Looking over my records I found 3 books that I’ve read 4 times and I distinctly remember feeling them “calling” to me and urging me to read them again.
The first is “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy” which I’m sure many on here have read. It’s funny and philosophical in a way similar to Vonnegut. It’s about the Earth being destroyed to make way for an intergalactic freeway and the last remaining human getting whisked around the galaxy by his alien friend from Earth, among other things. It’s short and easy and I go back to it from time to time for a good laugh or for a little “perspective.” Just read the opening page and you will understand this book and be able to decide if you want more of the same.
The second is Lolita. This is an amazing work of art and I found the language to be some of the finest ever put to paper. Here’s the endlessly quoted opening paragraph:
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.”
The first part of the book is incredibly compelling, but I found the second part to be on the slow side. If you’ve never heard of it, it is one of those constantly being banned books due to the book (apparently) being about a pedophile. I put “apparently” there because there is debate about the ultimate symbolism of the book, but regardless, the book does center around a pedophile and his actions with several minors.
Finally, there is Moby Dick. I love this book! People have described this as the kitchen sink book of the 19th century, as in Infinite Jest or Gravity’s Rainbow style. However, unlike those two books, the writing is much simpler and it has a predominantly linear story that is engaging in and of itself. There are religious discussions, whaling materials, biology, outstanding storylines, LOTS of humor, reflections on people and America, and a lot of other stuff. Honestly, I’ve primarily enjoyed it just as a fascinating and humorous adventure tale of 18th century whaling and don’t much get into all the symbolism. I know, how can it be funny? Well, here’s the first paragraph and it’s filled with a kind of morbid and absurd humor:
“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely --having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
And I’ll never get tired of reading the part where the two main characters first meet each other unexpectedly in the same inn bed in the middle of the night and almost kill each other. LOL!
Of the 3X rereads, I think War and Peace deserves a special mention, simply because of its length. It’s SO good that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it several times, despite it’s length. I’ve had family and friends carry on about how “it’s just so long” and “you must be crazy” as they sit down to the 5TH volume of “A song of fire and ice” or the 7TH Harry Potter book. It’s not a particularly difficult book, it’s just long and as a result has many characters. Knowing this, I went into it with a pencil and paper and made a note of the main characters and how some of them were connected. Today you can look this stuff up online in 2 seconds, so it’s not even an issue anymore (just beware of spoilers for a few things). It’s a very interesting book, but it’s not an action and adventure type that pulls you along with it’s excitement. It’s probably more like a soap opera in the way the characters are deeply developed, their world is brought to life, and the story slowly builds and develops as the pages roll by. It really is a slice of Russian life.