long and Thanks for All the Fish by Adams. To lose my worries in familiar characters and absurd hilarity I like Christopher Moore’s vampire books.

  93. says

    I love airplanes, so I’ve read The Spirit of St. Louis over a hundred times since childhood. I reread most of Raymond Chandler once a year or so, The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely. My dad had all of C. S. Forester’s Hornblower books and I’ve read all of those quite a few times. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy countless times. Brian Greene’s books on physics quite a few times. I read a lot and I tend to re-read to keep costs down.

  94. Cliff Hendroval says

    The Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald
    The Bernard Samson series by Len Deighton
    Le Carre’s George Smiley trilogy
    Anything by Alan Furst, particularly “Night Soldiers”
    LoTR, of course, and the His Dark Materials series.

  95. Friendly says

    As others have said:
    The Oz books (and related titles) by L. Frank Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson, et al.
    The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.
    Dune by Frank Herbert.
    I used to reread The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis frequently, but not anymore.

    Ones that other people in this thread might not have mentioned:
    Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Little Princess, and The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett.
    The Three Investigators series by Robert A. Arthur et al.
    The Fuzzy series by H. Beam Piper.
    The Faded Sun trilogy by C. J. Cherryh.
    The Empire trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts.
    My paperback collections of various comic strips, including Peanuts by Charles Schulz, Tumbleweeds by Tom K. Ryan, and Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.
    My guiltiest pleasure: One of the longest works of amateur science-fiction erotica of which I’m aware, the still-ongoing weekly serial Arlene and Jeff by “RoustWriter,” which is six months away from the tenth anniversary of the posting of its first chapter.
    I would probably reread the Raggedy Ann and Andy series by Johnny Gruelle every so often if I owned copies or still lived near a library that did.

  96. lucy1965 says

    Pratchett, and more often than not I’m reaching specifically for the “Tiffany Aching” books.

    I came to HHGTTG through the radio series, so if I’m reading rather than listening again it’s probably the radio scripts. The Spouse thinks this is blasphemy.

    LeGuin’s Always Coming Home has pride of place on the nightstand: here’s a “post-ecological meltdown” society with a high infant mortality rate and a lot of people lost to neurological disorders before reaching old age, where parts of the land are unable to sustain any life at all — and while acknowledging that, the culture persists in humane behavior to its members and to others, and finds beauty despite it.

    Martha Wells’ Tales of the Raksura, because her viewpoint character Moon is a snarky amateur anthropologist who appreciates that all cultures are weird, especially the one he belongs to. For me, Wells is up there with Cherryh in creating non-human people whose actions are driven as much by their biology and environment as by external conflict.

  97. michaelsherman says

    The books I come back to most often are Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series. I get something different from them after each reading.

    I also love anything by Jack Vance, particularly Planet of Adventure and The Dying Earth.

    Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast is another comfort book.

  98. Rob Grigjanis says

    How about comfort films? Those I could (and do!) watch over and over again for reasons I’m not interested in discussing, in no particular order;

    The Third Man
    Picnic at Hanging Rock
    Seven Samurai
    Executive Suite
    Blade Runner
    The Thing from Another World
    Forbidden Planet
    The Big Sleep
    D.O.A. (1950)

    Probably a few others. And comfort music is a whole other can o’ worms.

  99. opus says

    In addition to a couple of the most-mentioned (LotR and Douglas Adams) I really enjoy revisiting The Milagro Beanfield War and The Last Beautiful Days of Autumn, both by John Nichols.

    And for comics? Pogo, hands down.

  100. Menyambal says

    Jimatkins, I have Brian Greene’s _Elegant Universe_ as my bathroom book. It gets me off the pot, because I read a little bit, and have to think about it. It’s been there two years at least, and I’m about on my ninth time through. I find I disagree with him about string theory, or M theory, and I dislike his writing style. But it gets me thinking, and I have made some progress on my own understanding.

    The other book in heavy rotation with me is P G Wodehouse’s _The Catnappers_. I have an excellent audiobook version that I play under my pillow at night. It really does help me sleep.

    Gutenberg has all kinds of older books in various formats. I read one on steam boilers that was simply fascinating.

  101. says

    War Of The Worlds. I have it on my Kindle, which I am pretty sure HG Wells would have appreciated. It’s just-right. Also Caves Of Steel by Isaac Asimov, and the short story collection I, Robot. Being a technician myself I appreciate the two guys who get sent everywhere to fix stuff when it breaks. And Contact and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel.

  102. Morgan!? ♥ ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ says

    One Hundred Years of Solitude
    Watership Down
    The Wind in the Willows (especially the chapter The Piper at the Gates of Dawn)
    The Count of Monte Cristo
    and so many more.

  103. inquisitiveraven says

    I’m another repeat Vorkosigan reader, mostly Diplomatic Immunity.

    I also like to reread the Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein. Hard SF in Fantasy packaging.

  104. chigau (違う) says

    Tomoe Gozen trilogy by Jessica Amanda Salmonson.
    I read my first set to saw dust.

  105. says

    I have one that nobody’s mentioned, or probably even heard of Three Cheers for Me by Donald Jack. That’s the one I pick up when I need a good laugh, and have too much of THHGTTG memorized to get the same falling-down-helplessly-giggling effect
    And of course Pterry, Watership Down, and The Once and Future King. And The Mists of Avalon.
    Also I Claudius. And Amphigorey, all three volumes. I’ve had to be careful not to wear those out, they’ve been read so many times.

    And from my childhood Heinlein’s juvenile “Red Planet”. The plot wasn’t great, but I really liked the Martian bouncer.

  106. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Pratchett (Most of them), Bujold and Connie Willis (Bellwether and To Say Nothing of the Dog especially).

    Freedom and Necessity By Emma Bull and Steven Brust takes a while to get into (written as letters between the characters mostly) but is one of the books I keep going back to. Set in Victorian England with politics, intrigue, secret societies.

    Oh and all the Liaden books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (Plus some of their other books) Especially Scout’s Progress

  107. empty says

    @123 Dr. Ariaflame

    I have read all of Connie Willis but I find it frustrating to read her. Still read her though.

  108. mynax says

    Replay, by Ken Grimwood, though it’s been years since I’ve read it. I wish they’d make a movie of it, though most might say “Oh, it’s just Groundhog Day”, but it isn’t.

  109. Karen Locke says

    Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Avalon books, Anne McCaffrey’s series on Pern, any of the Dune books… and Terry Pratchett’s stuff is getting added to the list; I only discovered him recently.

  110. ajbjasus says

    Comfort books – “You Can Lead an Atheist to ..”, “The Mystery” ….. oh – not that sort of Comfort !

    The Magus by John Fowles – it’s about a guy who leaves his depressing life in England behind to teach English on a Greek Island, who gets involved with a reclusive millionaire, and all sorts of weird, but thought-provoking stuff begins to happen. I first read it whilst on holiday on Spetsai – the island on which it was set.

  111. John Phillips, FCD says

    I bought a Mountain by Thomas Firbank. A Canadian/Welsh author’s autobiography about buying a mountain and farm in Snowdonia in 1931 and ends just before the start of WWII. If I ever need cheering up and nothing else is working, I dig this out and within a few pages I’m away in Snowdonia climbing and walking the hills again.

  112. says

    Salman Rushdie – The Satanic Verses
    John Irving – A Son Of The Circus

    most Terry Pratchett books

    getting there (ask me again in 10 years):
    the complete Thomas Hardy
    George Eliot – Middlemarch
    Miguel Cervantes – Don Quixote
    Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights
    George Orwell – 1984/Animal Farm
    James Joyce – Ulysses
    Umberto Eco – The Island Of The Day Before
    Lewis Carroll – Alice In Wonderland
    Alasdair Gray – Lanark
    Doris Lessing – The Making Of The Representative For Planet 8
    Franz Kafka – collected short stories
    Gabriel García Márquez – most books
    Edgar Allan Poe – collected works
    Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels
    Geoffrey Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales
    Douglas Hofstadter – Gödel Escher Bach
    Christopher Hitchens – god Is Not Great/Arguably
    and most other Salman Rushdie books

    ask me in 20 years, the list will probably have tripled. I like to read :-D

    definitely NEVER going past 1 reading:
    bible, qu’ran, tanakh, bhagavad gita, book of the dead… the lot

  113. ravensneo says

    I hesitate to say here that I really liked the Starz Spartacus. It was wonderful fiction, and I could have done without some of the blood and guts, and some of the push-it-as-close-to-an-orgy-as-you-can-without-the-X-rating parts. I think part of it was the heartbreaking loss of Andy Whitfield after the first season, where it seemed that cancer was especially cruel, more than it always is. But I found it quite fun.

  114. John Small Berries says

    I’m on my third read all the way through the Discworld series, because that’s one of the current projects going on at Mark Reads, and seeing the books through the eyes of someone experiencing them for the first time is like discovering them anew. And I’ve probably read Lord of the Rings three or four times, and a few of Asimov’s novels (especially the Caves of Steel series) about the same.

    But the only book I’ve read at least half a dozen times is Good Omens. I’m a big fan of both Pratchett and Gaiman, and the two of them worked so seamlessly together. And it really does bear up well under multiple readings.

  115. garnetstar says

    estraven@63, I’m with you. Jane Eyre, but especially Austen. I’ve read all seven of her novels, probably close to a hundred times each.

    And, don’t you love Roland Huntford’s “Scott and Amundsen” (The Last Place on Earth)? It’s a little tough on Scott, but still fascinating.

  116. says

    well, my ritual books are LOTR and Wuthering Heights (both annual reads – they affect me so profoundly can only read them sparingly) but COMFORT books? Oh yeah – All the Little House Books! oh and all M.R. James Ghost Stories!

  117. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    with all the Austen fans here, I recommend seeking out the BBC (mini)series: Lost in Austen.
    It brings Austen into the present day, who “coincidentally” finds Darcy is in the present era also. It was a nice little piece of mashup; of romance, costume drama, magic/sf, fish-outa-wada, docudrama, and meta commentary. (Maybe a few instances of “breaking the 4th wall”, but IDK. Maybe I’m projecting my fandom of Deadpool, who repeatedly destroyed the 4th wall, into every movie I liked.)
    Even so. Austenites I bet will like this little homage to Austen.

  118. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I’d like to cast a vote that this topic become a “sticky” topic. A permanent thread for discussion of recommended books, or a form of “book club” where a difficult to interpret book is discussed to fully understand it. Also to share initial reactions to books that some recommend while some find too puzzling.

    to start:
    some one recommended Dhalgren as a comfort book — my reaction was bafflement. I tried reading Dhalgren, and struggled to follow the story that seemed to shift narrators, one who used phonetic spelling as the new improved better English. Eventually, I abandoned it as pointless. One of the few books that I never finished. Even books I didn’t like I would finish, just to end the reading of them.
    <Foucault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco. Puzzling. Interesting puzzle of a mysterious list of trivia. All I remember was a convoluted, manufactured puzzle producing wild, speculative “theories” as to the meaning of the list on a scrap of paper. That is what I think makes it worth discussing. Was Eco trying to comment on the current fad of “conspiracy theories”, etc. etc.
    and then all the Austenites. I still wonder what her followers see in her writings.
    I need exposure to more than my own experiences, *sigh* yeah I know I can find it if I seek it and this note is asking for the horde to do ‘my work’, but *sigh*

  119. Ed Seedhouse says

    The obvious (not to say blatant) Christian allegory was apparent to me when I read “The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe” as a teenager (already atheist), but I still liked the book in spite of that hand have reread it several times and also the rest of the Narnia books as well. And yes, as pointed out above, Lewis’s world building is terrible. Still liked (and like) the books though.

    In Tolkien’s books, while the over all “moral” of the story is certainly Christian and indeed Catholic, the actual world in the books has no churches and no official “religion” at all. So I am more comfortable with it than with Narnia.

    Now although I am not a Christian or a Buddhist or a Hindu or a follower of any of the other religions I am still interested in all of them. Thus I often enjoy reading theological books in those traditions. One must understand the “enemy” after all. So I’ve read (and re-read) a fair amount of theology but none of them has converted me.

    Actually I think the work most likely to convert a shaky atheist back to Christianity, is not a book at all. It is Mahler’s second symphony!

    I listen to it many times a month, am still not converted, but what a finish!

  120. Rob Grigjanis says

    slithey tove @136: I couldn’t get very far with Dhalgren the first time around either. But it planted a germ, and I went back to it maybe a year later, and ‘got into it’, as the kids used to say. A weird book, yes, but I loved it. Not my idea of a ‘comfort’ book, but I can see how it could be for some. Probably due for a reread, if I can find the damn thing…

  121. L E says

    Until you got to the “as it turns out he’s a Roman Gladiator…” I thought you were talking about Iceman, thought the frozen guy in that story was a caveman.

    Most people have already mentioned all my comfort books, which tend to be fantasy and/or funny (LOTR, HHGtG, Good Omens) but the one I haven’t seen mentioned is God Stalk by PC Hodgell. I must have read that one a zillion times. Unfortunately I don’t currently have a copy (well I own one, I just don’t have access to it – it’s living in a box in my mother’s attic until I move to a real house or she sells hers, whichever comes first). The others in that series are great, but the first one pretty much stands alone and was excellent.

  122. says

    Kernighan & Ritchie, The C Programming Language, 2nd edition 1988.

    Seriously. It has been quite a few years since I have done any serious software engineering. But I still like to revisit that “Bible” from time to time.

  123. Rob Grigjanis says

    Olav @140: I came to C programming kind of late (fortyish), and someone recommended that book. I rate it among the truly great textbooks.

  124. Nick Gotts says

    What book have you read a half-dozen or more times?

    Very few if any, if that means read all the way through. For most of my “comfort books” I have favourite bits that may have been read dozens of times. Nearest to the above criterion are probably some of P.G. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves and Wooster” books, particularly “Right Ho, Jeeves”, “The Code of the Woosters”, and “Joy in the Morning”. Other comfort books include LOTR (somewhat ashamed of this one now, the syrupy sentimentality and reactionary morality/politics are really a bit much), Robert Graves’ two “Claudius” books, Ursula Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed” and “The Left Hand of Darkness”, Roger Zelazny’s “Lord of Light”, Gibson and Sterling’s “The Difference Engine”, R.F Delderfield’s “The Adventures of Ben Gunn” (“Treasure Island” fan-fic that I prefer to the original), Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” short stories (not the novels), and “Spencer’s List” by Lissa Evans, a close friend of my wife – set in 1990s London, comic but with darker shadings, as the eponymous Spencer is mourning the loss of a close friend and ex-partner to AIDS, and working his way through a list of London tourist trash experiences said friend has left to keep him from shutting himself up at home. Read her other novels as well, particularly the latest, “Crooked Heart”. Oh, and in non-fiction, Colin McEvedy’s Penguin historical atlases.

  125. Matt G says

    LOTR, Foundation Trilogy, Phantom Tollbooth, Sherlock Holmes stories.

  126. blf says

    Olav@140, Eliminate the “2nd Edition” and that is true for me as well, the original and 2nd Editions, combined, would meet the “six times” criteria. So might, now that I think about it, Software Tools (the original Ratfor version, not the later Pascal sucks‡ version — albeit I may have read Dr Kernighan’s Why Pascal is Not My Favorite Programming Language sufficiently often to qualify…).

      ‡ The practice — with good reason — where / when I went to university was to always the name of the programming language “Pascal” with “sucks”.

  127. blf says

    …was to always follow the name of…

    Tihs tyops brougth ot oyu n honorr fo Tyops.

  128. Marcelo says

    For me it’s either Dangerous Visions, Ubik, Eye in the Sky or the Dresden Files series.

  129. fernando says

    Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: “Crime and Punishment”
    Eco, Umberto: “The Name of the Rose”
    Boccaccio, Giovanni: “The Decameron”
    Homer: “Iliad”
    Hugo, Victor: “Les Misérables”
    Martin, George: “A Song of Ice and Fire”
    McCullough, Collen: “Masters of Rome”
    Ovid: “Methamorphoses”
    Pinto, Fernão Mendes: “Pilgrimage”
    Tolkien, Ronald: “The Lord of the Rings”

  130. says

    I have comfort music, television, and movies, but no books. I haven’t read a full book multiple times since I was a kid. When I was a kid, it was Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood. I had a strange fondness for that book.

  131. says

    Olav@#140 – Kernighan and Pike is a better treatment of a philosophy of software development. A philosophy, which, incidentally, brought the world a whole lot of beautiful but shitty software.

  132. says

    PS – I read the Lensman series, about every 10 years.

    This gives me an idea for a funny chart: cycles in which I re-read series of books. I do the MacAuslan books every 2-5 years. Lensman every 10. Plieocene Exile every 15. Connie Willis every 15. The Phantom Tollbooth every 2-3. C J Cherryh (who has been woefully underrepresented in y’all’s lists!) Cyteen every 10, Kesrith every 5, and the others every 10. Gordon Dickson’s Childe Cycle every 12. Etc. Who knows there may be interesting cyclical patterns that say something about the life-stage I am in at the time.

  133. brushmonkey says

    Also Sometimes A Great Notion. I live there and have lived parts of it. Kesey nails the life there.

  134. Rick Pikul says

    My return to again and again comfort reads are:

    Undocumented Features, by Ben “Gryphon” Hutchens et.al., a massive, (as in megawords), cross-over fanfiction setting. It’s the sort of thing where the band Ho-kago Tea Time gets a lift by sky bison to the vacation home of a Norse god where they are greeted by the battleship Yamato wearing a maid’s dress[1], and it _works_. The specific part I go back to most often is Symphony of the Sword, (which is probably the best place to start as well[2]).

    Forest’s Tales by Bernard “Goldfur” Doove, a mostly slice of life set of tales about the chakat Forestwalker and hir family. It does have sex, but very little of it is gratuitous[3] and tends to come across to me as “these people are making love.” Goldie’s chakat stuff is on hold right now, having been bitten by the pony bug.

    For anyone who wants to check either out:
    http://www.eyrie-productions.com/UF/ (As I said, don’t start with the core stories.)

    [1] To deal with the obvious mental image and let you off the hook: Not the IJN Yamato, the Fog battleship Yamato and she left most of herself in port.

    [2] The writing wasn’t as good in the original core stories, plus they kind of rely on knowing certain things about early-90s Internet/Usenet culture.

    [3] There are a set of early stories where it is, basically being edited versions of some online roleplay sessions.

  135. erik333 says

    Magician by Feist
    Anything by steven eriksson or ian c esslemont.
    Silmarillion short stories, lotr or hobbit.

  136. chigau (違う) says

    I’m liking this thread.
    There’s alot of books here that I read sixish times along time ago.
    I can up the repeats if I can find the books.

  137. Larry Clapp says

    I read Heinlein’s “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel” > 10x in grade school. Not so much since then.

    Most anything by Pratchett, but especially “Good Omens”.
    Richard Bach’s “Illusions”.
    Calvin and Hobbes, For Better Or For Worse, Fox Trot.
    Hofstadter’s “Godel, Escher, Bach”.

  138. oliver says

    Let me try a different twist on this thread: Books I have tried to read, but just could not finish. LOTR tops the list. I started reading the first of the trilogy when I was in college because everybody else was reading it at the time, but after about 50 pages I was so bored, I just could not go on. And it was such a thick book! How much more there was to go! So that was the end of that. A year or so back, I was watching a LOTR marathon on TV with my brother-in-law, who is a BIG sci-fi and fantasy fan, and the same thing happened. Could. Not. Do. It. The walking, talking trees were the last straw. I guess I can enjoy a story that is fictional but not fantastical. Magic and violation of the laws of physics is apparently where I draw the line. Incidentally, to get a few more heads shaking, I could not get through Orson Wells’ film Citizen Kane either. Tried several times, in fact. But it came across to me as so pretentious and self-important that I fast-forwarded the VHS tape just to see the end and let it go at that. This all probably says a lot more about me than about the writers and film-makers involved, but that’s why we have variety, isn’t it?

  139. Rob Grigjanis says

    oliver @160:

    Incidentally, to get a few more heads shaking, I could not get through Orson Wells’ film Citizen Kane either.

    My head is nodding, and I had the same response to The Magnificent Ambersons.

    Regarding TLotR, my experience seems the opposite of yours. I avoided it in high school, precisely because my schoolmates were raving about it. Someone bought it for me as a Christmas present when I was in first year university, I thought “oh well, give it a shot”, and didn’t put it down until I was too tired to read, and started again when I woke up. The only other books which I read with comparable intensity were The Complete Sherlock Holmes and the Somerset Maugham short story collection East and West.

    Oh, another book I read every few years; Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard.

  140. says

    Have to mention Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The thought processes of Precious Ramotswe are a thing of beauty, a slow river, always calming and giving clarity, helping to simplify.

    After a long winter I like to thaw and reconnect with nature rereading the Anne of Green Gables series. Lucy Maud Montgomery plugs me right into Earths pulse and fills me with hope.

    And then there’s Discworld. That’s not comfort reading though, that’s where I live the last 20 years. It shaped me mentally and got me connected with my husband, it’s part of the fabric of my life. Obviously, the underlying humanist philosophy makes it really comforting, so nthing the suggestion for the reading list.

  141. says

    Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. The casual racism of the day makes me cringe (she cringed a bit at it too), but the descriptions of nature are wonderfully soothing.

    I also have a comfort radio program – Car Talk (now Best of) on NPR. It’s one of the few things that makes me laugh out loud.

  142. cmutter says

    When I was younger, I used to re-read Stephen King & Tom Clancy for the intricacies. The Stand and Red Storm Rising were my favorites.
    Nowadays, no time to re-read stuff, I read blogs instead.

  143. says

    Mine are:

    The Weirdstone of Brasingamen by Alan Garner. Though often dismissed as a Tolkien copyist, Garner wrote children’s fantasies that were many times more energetic and superior to JRRT’s. And his stories have a strong sense of place. His Alderley Edge (which is where my father was evacuated in the war) is not the playground of millionaire footballers that it is today, but an ancient, sinister landmark where adventures ensue. The sequels are increasingly disturbing.

    Starhunt by David Gerrold is a script for a Star Trek episode repurposed as a novel. Essentially it’s a WW2 submarine story in space in which the rather unsympathetic hero has to use his understanding of psychology to manipulate a hostile crew and defeat an enemy that is playing mind games with him. No-nonsense, excellent stuff.

  144. says

    One more:

    The Strange Death of Liberal England 1910-1914, by George Dangerfield. This is one of the great works of social and political history, of how a series of shocks destroyed the British Liberal Party and left it the Parliamentary rump it is today.

    What many people won’t tell you is how funny this book is. Dangerfield has a waspish with and a facility for the lapidary phrase. His word-portraits of the great and good, from Asquith to Lloyd George, from Churchill to Edward Carson, to Andrew Bonar Law and his rebellious Tory Lords, is devastating. He goes in boot-high at every occasion.

    He goes a little wobbly when considering the Suffragettes, and has a tendency to off on long diatribes about women’s clothing. However, his eye is for the most part keen and clear. He slices up the British Establishment with a stiletto. It’s tragic and hilarious and I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

  145. blf says

    I avoided [LotR] in high school, precisely because my schoolmates were raving about it. Someone bought it for me as a Christmas present when I was in first year university, I thought “oh well, give it a shot”, and didn’t put it down until I was too tired to read, and started again when I woke up.

    Somewhat similar here. We had The Hobbit as assigned reading, and at the time (and in common with almost all other assigned reading) I loathed it. Couldn’t stand it. So I had no interest in The Lord of the Rings at all. Ziltch.

    Many yonks later (decades!), over the end-of-annual-orbit holidays period I — for some reason, I have no recollection of why, other than maybe anticipating being bored silly as I wasn’t doing much that holiday period — bought a copy. And read the whole thing in three sittings (approximately corresponding to the three books), interrupted only by the need for food and sleep. I still have that copy, but it’s not in such great shape anymore: The spine is broken in half (literally — the book is now in two physically separate parts, and pages are falling out(but I have not lost any!)), the cover is torn, and there is at least one (coffee?) stain.

    Another similar incident occurred a few yonks later. There was a very positive review of Dr Robert Fagles’ then-new translation of Homer’s Iliad in The Grauniad, which convinced me to go to the local, excellent, bookshop and get a copy. It was so new they didn’t have any copies yet (I ordered one), but did have a copy of his translation of The Odyssey, which I bought.

    I started reading it that night, after dinner, whilst finishing off the bottle of vin. Next thing I knew, I had finished the book, it was something like 4am, and the wine was all gone. On a day I was supposed to go to work…

    Amusingly, I never have been able to finish the Iliad. Or, come to think of it, Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, albeit I did enjoy his reading of the book on audiotape.

    I still not too keen on The Hobbit, but no longer loathe it. Perhaps unfortunately, I still mostly-loathe Shakespeare’s Julius Cesar (guess which Shakespeare play was assigned reading!), to the point I don’t even like to watch performances of it.

    (All the other books are in fine shape, it’s only the LotR which seems to be losing. Probably attacked by Orcs. Or Republicans, it’s hard to tell the difference.)

  146. says

    blf, do consider Christopher Logue’s unfinished attempt to turn the Illiad into a poem. War Music is the title given to the poems, though it’s the title of just one portion of the work. They are funny, anachronistic, terrifying and just plain beautiful. All Day Permanent Red, a title for the poem describing the first battle, taken from a lipstick advert, is a veritable howl. Don’t miss.

  147. InitHello says

    Oh gods, where do I start.

    Iain M. Banks’ Culture series.
    Simon R. Green’s Nightside, Deathstalker, and Hawk & Fisher series.
    Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn.

    That’ll do for now.