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Reader Challenge: Books You’d Like To Read Again, For The First Time


Many of us read for different reasons: to learn something new, to research a topic of interest or just for fun. Unless you are a single-minded person, you probably vary what you’re reading based on the ‘why’ above. But I think we can all agree that reading can be one of life’s great pleasures. Especially so when you read a really great book. A book that, once you’ve finished, you can’t stop thinking about, raving about and pushing on all your friends. There’s nothing quite like reading one of these books for the first and the pleasure and satisfaction you get from finishing it is quite high. Then again, mingled with those feelings is a bit of sadness knowing you’ll never be able to read the book again for the first time. Every other time you re-read the book you’ll always have the knowledge of the first read through. Sure, some books offer more on re-reads, but it’s never the same as reading it the first time through.

For me, there have been several SF books that fit this category. They are:

  • Startide Rising by David Brin – There’s so much SF goodness packed into this story plus the hints of the operatic universe which humanity inhabits and I couldn’t wait for the follow on books. Now he just needs to finish the damn story!
  • Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks – The first Culture novel I read was Consider Phlebas, which I thought was great. Then I read Weapons and was blown away. It’s was everything Phlebas was, but better. Couple an awesome story with an interesting storytelling method and a ‘twist’ ending, and this is probably my most favorite SF story, ever. I re-read this from time to time, and while it’s still great, knowing what’s coming dampens the impact.
  • Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons – These books are the reason I loves my some Dan Simmons, especially his SF stuff. The first book shows just how well Simmons can write interesting characters, and the setting and the hints of the plot are just staggering. That all leads into the nougaty SF goodness that permeates the second book like a melted Mars bar. There is so much awesome in these books it’s almost hard to fathom. I was hoping the Galactica writers would take a hint from these books for the Cylon god, but alas, it was not to be. This is another set of books I re-read occasionally. These would be in my top 3.

Now it’s your turn. If the ‘Fairy of Forgetfulness’ came calling and allowed you to forget, completely, about 3 books, which ones would you choose to read again for the first time?

About JP Frantz (2323 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

22 Comments on Reader Challenge: Books You’d Like To Read Again, For The First Time

  1. Actually it was Fantasy that really glued me to the genre: Lord of the Rings, when I was twelve. It’s epic scale and intense good vs evil pulled me in so much that I read the book again one year later, chapter by chapter and it was even better.

    Those early teens were formative years, because reading A. S. Neill’s “The last Man alive”, a hilarious book about a teacher and some of his students being the last people on earth, at the age of thirteen woke my interest in apocalyptic SF stuff. It’s not such long book, I might pick it up again after three decades and laugh out even louder.

    Third one in line definitely is “River of Gods” by Ian McDonald. Not only because it is a superbly crafted and extremely well told (and demanding) story, but also because I feel it would have been an even more awe-inspiring read after my trip to India last year.

  2. Only 3?

    Sentenced to Prism– Alan Dean Foster. This was such a great read, Foster employed aliens unlike nothing I’ve ever read before. The story was fast passed and engaging.

    Shade of the Tree– Piers Anthony. While not really an SFF type story it is by a genre author. I’d say this book would be the diffinitve gateway book for people who are waffeling on the literary horror genre, while weak on world building it delivers on wonderful tension and release episodes throughout the story. Too bad he didn’t make a sequel.

    Grasp the Stars– Jennifer Wingert. (2004) This was a wonderful reading experience for me. The authors use of language was like nothing I’ve ever read before and I’ve been reading science fiction since 1970. The worse part about this author is that she has only one other novel to her credit. I’d love to see more from this author.  


  3. It’s a tough call, but my top three would be:

    Hyperion – brilliant world-building, amazing characters, and a challenging plot.

    Lord of the Rings – I started reading LotR when I was eight. My oldest brother had read it during his first year of college and handed the books to me when he came home during summer break. I’ll never forget how the story pulled me in…I couldn’t pull myself away from the story.

    The Stand – I’m not sure if Stephen King’s magnum opus counts as Sci-Fi, but this was one of those books I couldn’t put down. And I’m talking about the original version, not the extended version he put out in the late eighties. King created a truly horrifying but realistic premise and populated his story with some great characters. Randall Flagg still haunts my dreams…

    There are many more, but these were the first ones to come to mind.

  4. A Princess of Mars by ERB, but I’d have to be thirteen again for the full effect.

    I’ll have to agree with the Hyperion consensus as well.

    Nova and Babel 17 by Samuel Delany.

    Also, the Von Bek books by Michael Moorcock, especially The City in the Autumn Stars.

  5. Hyperion – 100% agreement.

    Stranger in a Strange Land – by Robert A. Heinlein. Reading it felt like being born again.

    American Gods – by Neil Gaiman.

  6. I’m going to stick to SF books only that I’ve read in the past 5 years.


    In title alphabetical order:

    Light – M. John Harrison

    Perdido Street Station – China Mieville

    River of Gods – Ian McDonald (although Brasyl runs a close second, River of Gods beats it by a smidgeon)

  7. First, I have to agree completely with Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion.  I’ve reread them at least three times, I’ve written scholarly papers about them, and yet, I’d love to rediscover all the depth I’ve found anew.  They are amazing books that I’d love to come upon afresh.

    Second, Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun.  I remember how astonishing I first found those books (still do), how rich they were/are in texture, how they did things I didn’t know science fiction could do.  I actually reread them all each time a new book in the quintet came out (which was quite a feat, as reading something that rich takes considerable time).  In fact, I think I need to go back and read them all again, sometime soon.

    Finally (and three is far too few), Larry Niven’s Ringworld.  This was one of the first science fiction novels I read, and I was captivated by it and its creatures.  The whole concept of the Ringworld was astonishing to me.  I loved every minute of it.  Haven’t been able to read the sequels, and can’t enjoy much else of what Niven has written, but this book is just delightful.

  8. Three I can think off off-hand:

    The Sailor on the Seas of Fate by Michael Moorcock – This is the first book I ever read voluntarily.  It opened up new worlds to me.  You can get this from reading?!

    The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien – This is the book that cemented my love of fantasy.  I’ve read it many times and spent a lot of time trying to find more like it.

    Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – My first forray into SF.  How fortunate was that?  I was very young and never saw it coming.  I give this one out to anybody who’s not read it yet so I can live vicariously through them.

    Great topic!

  9. Radix by A.A. Attanasio.

    Nightwings by Robert Silverberg.

    Sister Alice by Robert Reed.



  10. Someone beat me to saying Gene Wolfe “The Book of the New Sun” which is just dense with meaning, detail and richness. I’m rereading it right now after waiting almost 20 years but alas I still remember what happens. There are many small details and sections that I have forgotten though. It’s great to be back in this world. Seperate topic: What music do you associate with your favorites books? The Pixies “Wave of Mutilation” was fairly new when I was deep into The Book of the New Sun and has a strange correlation to an important scene in the final book.

    “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” Douglas Adams. Someone mentioned “This is the first book I ever read voluntarily.” Hitchhikers Guide was recommended by a school friend and was one of the first three books I ever read (starting much too late in life in seventh grade). The other two were “The Hobbit” and “The Stainless Steel Rat” by Harry Harrison. What a great and varied start! Do you find “Hitchhikers” a little too light? The more I read the series the more I think Adams was, philosophically, very smart with a great and subtle take on life and all it’s weirdness. But I can never really see anything more in these books. I’ve listened to the whole series on tape while painting literally 20 times or more. It was very sad to read “Salmon of Doubt” as it had one third of a book he was working on which will never be finished due to his untimely death. I’ll read the Colfer book but I doubt it will be the same.

    And I’ll just hop the bandwagon and say “Ender’s Game” can never surprise me again, of course. And what an awesome surprise! Off the bandwagon I was really captivated by Greg Egan’s “Diaspora”. It was my first exposure to his take on the future of humanity. It’s weirdly cold but full amazing ideas that I recount to friends to this day. And “Schismatrix” by Bruce Sterling! No, “The Artificial Kid” by him! Ah, I’ll just reread them all!

  11. Snow Crash  Neal Stevenson

    The moon is a harsh mistress Robert Heinlein

    Araminta Station Jack Vance

  12. This is easy.  These three are among the very first books I read through and therefore stand out most vividly in my heart and mind.  They are…

    1) The Gods Themselves

    2) Dune

    3) Rendevous with Rama

     I would also like to include a couple of short stories in here as well…

    1)The Last Question

    2) Nightfall

    3) ‘Insert Title Here’ (Can’t remember the name but it was also by Asimov…(notice a pattern here?)  About a dude who took a drug to ‘see’ like the Martians into the electro magnetic spectrum.  The catch was it only lasted 15 minutes and would never work again for the rest of his life)

    I know, classics all…but, well, they are incredible stories that left a serious mark and me, forever sealing my SF nerdidity.

  13. Dune-I just reread this for the third time last year and it still invokes a sense of awe in me.

    The Hobbit-The first fantasy book I ever read when I was about 10.

    The Martian Chronicles-The first sf book I read.


  14. brainshades // April 27, 2009 at 8:00 pm //

    The four books shown in the title are in my top 5 for re-reads, with the previously mentioned Radix finishing pretty high on the list as well. Several others I could throw in with them would be:

    Dune – Frank Herbert

    The Anubis Gates – Tim Powers

    Fire Upon the Deep – Vernor Vinge

    I think that most of the titles listed so far fall within our long-term reading, but with a quick take on some very recent titles, I might add:

    The First Law Trilogy – Joe Abercrombie

    The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

    Redemption Ark – Alastair Reynolds


  15. I’m one of those folks who’ve only read Hyperion This Year. It is probably the single biggest factor to my renewed interest in literary SF/F. But, I’m still within its afterglow, I’ll exclude it.

    I find Brainshades’ list very interesting as three of his books–Anubis Gates, Locke Lamora, and First Law Trilogy–are on my immediate reading list.

    But back to the question at hand. The first two are repeats. The third is not.

    Rendevous with Rama – Best thing about the original book–and not the climax of the sequel trilogy–is that we humans didn’t know who built/sent Rama. It just is and we’re left to ponder our place in the universe. I remember just being flabberghasted at the first book as my brain started expanding in my skull.

    Ender’s Game – It holds the distinction of being the only book that, upon finishing the last page, I turned the book over and started again. It was that good and I didn’t see the ending coming. I don’t usually like to predict what the author might do. I just want to go with the storyteller.

    Star Wars novelization – Remember the summer of 1977 and seeing that movie for the first time? It was eye opening for an entire culture. As good as the movie was, I enjoyed the novel a bit more. You see, all the extra scenes were in ther, the ones Lucas edited out. But, than that, I got the sense that the events of Star Wars was smack in the middle of something larger. There was so much to know and learn. There wasn’t any whiff of what we got (“No, Luke, I am your father.”). What we got was a pure adventure story about a boy, a girl, and a galaxy. It was everything I ever wanted.

  16. Dino Mascolo // April 28, 2009 at 12:14 am //

    Way Station by Clifford D. Simak – I had already discovered that I love his style of writing. So the combination of his style, with this excellent story, makes this one of my all time favorite SF books.

    Speaker For the Dead by Orson Scott Card – Ditto with ‘Enders Game’ being my first SF genre read. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I enjoyed this book more.

    Doomsday Book by Connie Willis – I found this book fasinating. It was my first time travel book, which was was very fortunate for me, since some time travel books are done poorly. The most memorable part of reading this book was the discovery that I enjoy historical fiction. It helped me to seek out other historical fiction books outside the SF genre, thus increasing my breadth of reading and knowledge.

  17. Dune – I bet I’ve read it twenty times, and I own at least five copies

    Stranger in a Strange Land


  18. Count me in on the Hyperion cantos bandwagon.

    Same for LOTR.

    For the third selection, I know I’m cheating, but it’s a 3-way tie: Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, George R R Martin’s A Game of Thrones, and Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin.


  19. @Dino, I was going to pick Time and again but Jennifer Wingert’s first novel was too good to pass up. Good call on the Simak one though.

    @bloginhood: I read Spin and it was good. Axis is out now and I’m thinking about getting the sequel this week.


  20. City — Clifford Simak

    The Stars my Destination — Alfred Bester

    The Martian Chronicles — Ray Bradbury

    Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury

    I am Legend — Richard Matheson

    Wasp — Eric Frank Russell

    Double Star — Robert A. Heinlein

    This Immortal — Roger Zelazny

  21. What a fantastic question! Well, here are my selections:

    Foundation: the whole series actually, though if I had to choose one it would be the first novel. This series wasn’t actually the first science fiction books I ever read, but they were among the first and I think they alone insured a life long love of science fiction (along with a life long love of science that was ensured by Asimov’s non-fiction books.) To this day I love reading anything by Asimov, for his plain style but incredible imagination. 

    Dune: I was absolutely swept away by the scope of this book when I first read it. In fact I was angry that I hadn’t read it earlier in life! I’ve re-read Dune probably 5-6 times since the first time, and I’d just as happily read it again now if I had the time. It’s a wonderful book; epic in scope, powerful in imagination, and chock full of the kind of grand ideas that I love about science fiction. 

    Great Sky River: I never get a chance to praise this book enough. Honestly, Benford’s writing style isn’t my favorite, but I’ve never read a book that conveyed as this one does the immensity of the universe, and our incredibily insignificant place in it. And I don’t know what young sci-fi reader can’t get behind the idea of an epic war spanning tens of thousands of years between organic life forms (including humans) and machines (or “naturals” vs. “mechanicals” as Benford terms it.) And I think Benford writes some of the best characters in sci-fi; I’ve never sympathized with the protagonists in a novel more. If Asimov secured my love of sci-fi, then Benford secured my love of “hard” sf. 

    @Terry Weyna: I’d second Gene Wolfe, but his series is so incredibly dense and rich with meaning that I’m still catching things in the books, even after having read them three times now. I’d hate to start that process all over again!


  22. Graham Taylor // April 29, 2009 at 3:42 pm //

    Oh my, this is a hard one….

    Dune – I’ll be 44 in a few weeks time and first read Dune when I was about 15.  At that time, most of it went completely over my head.  I’ve re-read it many times since and still think it is in a class of it’s own.  It’s not just about the ideas, the characters, the settings etc – for me it has an ‘integrity’ of vision.  I’ve read most of Frank Herbert’s books and have enjoyed them, but none surpass Dune.  I like the Dune sequels too, but can’t be doing with the collaborations that have come out since he died (House Corrino etc) – they just don’t compare (and I have read them before anybody says I shouldn’t judge).

    Look to Windward – biased here as I’m a big Iain Banks fan, but Look to just does it for me. I’d agree with people who say that Player of Games or Matter are ‘better’ books; they probably are from a literary point of view. For me, however, Look to has it all – great story, interesting characters, good pacing and a few lessons to be learned about humility and falliability.

    The Skinner – ok, also a big Neal Asher fan – and love his blog (especially when he’s having a rant about the UK’s nanny state).  Great story, memorable characters and some bad guys who turn out good. We need more like Neal to bring back the ASTOUNDING feel Sci-fi can have.

    Under the Skin – by Michel Faber. What can I say – if you haven’t read it, then get a copy NOW!!!  If you liked The Road by Cormac McCarthy, you’ll love Under the Skin – this is Sci-fi for people who like a riveting yarn (and a few unpleasant surprises).

    Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow – ok, not a top hit as Sci-fi, but is does have a connection – read it to find out if you haven’t already.  This is No 2 in my top 10 of best books ever – clever, engrossing, smart, sharp.  Smilla is not a character you will forget.




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