What books have stuck with you? Not necessarily your best or favorite books on careful reflection, but when you think about books that have given you a lasting experience, what comes to mind right off, before looking up anything? Give yourself fifteen minutes. Here are mine
The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston
The Diamond Age, Stephenson
Elric of Melniboné, Moorcock
the Harper Hall books, McCaffrey
the first three Xanth books, Anthony. Yes, I am ashamed.
Perdido Street Station, Mieville
Gaudy Night, Sayers
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling
The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams
Arrows of the Queen books, Lackey.
Good Omens, Gaiman and Pratchett
When I was younger, I read a few series of books over and over and OVER again. I can still quote whole passages from Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall series, the early Xanth books (I’m so ashamed), Robert Lynn Aspirin’s Myth series, and, of course, The Lord of the Rings. These days, I’m reading Patrick O’Brian’s historical novels about Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin. I have a hard time explaining why I like the books so much; O’Brian overuses certain narrative figures and lines far too often (no character “says” when he can “cry” something) and the books contain passages about seamanship that remain a mystery (e.g., a double sister block, coaked). But I do love them. I love the mix of locations, from Hampshire and the English Channel to the Mediterranean, Java, the Galapagos Islands, North Africa, and Boston. I love the deep character exploration of Aubrey and Maturin over many books–Stephen’s loathing of anything smacking of an informant, Jack’s good-willed, clumsy wenching. I love the matter-of-fact, deliberately sudden way that important characters can die from the myriad dangers of war, seafaring, or simple low-tech danger. I’m running a steampunk RPG soon, and while it’s not set during this period, I think re-reading the books is helping me get back into the long-vanished mindset of the European gentry.