There are books I can’t get enough of, books I’ve read over and over, until the binding breaks and the pages fall out. Undeterred, I secure the loose pages into place with scotch tape, and read it again. The volume might appear strangely puffed up, the pages undulating in waves as a result of that time it slipped from my bubble covered fingers into the tepid water of the bathtub. The cover might be torn, or even missing altogether.
It doesn’t matter. I keep reading, and re-reading, finding joy in the familiar words — and often discovering new insights that I missed the first (or second, or twentieth) time reading through. Often, like the Velveteen Rabbit, you can tell how beloved a book of mine is by the state of disrepair it exhibits. I love my books to death.
It would be impossible for me to create an exhaustive list of my favorites, but here are the top five most read of the bunch. Nothing you would expect to be assigned in a college literature class will be found here, and nothing published more recently than the year 2000. Nope, these are my old favorites — the oldies, but goodies, if you will.
FIVE BOOKS I CAN READ AGAIN AND AGAIN
1) GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell — I opened this book back in 1980 and discovered over a thousand pages of romance, war, sexual tension, honor, disgrace, and unrequited love. I read it once a year, year after year, and every single time I can’t help but hope Scarlett O’Hara will come to her senses, and run straight into Rhett Butler’s open arms. If I could meet her in real life, I would grab Scarlett by the shoulders and rattle her until her teeth broke.
Dear Scarlett! You aren’t helpless. Anyone as selfish and determined as you are is never helpless. God help the Yankees if they should get you.” -Rhett Butler”
– Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
2) THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING by T.H. White — This book is my favorite interpretation of Arthurian legend. The book expresses a gentle in humor in the earlier parts, but is ultimately a tragic telling of the legends of Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Merlin. The characters are fully drawn as complex, flawed human beings. It’s sad and wonderful, and one of the greatest fantasy stories ever written.
3) ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL by James Herriot — This is the first of a series of four delightful books detailing the life of a country vet in 1930’s England. Warm, funny, and written in an engaging, unassuming style, I couldn’t not fall in love with this book. Every time I read it, I am transported to the rural English countryside. This tale is best read when accompanied with a “spot of tea” and a scone on a cold, winter day.
4) IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY by Bill Bryson — My only non-fiction book on the list is one of Bill Bryson’s many travel books. I’ve read several of his books, but this hilarious and informative account of his travels around the vast continent of Australia is my favorite. He reveals the rugged wonder of this beautiful land in a wry and entertaining manner. I especially enjoy his preoccupation with the country’s dangerous wildlife (for instance, he informs that Australia is home to the world’s ten most poisonous snakes) and his description of the nonchalant attitude of most of the population there toward said dangers.
Australians are very unfair in this way. They spend half of any conversation insisting that the country’s dangers are vastly overrated and that there’s nothing to worry about, and the other half telling you how six months ago their Uncle Bob was driving to Mudgee when a tiger snake slid out from under the dashboard and bit him on the groin, but that it’s okay now because he’s off the life support machine and they’ve discovered he can communicate with eye blinks.”
–Bill Bryson, In A Sunburned Country
5) OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon — World War II British army nurse Claire Randall is mysteriously swept back in time to Scotland during the first half of the 18th century. Time travel, men in kilts, raiding parties, intrigue, revenge, passion — and that’s just the first few chapters. Seven more books followed in this series, as well as several novellas and a second series spun from a secondary character, but the original Outlander is still my favorite guilty pleasure of them all. Outlander is slated to become a series on the Starz network, so you can watch a trailer of the book/series below:
So, there they are, a small smattering of my tried and true favorites. I love a new book as much as the next gal, but I love knowing my old favorites are sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to pull me back to their worlds all over again.