Top Ten Books I’d Like to Read Again for the First Time

“For you, each time is the first time.”

Stephen King

Generally I think questions that ask you what you’d change about your past are stupid questions – because without your past you are not you, and time paradoxes. But this question is – interesting. Let’s see where this goes.

  1. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – Catherynne M. Valente. I wish I could go back to the time when every twist and turn, every sentence of this magical fairytale was fresh and surprising and new. Now, I know what will happen, and Fairyland is robbed of a little of its mystery.
  2. Sabriel – Garth Nix. I had no idea, when I read them, of just how different and important the Old Kingdom books were: of how rare it was in YA high fantasy to have well-written, fallible young women journeying alone through hostile realms, falling in love without losing any of their agency and discovering families and homes and belonging while still being awesome and badass and kind and good; how rare it is for YA to encounter the experience of being a woman in the world without making it an Issue to be Talked About. And so these things have just become matter-of-fact for me; just everyday facts which I took for granted and still do. I’d like to read them anew, to experience the full surprise of what these books give to young women. And yet, I’d not take these books away from ten-year-old me, who needed them so very much.
  3. Going Postal – Terry Pratchett. Or, indeed, any of the Discworld books (before I Shall Wear Midnight, at any rate). Because there are none left. Because there are no new characters to meet and no new places to discover and no new strangenesses to encounter around the next street corner or over the next hill; because everything in the Discworld is become familiar, and I would give much to recapture that gloriously anticipatory feeling of reading a Discworld book that I have never read before.
  4. Pale FireVladimir Nabokov. I want to read this first again, not in chronological order but in the order the story asks me to take, to see what I spot and what I discover that I didn’t the first time.
  5. Wool – Hugh Howey. A claustrophobic first book which is utterly let down by its sequels Shift and Dust. I want to erase those sequels from my memory, and return to a point when all there was, was Juliette and Lukas, gazing out at the stars of a dead world and dreaming of a better future.
  6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams. For much the same reason, really, as Going Postal: because the amount of Douglas Adams in the world is finite and because this book is just perfect, really, and there needs to be more of it.
  7. The Gunslinger – Stephen King. “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” The Gunslinger is a masterpiece of apocalyptic, epic mystery, and the failures of the later books cloud that mastery. To start at the beginning again, and to see all the long road to the Tower laid out before me again – a road full of the promise of adventure and discovery and friendship and betrayal, free of the foreknowledge of disappointment – I’d love that.
  8. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling. I read Goblet of Fire first by accident, so it would be quite nice to read them again in order.

That’s it, I think. Most of my favourite books, the ones I want to read again, are the kind of books that collect meanings across the years, the kind of books that change when read in new lights and new places, the kind of books which are enriched not diminished by previous readings.

(The theme of this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

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