12 Books I Read (Almost) Every Year

Version 2I love a lot of books, and as I said a few days ago, I re-read when I’m stressed out or just in the mood, but there are a handful I tend to read almost every year. (I wanted to do a nice even 10… but this was as far as I could pare down my list).

  1. Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls- I read this book for the first time in elementary school. My copy is pretty much falling apart. This book never fails to make me cry, but I love it. It’s a book I go for if I’m feeling a little nostalgic and a little sad. Having a good cry cheers me up, and then I’m ready to get back to my normal cheerful self.
  2. These Happy Golden Years, by Laura Ingalls Wilder- I read the whole series as a kid (and then re-read it maybe 2 years ago), but this is the one that appealed to me. I grew up with Laura on TV and in books, and this book reminds me of sitting at home as a kid on a cold winter’s night.
  3. Watership Down, by Richard Adams- This book, told from the point of view of rabbits, never fails to delight me. I was obsessed with this book from the first time I read it, looking up every word I didn’t know (mostly flower references). I quoted it, and when I wrote stories, named my characters after the ones in this book. It’s an epic adventure, and I loved the fact that it developed from a father telling his kids a story.
  4. Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter- I strive to live my life like Pollyanna, always finding a reason to be glad and count my blessings. Reading this book every year reminds me of the person I want to be.
  5. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen- I love Elizabeth Bennett, and she and I share a love of laughing at the follies of ourselves and others. Like Elizabeth, I can sometimes jump to conclusions. Though I’ve never said anything quite as regrettable as Elizabeth said to Darcy, I have said and thought things I wish I hadn’t.
  6. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes- This book caused a lot of controversy, but I loved it. I love books about controversial topics because I love books that generate discussion. Spoiler alert** This book may ultimately be about dying, but it’s also very much about life.
  7. Where The Heart Is, by Billie Letts- Novalee Nation is an unlikely heroine. In the beginning of the book, she’s so inept that she ends up living in a Wal-mart, and ultimately having her baby there. As time goes on, she makes connections with people and finds an unlikely family. She stops letting her past define her, and makes herself into a strong woman.
  8. Francesca, Baby, by Joan Oppenheimer- I found this book at a used book sale when I was a kid. Without knowing anything about it, I brought it home. It’s about a young girl struggling with an alcoholic mother. First published in 1976, it’s definitely somewhat dated. But I love the characters, and I love the way the book handles the topic of mom’s alcoholism. Mom is, at times, a pathetic character. But she’s not a caricature. It’s an easy read, and one I tend to go for when I need something on the lighter side.
  9. The Silver Link, The Silken Tie, by Mildred Ames- This was another used book sale find. It’s about two misfits, and how they find one another. It was also my introduction to a character with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (Though it’s never specifically named, that’s what it is.) Being a misfit myself, I love main characters who feel out of place, but ultimately find their tribe. Oh, and there’s a subplot about mind control and a speculative fiction element involving shared dreaming.
  10. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte- What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? I know some people find the relationship between Mr. Rochester and Jane to be problematic, but I love it. Yes, he makes mistakes, but he pays for them. And ultimately, they may not be right for anyone other than each other.
  11. Remember Me, by Christopher Pike- In typical Christopher Pike fashion, the plot is a bit convoluted, but ultimately, it’s fun. I love the idea of a girl sticking around long enough to figure out who murdered her. I reach for this one if I need a quick read, but don’t want something I’ll get so into that I can’t put it down. (Since I’ve read it a billion times, I can put it down anytime.)
  12. The Forbidden Game series, by LJ Smith- I love the settings and format of these books. The first one is set inside a board game, in an old house where people have to face off against their nightmares. That pretty much hits all my “shut up and take my money!” points. Nightmares? Check. Creepy houses? Check. Board games? Check. The last one is set in a defunct amusement park, which is also a big ol’ check mark. This is a series I read when I’m not feeling well and want to spend some time resting on the couch. The books aren’t long, and I can make it through all of them in a day.

Do you have any go-to books that you read every year, or you reach for if you’re stressed or having a bad day?

Why I Love To Re-read

In December, I read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood. I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. reading it, and then I went to bed. In the morning, I started reading it again. I later posted a picture of me re-reading it, which then started a conversation about re-reading books.

Version 2

Some people never re-read a book. Others, like me, love to re-read. I have a few books I read almost every year. When I love a book, I might read it twice, back to back. I own several books that have post it notes stuck in my favorite parts. That way, if I’m having a bad day, I just go back and read the super-abridged version, and it never fails to cheer me up.

Re-reading a book I love never gets boring to me. It’s like visiting old friends. Sometimes I find details I missed during the first reading. Or I may make connections I missed. As a writer, a second reading can allow me to appreciate the structure of the book, or character development. Some books may have a particularly great ending that I enjoy going back to read over.

In particularly stressful times in my life, I read books I know I love; I call them “comfort books.” When life is hard, the last thing I want to deal with is a mediocre book. Plus, since I’m a moody reader, if I’ve already read a book, I know exactly what’s wonderful about it, and exactly which mood it will suit.

Are you a re-reader? Or do you read once and only once?

 

To Buy or Not to Buy… That is the Question…

img_6614Actually, even though the title of the post is to buy or not, that’s not really the question.  The question is whether to keep them once bought.

I’m a little bit of a hoarder.  I know people who change out their wardrobes seasonally, and have no trouble getting rid of old clothes, but I figure that if I buy it, I should keep it.

That’s why I have thousands of books.  Literally, thousands.

I try not to buy books.  I really try.  I use my local library for both ebooks and paper books.  But when I buy a book, I prefer to have the physical copy.

When I was attempting to shelve my huge collection, I started giving a lot of thought to clutter, and how much I hate it.  I started to really think about why I own so many books.  I haven’t read all of them.  Some of them were given to me by people who know I like books.  Some of them are well-loved books I’ve read a million times or might read again.  So, how do I decide which stay and which ones go?  I’ve made up a few rules.

If it has sentimental value.  My grandfather didn’t read many books, but he read and loved Marley and Me.  I enjoyed that book too, but even if I didn’t, I’d still own a copy.  It always makes me think of him.  And fairy tales make me think of my grandma.

If I’m going to re-read it.  I’ve read Watership Down more times than I can count.  So much so that I recently had to buy a new copy, as my old one was falling apart.  I love books that bear those kinds of marks of how well-loved they are.  My copy of Pride and Prejudice has post-it flags stuck in my favorite parts, so if I’m having a bad day, I can visit my favorite parts of the story and get a quick mood boost.

If it’s a classic.  I’m working my way through many of the classics, and even the ones I didn’t like, I’m keeping on my shelf.  I figure that it it’s stood up that much over the years, I may want to revisit it at a different point in my life.  I tried reading 1984 for the first time a few years ago, and though I recognized that it was a good book and I should like it, I just couldn’t stay interested.  Two years later, I picked it up and sped through it.  What’s going on in my life absolutely affects what I read and how I perceive it.

If it’s a “reference” book.  This is kind of a tricky one.  I write speculative fiction, so having books full of ghost stories, myths and legends, on my shelves is good practice.  I never know where I might find inspiration.

I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to.  I’m a sucker for used bookstores.  Sometimes I just have to pick something up because it looks good, but then I don’t get to it for awhile.  I’m okay with that.  But there are some books that I’ll probably never get to, and I need to learn to let them go.

These rules are flexible and subject to change.  But I’ve already taken two boxes of books to my local Half-Price books, and it feels good to know I’m reducing some of the clutter.

Do you buy books or get them from the library?  How do you decide which to keep and which to get rid of?