This week, BTT asks "If you had to pick only 5 books to read ever again, what would they be and why? ... (Such a cruel question!) "
I'm assuming the question means books that I've read and would want to re-read, rather than books I haven't read yet. Right? Well, whatever, it's a cruel question indeed. And almost impossible for me to answer, but I'll give it a go.
I suppose the first book I'd pick would be one of Lewis Carroll's Alice books – Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking-Glass. I love them both, although I think "Looking-Glass" is more interesting than "Wonderland." But either one of those would do (as long as they have the original illustrations by Tenniel).
And I'd have to take along a copy of my other favorite from childhood, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I was introduced to Huck and company when I was about 6 or 7 – my mother read an abridged version to me everyday at naptime, one summer. It put her to sleep quite efficiently, but I was riveted. And I've re-read the full novel on my own many times since then. I own a lot of different editions – none of them rare – some with illustrations, some without. It gets my nomination for Great American Novel, hands down.
Then there would have to be something by Barbara Pym. Just about any one of her novels would qualify as a book I'd hate to be without. I suppose it would come down to a three-way tie: Some Tame Gazelle, A Few Green Leaves, or Quartet in Autumn. I've read QIA more times than any of her other works, but I think I'd choose "Gazelle" as my desert island book – I think it's funnier than the other two, and I've been planning to re-read it anyway. I've always thought that if for some reason I had to flee the planet, and could take only one book with me, it would be something by Barbara Pym ... dear Barbara.
So that's three down. For number four, I'm choosing a book of short stories by Edgar Allan Poe. I'd like the entire collected works, but I suppose that might be cheating. But I'd have trouble singling out any one story. As Poe himself would be the first to admit, each one is perfect. So I'm just going to choose any edition of the collected tales and not look back.
And that brings us to number five. A very hard choice. But after all that dark and horrific prose in Poe's works, I think I'd need something a little lighter and, well, hilarious. So I'm going to choose The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy (illustrated by William Steig). First read this one when I was about 10 or 11. I bought a paperback copy at the grocery store, and must have thought of it as a children's book. It was one of the funniest books I've ever read and actually taught me a lot about history (and footnotes). I've read it a number of times since then (and wrote a little piece about it for my blog, which you can see here) – it's a great book for dipping-into, without having to read it cover to cover every time. And the illustrations by Steig are a real delight, too.
So that's my five (more or less). Can't help but notice that most of them are childhood favorites, so I guess I haven't matured much. Also, these are the books I'd choose today – tomorrow's picks might be something completely different.