You may have heard someone say their favorite book is the one they’re reading at the moment, but that’s never really true, is it? Think a moment about what your real favorite book is, and it’s probably something you read some time ago, right?
Recently I had some problems with my eyes, and over the period of two months my sight went from fine to poor and kept degrading from there. The optometrist I see said he couldn’t do anything for me in the way of stronger glasses. I was in despair. It seemed I might lose my sight, and it was frightening.
One of the things I thought about was losing the ability to read, which led me to think about how precious whatever remaining time I might have for books. What books would I read if I had only time enough for a limited number?
Favorites, obviously, but which ones? Or, perhaps, books that I have always meant to read but still haven’t? I made mental lists, favorite authors, books I remembered really liking a lot, series I might want to re-read if there was time, those meant-to-read books.
I thought about audiobooks for the time when I needed them, but for the moment I thought only about physical (or e-) books. Nothing was out of bounds, from children books (Make Way For Ducklings, Winnie The Pooh) to the big thick ones (Shogun, Lord of the Rings).
The eye specialist I went to solved the problem with laser treatment on scars from my nearly two years ago cataract surgery, and miraculously my clear, sharp sight was restored. What a relief!
Still, the question remained. What books would I read if I had limited time? I’ve started a list. But how about you, what would you choose to read, if you only had time for a dozen or two?
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
The Complete Dying Earth by Jack Vance
Water Music by T.C. Boyle
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll
Tapping the Source by Ken Numm
Take Back Plenty by Colin Greenland
Weaveworld by Clive Barker
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
The Scar by China Mieville
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Complete Flannery O’Connor
The Com[lete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
The Specialty of the House by Stanley Ellin
The Complete Short Stories of T.C. Boyle
I am sure I left out some but this is off the top of my head.
Interesting list, Steve, including your add-ons. I’m sure you’ll think of others over time. I have just a couple of those on my (so far mental) list. That’s your preferred Chandler?
Yes. It is my favorite Chandler.
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
The Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami
V by Thomas Pynchon
Good question, Rick.
– Anything by Joe R. Lansdale
– Anything by Bill Crider
– Anything by Bill Pronzini
– Anything by Max Allan Collins
– Anything by Ed Gorman
– The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
– Bleak House by Charles Dickens
– The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
– The 12-volume Works of Ambrose Bierce
– The Fortunate Fursey and the Return of Fursey by Mervyn Wall
– The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
– Mysteries of Asia by Achmed Abdullah
– Cleopatra by H. Rider Haggard
– Half by C. M. Kornbluth writing as “Jordan Park”
– No Deadly Drug by John D. McDonald
– The 2-volume Compleat Adventures of the Park Avenue Hunt Club by Judson Philips
I would also finish reading two books I started but for various reasons I did not finish:
– Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
– The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Not on the list (because I read them this week) are MURDER OF A WIFE by Henry Kuttner (my FFB this week), QUEENPIN by Megan Abbott (mob noir, a fantastic book), and IT’S YOUR ATOMIC AGE! by Lester del Rey (from 1951, a recap of what was known — and not classified — about atomic energy and the atomic bomb, very much out-of-date, often speculative, and with an early 50s sensibility; a fun read for all those reasons).
Have a great week, Rick, and use your new super-vision to keep an eye on Barbara as she heals.
I think it’s busting the “rules” to include the complete works in 12 volumes of anyone, considering I’m thinking about a dozen books, period, but have it your way.
That’s John D. MACDONALD. (Stupid fumble fingers!)
BTW It looks like QUEENPIN is going to be a series starring Natalie Portman. She’s been interested in doing it for years and I think they have a production team in place. TV is in such flux now with all these streaming services so who knows what will happen.
I am reading THE OTHER WIFE by Michael Robotham and I would consider his books because I have liked all but one. Margaret Millar and her husband for sure. I might take Denise Mina because I have meant to read them but haven’t. I would take the short stories of Alice Munro. Tomorrow I might make a different list. And I surely would take Megan Abbott’s books!
Great news about QUEENPIN, Patti! I hope it’s a go. I look forward to it.
Good question! We’re not home so I don’t have time for a real answer at the moment, but here are some I have picked up to reread, some I’ve always meant to read, some favorites:
Shogun, James Clavell
A Dance to the Music of Time, Anthony Powell
Time and Again, Jack Finney
The Stand, Stephen King
Shogun is one of mine too, perhaps another Clavell as well. I doubt I’d do any King.
I could probably survive with the complete works of Shakespeare, P. G. Wodehouse, Jack Vance, and Henry James. Losing one’s eyesight is a frightening prospect. A couple of our friends are stricken with macular degeneration and soon will be unable to read without the aid of magnifying glasses. None of us can afford to put off books we’ve been meaning to read for years. We’re all on the clock.
Of course “complete works” is a lot more than the couple dozen I’m saying would be allowed, but then that’s at my reading speed, and you read so much faster.
Lonesome Dove, McMurtry
Sjowall & Wahloo, Martin Beck series
War & Peace, Tolstoy (I read a very abridged edition in high school)
Henry James, short stories
Trollope, Parliamentary series
I think if I read (reread) a Trollope, it would be Barchester Towers. Once was enough for me on the Tolstoy. I’ve tried Lonesome Dove twice now, and just couldn’t get through it.
BARCHESTER TOWERS is the perfect place to start if you’re going to read Anthony Trollope. It will either click for you…or not. I love the sly humor!
Very good question, Rick. I have thought about this subject a bit because my mother and my grandmother lost their sight (or reading ability) when they were older and because of my husband’s recent eye problems. I would have a hard time coming up with a list off the top of my head (I can never think of favorite movies either) but I might work on one over time. I do have books I would like to reread, for sure.
I keep thinking of other books. Last night, thinking on this, it occurred to me that ARTWORK should be part of the equation. So Wind In The Willows with the wonderful Ernest Shepard illustrations comes to mind. It’s a book I like and have reread anyway, but the artwork adds so much to it.