Every now and then you run across books that changes you. They get under your skin, into your nearly every waking thought and quiet possibly your dreams, they simple refuse to go away. They haunt us.
And we like it.
These are the books that stay with us, that we can pull up in our memories years later and chew over, consider, talk about at length.
Like many other readers of fantasy, I can clearly remember the day I first wrapped my hands around the entirety of Lord of the Rings. I was eleven. Thank goodness is was summer and I had zero classes because following Frodo Baggins and the rest was all I did for the next five days.
Then I immediately reread it, more slowly, in two weeks.
I’d never read anything like it. I was enthralled.
Stereotypical I know, but it drove me back to the library, craving more. More fantasy, More adventure, more experimentation with what if.
A few years later I ran into Orson Scott Card’s The Songmaster. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it, though it is for an older audience. I read it in less than twenty-four hours. It scared the daylights out of me. It was the first time I read a book that so thoroughly drew me and held me face to face against the characters emotions that I couldn’t break away. I felt what they felt, the good, the horrific, the relief and the surrender. When I turned the last page I just lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. It would be years, before I was brave enough to open another tone of Card’s book and I didn’t even realize it was his till I was deep into the story of Ender and the rest. I went back and reread Songmaster again, as an adult. This time I was more ready for it. I didn’t feel like I’d been punched but it moved me again.
And then I ran into Judith Tarr. For some reason, I can never remember the titles of her books, but I can always remember her characters, burning bright, tangled, imperfect, arrogant, powerful, prone to weaknesses of the heart and willful. Above all, I would consider them lovers, of family, of land, of their chosen companions. Her stories swirl as one in my head, especially as so many of the books linked from one to the next. I read them as fast as I could get them from the library. And sometimes I reread them. Someday, when I’m not traveling so much, I’ll have to track down hardback copies of all of them and set them up on a shelf, as a reminder of one of the writers who taught me what kind of stories I want to write.
I’m not saying these are my favorite books. After all the books I’ve read in my life, choosing is impossible. They’re not exactly the books I pick up to relax with often but they are books that crawl back into my head and stay there, time and again.
What are the books that haunt you?