Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 books I wish I could read again for the first time

Most titles on this list will have some kind of profound twist that might ruin or at least diminish the enjoyability of  re-reading a text. This nifty idea for a list comes from the Top 10 Tuesday blog meme, to which I am contributing. Here goes (in no order):

1. "A Prayer for Owen Meany." This novel has a bang-up ending, for which the entire novel sets the stage, and knowing the ending spoils the overall effect of the book. This novel about the strange Owen and his less-strange friend, however, is a great one, particularly for young adults.

2. "Watchmen." Another novel with a big payoff and layers of unfolding mystery. In some ways, knowing the ending makes the novel a bit of a disappointment (that thing and all -- you know what I'm talking about) -- but the alternative history-remaking of the world is so engrossing that I'd like to discover it again, even after seeing the snooze of a movie.

3. The "Tales of the City" trilogy. Again, this novel -- really a collection of short chapters, many of which were published in a San Francisco newspaper -- is as much about discovering the bizarre natures of the characters and how far they're going to dip into life in San Francisco. A few mysteries pop up here and there, too. I read the books about the time I was discovering San Francisco (albeit from afar) myself.

4. The Cornish Trilogy. I had a roaring good time reading the three novels in Robertson Davies' trilogy -- "The Rebel Angels," "What's Bred in the Bone" and "The Lyre of Orpheus." Again, the multiple discoveries found within the pages of this long work work against re-readings (as does its length), but I'd love to discover the wide-ranging narrative all over again.

5. "A Series of Unfortunate Events." I had a lot of fun reading the 13 books in Lemony Snicket's series to my kids in ways only English majors can appreciate. Just recently, my children began re-reading the series themselves; they discovered hints of what is to come in the early novels.

6. The Starbridge Series, particularly "Mystical Paths." Really, I'd love to read all six novels in Susan Howatch's Church of England series again, just to see how she weaves together her tales and foreshadows what's to come. But "Paths" is probably my favorite, in part because it has one bang-up mystery that I'd love to see her resolve, finally. Her three novels after the Starbridge series extend the stories of many of the characters from the Church of England stories, especially the heroic Nicholas Darrow, but they don't quite provide the punch I was hoping for that's hinted at in the last one, "The Heartbreaker."

7. "Rabbit Run." I read this novel in just two or three days, secluded in my dorm room, for an English paper back in college; I was glued to it. It filled me with dreams of being a writer -- or, at least, an Updike reader.

8. "Dave Barry in Cyberspace." This humor book has a short story that plays out in AOL conversations -- something of a novelty for the time it was published (1996). In some ways, the book captures the excitement of the early Internet era (when it was the World Wide Wait), not the least because Barry was as caught up in it as many other people. I'd like to read this book for the first time because when I read it for the first time, the information superhighway had just been paved, and Wired magazine seemed to have its thumb on the pulse of the new tomorrow. Or something like that.

9. "Bright Lights, Big City." I read this book in the 1980s, while I lived the kind of life Jay McInerney wrote about in this book (only without the cocaine, thank you very much). New York is much different, as am I, but we can remember.

10. "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" -- Ah, to laugh again at "He's spending a year dead for tax purposes.":

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