Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends. This week we’re talking about books written before we were born.
Having studied English Lit, Latin and Old English, it’s possible I’ve read more than my fair share of books older than I am. I still read older books voluntarily from time to time, although it has become an increasingly rare choice – I’m old enough that it often means grappling with attitudes I find distasteful. That said, there’s plenty of classics that I’m curious about, so this week is a chance to look at a few that are on my TBR.
Yes, some of my TBR is a lot older than I am. I’ve been meaning to read Snorri Sturluson’s mediaeval collection of Norse mythology and poetry for a long while – partly because I grew up reading modern versions of Viking tales, and partly because I remain fascinated by the ways in which stories evolve over time (I have a fair collection of older sources of Arthurian myths as well as Norse and Old English ones).
I’m not quite sure why I’m so keen to read The Woman in White: for some reason, I’ve always wanted to give Wilkie Collins a try, and his Victorian mystery is the title I picked out back in the day. One day I’ll actually get round to reading it…
Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirlees was a recommendation from a friend with excellent taste; several others have echoed that recommendation since. A tale of a mundane town forced to come to terms with its Faerie neighbours, I absolutely have to read this before its 100th birthday!
The next set are more recent and fall into the bucket of “SF classics I feel I should read”. I may be a Bad SF Fan – and ruthlessly unwilling to explore large sections of the genre’s past – but there’s plenty I do want to read. JG Ballard’s The Drowned World is top of this pile largely by virtue of being a post-apocalyptic novel (always a popular choice) and set in a drowned London (ding ding ding ding ding).
Sticking with the post-apocalyptic theme, Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz explores attitudes to knowledge of a fallen world, which fascinates me (…all the more for having listened to Derek Miller’s Super Relaxed Fantasy Club chat about Radio Life).
Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War isn’t obviously my bag, but I’m willing to give military SF some rope when it is focused on interesting questions: here, the difficulty of coming home, made all the harder by the challenges of relativity.
Sticking with ‘SF classics I feel I should read’, the next two are very much on that list but an easier sell: Joanna Russ’s world-hopping study of preconceptions about and attitudes toward gender, The Female Man; and Ursula Le Guin’s towering classic, The Left Hand of Darkness (no points for spotting the theme here). I’ll close out the week with Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff – Sutcliff authored some of my favourite childhood historical novels (The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers) and I’m not sure how I’ve made it this far without reading her take on King Arthur.
What older books are you planning to read?