MIND MELD: What Books Would You Like To Re-Read For The First Time?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

In Dan Simmons’ novel Flashback. he posits a ‘bookstore’ where flashback users go to experience reading their favorite novels for the first time again. That sounded like an interesting question to ask this week’s panelists.

Q: If you could, what books or stories would you like to read again for the first time?

Here’s what they said…

Angela @ SciFiChick
Life-long SciFi fan, portrait artist, and avid reader of all genres. I have a fulltime job at a Fortune 500 company. I do drawings on commission and volunteer for my local Humane Society and church. I like dogs, but love Shar Peis. I’m addicted to too many TV shows. And I read every chance I get. Can be found blogging at SciFiChick.com.

There are books that I re-read just because I love them so much and to refresh my memory, such as the Chronicles of Narnia. But books I would like to read again for the first time would be ones with such suspense and thrills that re-reading them just wouldn’t be the same. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins would be on top of that list. The dystopian world was a dark and depressing backdrop, but the intensity of the Hunger Games and Collins’ characters are so rich and vivid that I was completely swallowed up in the story.

I would also love to read for the first time Bob Mayer’s Area 51 series written under the pseudonym Robert Doherty. The Area 51 series was an original science fiction, cleverly linking to Earth’s past and were written like watching an action film.

I also wish I could go back and read all of the (earlier numbered) Star Trek: The Next Generation novels again for the first time. Reading those as a teenager was really what got me hooked on science fiction, and it would be great to relive that wonder and excitement.

And I have to mention one of my earliest childhood memories of reading science fiction: The Girl with the Silver Eyes, by Willo Davis Roberts. The girl could move things with her mind, and as a kid this fascinated me. I don’t remember a lot of what I’ve read over the years, so it says something that the visuals from this book stuck with me. I guess most of what I’d choose to read again for the first time would be books that have sentimental attachments. I’d love to read those stories again with the same wide-eyed wonder I had back then, as opposed to a more jaded and critical view I’d have today.

Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction.

My favorite books–the constant rereads–I don’t think I would like to read again for the first time. Because that would mean giving up the layers and nuances I’ve discovered over the years. And it would also mean sacrificing the comfort those stories have been to me over the years, which I find an absolutely dreadful prospect.

I guess I see reading a book for the first time as sort of like virginity: overrated and over-mythologized, when long-term acquaintance is so much more rewarding.

Jessica Strider
Jessica Strider works once a week at a major bookstore in Toronto. The other 6 days are spent reading books, taking pictures, acting as a pillow for 2 kitties and cooking. Her in store SFF newsletter, the Sci-Fi Fan Letter, eventually evolved into a blog for author interviews, themed reading lists, book reviews and more. She plans to have a novel published one day.

I love rereading books. I used to read books as fast as I could to find out the ending, and if I liked the book, I’d often immediately turn around and reread it to enjoy how the characters got to that ending. While I don’t have time to do that anymore, I still have a shelf of books I love to skim/reread when time permits. I love books that reveal new things each time I read them, or that have jokes that stay fresh over the years, knowing the punchlines and all. These are books I raced through the first time and which have never gotten old. Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold, Transformation by Carol Berg, Homeland by R. A. Salvatore, the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Poison Study by Maria Snyder, Burndive by Karen Lowachee and Resenting the Hero by Moira Moore. (There are more, of course, and I’ve read a lot of great books in the past few years that I haven’t had time to reread at all, which would probably make this list if there were more hours in a day.)

But, there are a few books that affected me deeply the first time I read them and when I reread them didn’t have the same impact, whether because the jokes didn’t hold up or because knowing the ending made the mystery less interesting. So here are the books I’d love to read – and experience – for the first time again.

Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shannara. This is the book that got me reading fantasy and science fiction. I read it so often in my teens that I literally can’t read it any more. I’d love the chance to meet the characters again, cheer their triumphs and mourn their losses without being able to quote ALL the text.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I loved the book’s sarcastic humour. Alas, I felt Adams repeated his jokes within the series too much and by the time I reread the first one didn’t find them as funny anymore.

After being told for years that men don’t feel emotions the way women do, it was a delight to read F. Paul Wilson’s The Tomb and meet Repairman Jack. Here was a tough guy who lamented the loss of the woman he loved due to his career choice. No, he didn’t cry, but the book had great emotional impact the first time through.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to reread Carol Berg’s The Song of the Beast for fear that it won’t have the same emotional impact. She puts all of her characters through the ringer, but Aidan MacAllister’s back story is quite horrific.

On the plus side, my memory isn’t what it used to be and I’ve already found some books I read as a youth that I no longer remember. Guess this is an unconsidered benefit of getting older, that the time will come when all books become new again.

Joseph Mallozzi
Joseph Mallozzi, along with his partner Paul Mullie, is the executive produce/showrunner for Stargate: Atlantis. He also runs a Book Of The Month discussion at his website.

I read a lot (or, frankly, used to be before landing my last gig) and, while I’ve certainly read many good books, it’s not often I’ve come across a truly great one. But on those rare occasions it does happen, I set these books back on my special shelf, a space reserved for those titles that so surprised, so touched, so thrilled, that I would actually consider revisiting them some time in the future. I don’t think anything can equal the experience of reading a great book for the first time, but I’ve found that recommending the book to a friend and seeing their enthusiastic reaction comes a very close second.

The following are my “most recommended”, all of them great books I would love to read again for the first time…

  • Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi: Revitalized my long dormant love of reading – books in general and SF in particular. Smart, humorous, and impossible to put down.
  • A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin: The greatest ongoing fantasy epic boasts a dizzying roster of colorful characters, twists, turns, and the type of surprises you don’t see on t.v. Until recently.
  • The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie: Deft, dark, and disturbingly visceral, it turns High Fantasy on its ear – then slices it off and stomps on it.
  • Fast Forward 1, edited by Lou Anders: While Old Man’s War reignited my passion for reading, it was this anthology that renewed my love for the short form.
  • The Dark Beyond the Stars, by Frank M. Robinson: An underappreciated gem that I discovered, interestingly enough, on a list of underappreciated gems. If you’re a fan of science fiction, I defy you not to love it.
  • Camp Concentration, by Thomas M. Disch: A masterpiece by one of SF’s greatest minds. Sharp and subversive, it packs an emotional wallop that lingers long after it’s been read.
  • The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events Book #1), by Lemony Snicket: I picked up this book on a lark because I found the cover art amusing. Little did I realize I’d become hooked on the work of the most devilishly dark and wickedly clever children’s (?) authors since Edward Gorey.
  • The SFWA European Hall of Fame, edited by James Morrow and Kathryn Morrow: Another overlooked gem, this collection brings together an outstanding selection of European SF and Fantasy. It actually pains me that they didn’t do a second volume.
  • The Speed of Dark, by Elizabeth Moon: One of the most touching books I’ve had the pleasure to discover. I loved it so much I made it a book of the month club pick on my blog even though I’d already read it.
  • The Empire of Ice Cream, by Jeffrey Ford: My introduction to the works of the wildly inventive Jeffrey Ford. Ever since, I’ve picked up everything he’s written – and continue to be blown away.
Lisa Paitz Spindler
Lisa Paitz Spindler is a science fiction author, web designer, blogger, and pop culture geek. Her space opera novella, The Spiral Path, is available from Carina Press. Lisa maintains the Danger Gal Blog hosted by her alter ego, Danger Gal, whose stiletto heels are licensed weapons and whose ninja stars travel faster than light. Lisa, however, gets through each day on caffeine and science blogs. She also enjoys pina coladas, walking in the rain, and Battlestar Galactica marathons.

One of, if not the main, reason I read is for escape. I definitely am after that “sense of wonder” so many other science fiction and fantasy readers also crave. This means I’m not tied to reading a single genre even if my tastes more often than not veer toward science fiction. I read fantasy and romance for the sheer immersive pleasure of it. So, if I found myself in some sort of time loop wherein I could read my favorite books anew I’d pick the following:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: I’d like to experience the Harry Potter series again for the first time because I felt like a kid when I read it. This book reminded me of reading books like Alice in Wonderland and The Black Cauldron series when I was a child.
  • The Lord of the Rings: I didn’t get around to reading Tolkein until my twenties because I spent my teenage years reading Clarke and Asimov. It wasn’t until I started reading Celtic myths like the Irish Tain Bo Cuailnge and Welsh The Mabinogion that a friend suggested I read Lord of the Rings — and more specifically The Silmarillion — for fun. I was hooked on the epic story and the Fellowship of the Ring. And elves, never forget the elves.
  • The Snow Queen Trilogy: Joan Vinge’s Snow Queen/Summer Queen series brought my science fiction and fantasy interests together as well as a bit of romance with the characters of Summer and BZ Gundhalinu. These books were the perfect storm for all of my favorite genres. It’s about that time again for a re-read.
  • Neuromancer: This book came out in 1984, at the same time as that iconic Apple commercial that opened with “[T]oday we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives.” The times seemed ripe for a story about a computer hacker cowboy blurring the lines between human and machine. This was the first novel to show me that science fiction didn’t necessarily mean space opera. Gibson’s cyberpunk Sprawl trilogy opened up whole new possibilities for me both as a reader and a writer.
  • Good Omens: I laughed so hard I cried reading Good Omens. I wish more novels could illicit that response. I mean, really, cassette tapes that when left in the car too long all eventually turn into Queen tapes, the Four Horsemen whittled down to three thanks to penicillin, and the antichrist misplaced by daft nuns. Who wouldn’t want to revisit that?
  • Primary Inversion: From Leia and Han to the Troi-Riker-Worf-Thomas Riker Imzadi polygon, I’ve always been a shipper when it comes to my science fiction. I read Catherine Asaro’s Primary Inversion around the same time that I discovered Joan Vinge’s series and while both lit up all of my nerd-girl interests, Asaro offered a kick-ass heroine as well in the form of Soz Valdoria, one of the first characters I profiled on my Danger Gal Blog.
Scott A. Cupp
Scott A. Cupp is a short story writer from San Antonio. He has been nominated for the John W. Campbell Award as Best New Writer and the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. He lost both. He is a former co-owner of Adventures in Crime and Space bookstore in Austin. His website www.scottacupp.com features links to several odd stories including “Johnny Cannabis and Tony, the Purple Paisley (Sometimes) Colored White Lab Rat“. You should check it out.

I would love to be 15 again and go back to rediscover Healy and McComas’s Adventures in Time and Space which I got as a Christmas present that year. Here were the wonders of Heinlein, Kuttner, van Vogt, and all the Golden Age laid out before me. I had only recently begun reading a great deal of science fiction and this was an amazing find. Of course, the year before I had found Philip K. Dick, Pellucidar, Robert E. Howard, and Michael Moorcock. It was a great time to be doing omnivorous reading. The Treasury of Great Science Fiction (with The Stars, My Destination), Foundation, and Burroughs’ Mars were on the horizon during the next year. I spent many a lunch hour in the library with my friend Guy reading, using our lunch money to buy even more stuff. Soon we found Delany, Leiber, Zelazny and Dune. Then we found the New Wave and psychedelic music and the whole world changed. There’s never been a period quite like it for me.

14 thoughts on “MIND MELD: What Books Would You Like To Re-Read For The First Time?”

  1. Excellent points from Elizabeth Bear. I completely agree with her, but for the sake of playing along, here are just a few that come to mind. Asking what we would like to read again for the first time I take to mean books that had a special effect on us when we first read them, one that we’d like to re-experience. There’s actually a lot that fills that bill for me, but these are ones that really stuck with me, enough that I often think back to that first reading.

    The Runaway Robot by del Rey (or Paul Fairman, if you’re a purist) – a juvenile and very simplistic, one of the first science fiction books I ever read and owned. Aside from the wonder and adventure it provided to my ten/eleven-year-old self, it was the first book I recall that made me look around and start drawing comparisons to the real world. I loved this book and still do, and the truth is every time I reread it, it feels like the first time. I think that might go back to what Bear was talking about, some books become such close friends that how you felt at first is trivial compared to how those feelings have grown over time.

    Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles – read at an early age, it was very different from other science fiction. Possibly the first ‘literary’ writing I’d ever read and I was fascinated not just by the stories, but by how the stories were told, how the sentences were constructed, the choice of words he used. Made me want more and sent me off looking. The book overall was moving in a way I’d never before experienced.

    Niven’s entire Known Space novels and stories. Still some of the most fun reading I’ve had. I was lucky in that I didn’t discover them until most of them were done, so I was able to get the entire bunch and read them together. Everything felt fresh and exciting and in vivid color.

    Deepsix by McDevitt – still the most exiting book I’ve ever read. I could not put it down and would force myself to stop reading for a few minutes at a time just because I felt I was using it up too fast.

    Mike

     

  2. OOh Great Mind Meld!

    For me, I’d choose EON by Greg Bear. I remember absolutely loving that book and rereading it several times over the years. I’d love to experience that feeling again. Also, I’d go back reread Asimov’s Robot novels and (original 5) Foundation novels in chronological order, so the reveal at the end of Foundation and Earth has more meaning. Foundation and Earth was the first Asimov novel I ever read. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would be another one that would be amazing to experience for the first time. And Dune. And Ender’s Game. And….

     

     

  3. I disagree with Ms. Bear, as you would get to find these nuances again.  Plus, some things are only really really good the first time.  For books it would be Dune, Ender’s Game (the first 3), and the Night’s Dawn triology.

    Battlestar Galactica would be the TV show to watch again with no knowledge, as the twists and turns are really well done.

  4. I think what Bear refers to is the over-rating of the “new car smell”.  I think the desire to want to re-read something for the first time is similar to discovering an author for the first time, with the “foreknowledge” that you know you are going to love it.

    I like to re-read books to find new things I missed the first time, not because I am trying to capture the “new car smell”. I’d rather have the “new car smell” with a new book and new author, not an old one.

     

  5. What a wonderful topic!  There’s so little time to read, even for that first time, that re-reading is a sweet indulgence.  I recently re-read a children’s book I adored when I was about nine, Edward Eager’s Half Magic.  It was hardly like reading it for the first time, since I must have read it twenty times as a kid, but after all these years, I found the story and the writing still enchanting.  I buy that book by the dozen to hand out to children I meet.

    I’d like to enjoy Lucifer’s Hammer again, and also Greg Bear’s Forge of GodDoomsday Book of Connie Willis, as well as To Say Nothing of the DogCanticle for Leibowitz.  Sheesh, the list is endless!

  6. Interesting question. Would we want to re-read them in the state we were in when we first read them or read them for the first time now with our current age perspective. For the first I would say Howard’s Conan stories. There were such wonderful escape for a wimpy kid. And Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land – maybe that would be both. It had such resonance when we felt so alienated but I suspect, reading it for the first time now, it might have the same resonance. And of course Herbert’s Dune – can you imagine if you read this for the first time now and looked at the date of publication. How could he have foreseen so many ties among religion, empire, and scarce resources. And finally, The Lord of the Rings, then for the first time and now for the first time; either would be tremendous. As to ones I wish I’d been able to read then – Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Oh, yah, and Gibson’s work then and now…okay I’ll stop.

  7. Harry Potter, no doubt, is my number one. When I first read those books, it was akin to an Alice moment. I fell down that rabbit hole. Scratch that. I leaped down it. More than any other book, I did feel like I was saying goodbye to friends by the end.

    The Name of the Wind gets a close second for the same reason.

    The Shadow of the Torturer threw my worldview for a loop. I didn’t know books like that could be written. The feeling of pure exhiliration with each turn of the page is something that I have never recaptured.

  8. 1. Sector General novel by James White. They had me entranced from the first page of each novel

    2. Neverness and Eulogy for Homo Sapiens. I was sorry ro leave this world and really sad when David Zindell turned to fantasy and never again the greatness of these novels.( In my opinion!)

     

  9. Tough call, there are so many. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to learn how to read all over again (hopefully not through traumatic injury) just to have THAT feeling of rediscovery.

    “Snow Crash,” for me, was an eye-opener. So I might pick that one, if I had to pick one. Really, I wish I had time to reread them all.

     

  10. I would like to thank my English teacher Mrs Moore, I was in the bottom set of English at the age of 15 in 1987 and never thought about reading a novel. In fact I was a bit of a rebel and wanted to be anywhere but school. She gave me Pawn of Prophecy book one of the Belgariad by David Eddings, I forced myself to start reading it and to my surprise I couldn’t put it down. Before I knew it I was asking for the next book and going on to read the series. Since then I have become a massive fan of sitting down, chilling and reading a good book. I have read most of the books mentioned as favourites on this site, so thank you Mrs Moore ….not that she will see this!

  11. What an interesting question.  When I was a kid, we didn’t live very close to a library and book stores just weren’t in the budget.  One lazy summer I found a box of my dad’s books up in the attic.  I read every single one of them (they included The Hardy Boys mysteries, The Three Investigators books and some scifi books).  I enjoyed the heck out of that old box of used books but when I got to Alan Dean Foster’s Nor Crystal Tears I was lost.  That book showed me where an imagination can take you.

Comments are closed.