This obviously oversimplifies: One book I have re-read repeatedly is Ryan’s The Longest Day, which is as factual as he could make it, and yet tells as grand a story of courage and honor as any fantasy. But the point is taken.
I looked at the list of books the authors read, and their descriptions of either why or how they were so central, and wondered about my own list and what it says about me.
I wrote out a list, and noticed a few oddities. Some books or short stories I esteem I haven’t actually re-read much. For example, "A Martian Odyssey" by Weinbaum has some of the clearest descriptions of truly alien intelligence I know of, and I recommend it frequently. I’ve read it twice. Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer series I’ve only read twice, but that’s partly because I had some impressionable youngsters running about and so didn’t acquire a copy of my own.
Some books I read very many times (RM), and others merely many (M). The list is incomplete—it doesn’t include some light reading that slips my mind completely at the moment.
Let it be noted that I am typically careful with books, and the “to pieces” aspect may usually be attributed to our offspring.
|Bible||sui generis: RM|
|C.S. Lewis||Narnia (esp Magician’s Nephew and Last Battle), Perelandra, That Hideous Strength, Great Divorce, Screwtape Letters||RM|
|C.S. Lewis||Out of The Silent Planet, Mere Christianity, Pilgrim’s Regress||M|
|Chesterton||Man Who Was Thursday, Orthodoxy, Heretics, Father Brown||RM|
|Tolkien||Lord of the Rings||RM|
|Tolkien||Hobbit, Farmer Giles, Leaf by Niggle, first part of Silmarillion||M|
|Simak||Time is the Simplest Thing, Way Station, City||RM|
|Kuttner||many short stories||RM|
|Bradbury||many short stories||RM|
|Carroll||Alice, Through Looking Glass||RM|
|Haggard||She, Ayesha, King Solomon’s Mines, Allan Quartermain||RM|
|Zelazny||Lord of Light, Creatures of Light and Darkness, Today We Choose Faces||RM|
|Pratchett||Thief of Time||RM|
|Pratchett||a few other Diskworld, Good Omens||M|
|Grahame||Wind in the Willows||M|
|Miller||Canticle for Leibowitz||RM|
|Biddlecombe||French Lessons in Africa||M|
|Laumer||Retief’s Ransom, Dinosaur Beach||RM|
|L’Engle||Wrinkle in Time||RM|
|T.S. Eliot||The Cocktail Party||RM|
|Twain||various, more often the short stories than the novels||M|
|Nye||various short stories||M|
|Aaron Williams||Nodwick collections||RM|
The latter few aren’t exactly great literature, but I don’t always read great literature . . .
Some of these are obviously for the humor: Twain, Pratchett, Kelly, Nye, Biddlecombe
It looks like I have a taste for “worlds within worlds” or “unknown worlds” fiction, and for twists. With some other things thrown in, of course: still quite a few of these are origin or end-of-the-world stories (Today We Choose Faces is a little of both). That seems to show up in my own fiction as well (the bulk of which has not yet been inflicted on a suffering world).