If you could only read one book for the rest of your life …

Here’s a post at Book Bub: 15 Authors Tell Us Which Book They’d Choose to Read for the Rest of Their Lives

One of the best things about reading is that it offers an infinite source of entertainment. But what if you had to choose one book to read for the rest of your life? We asked authors that same difficult question: If they could only read one book for the rest of their lives, which one would they choose?

That’s a fun question! I’m really quite interested. I would be even more interested if these were all SFF authors, but sure, I’m interested anyway.

Oh! The first author on their list picked A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas. That’s unexpected! I was not very impressed by the first paragraphs of a book by Sarah Maas when I tried it. Not sure which book that might have been. Something popular. Was it this series? I’m not sure. Let me check. It was!

My problem was that Maas used one word (parameter) when she meant a different word (perimeter) and I instantly distrusted the author’s craft and sense of the language. I am really so surprised to see this series appear in a post like this! Maybe the books are much better than this error in word choice made it seem.

War and Peace. That’s much more what I would have expected.

One Hundred Years of Solitude. I have that on my TBR shelves. I’ve heard both good things about this book (about the writing and style) and negative things (about the tone and essentially tragic story). If any of you have read it, what did you think?

Madame Bovary! Wow, my all-time number-one most-hated book! I would literally rather have zero books on a desert island than this one.

The complete works of Shakespeare is cheating. I’m okay with a series, but not with this. You can consider a series one fundamental story, but not the complete works of an author.

Okay! Lots more choices at the link, so click through if you wish.

For me, it would most likely be The Lord of the Rings. Someone did pick that, and I agree. I doubt I would think very hard about other works. I mean, I MIGHT pick CJC’s Foreigner series on the grounds that I really like it and it is thousands of pages long. But TLotR is most likely the one work I would choose.

How about you? One book for a lifetime. What would you choose?

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9 thoughts on “If you could only read one book for the rest of your life …”

  1. If we’re allowed to choose series, it would be Narnia for me. To restrict it to only one book would be much, much harder. Maybe Persuasion? My first thought was Gaudy Night, but as much as I love that book, I don’t think I could read only that for the rest of my life.

    Oh! Glancing at my shelves gave me an unexpected choice: The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. They’re witty, they’re hopeful, they’re sweet but with hidden zingers, and Milne was a master of language. We listened to the audio book on every single road trip when the kids were little, and Carl and I got just as caught up in the stories as the kids did, and they never got old.

  2. Rudyard Kipling’s Kim – great road trip, coming of age, setting, intrigue, action and good food. Fab wide cast of characters. Of course it has pretty terrible colonialist the mess – it takes as a given that the British Raj is great; but on the other hand, all the best characters are Pathan or Tibetan or hill women or Calcutta clerk/spy/ethnographer. Could still do with more female characters, but the women that are in there are pretty awesome. The audible version by Sam Dastor is excellent.

  3. I don’t know Curse of Chalion maybe.

    As for One Hundred Years of Solitude, basically what you’ve heard, it’s beautifully written but very sad. I had to read a lot of Marquez for grad-school and while I love his style, beautiful, clever, you need to read between the lines, etc. I just can’t handle all the tragedy and loneliness. Well, most of the stuff we had to read for school was tragic, it’s like universities feel that if something good also happens in the book it’s not worthy to teach. :(

  4. I, also, would likely choose LotR, although I’d really like it to come with all the HoME and anything else, of the notes and false starts and musings, too. It’s one I keep coming back to. Failing that, some McKillip or other, but I don’t know which. Or CJC, same as McKillip.

    I tried Maas’ work, too. Several times. I keep not finishing the sample for much the same reasons as you. I don’t trust the writer on word choice and world building.

  5. Maria, it is EXACTLY like that. The assumption is that depressing and tragic works have more artistic merit than any other sort. This is both wrong and a GREAT WAY to turn students off classics. I didn’t touch any classics for at least a decade after graduating from college because I assumed they were all tragic, except for Shakespeare’s comedies — which were never assigned. Only the tragedies were assigned. If the comedies hadn’t been performed on stage by the theater groups, I would never have known that I liked them.

    Meera, Kim is one I never read. Maybe I should add it to my TBR pile. I don’t insist that all works ever written show the same exact moral sensibility of people today. Also, kudos to Kipling for writing great non-English non-male characters! Good for him! Thanks for pointing to the audio version too.

    Louise, what an interesting choice! I never actually read those, either as a kid or an adult.

  6. My first impulse was my 3-volume annotated collected works of Shakespeare; the second was the Encyclopedia Brittannica – lots of interesting new subjects to learn about, and a useful resource.
    Both cheating, if you really mean just 1 book…

    This last year, the Touchstone series has been my go-to comfort reread, but if that was the only thing I could read for the rest of my life I think I would grow sick of it in pretty short order. Like when I was 15 and read the neighbor’s whole shelf of Agatha Christies one after the other, and then didn’t want to read another for decades. It would be a pity to do that to any book I really loved.
    A useful reference book that I wouldn’t be tempted to read to death would probably be best; either a gardening book or a cookbook, for those details I can never remember and one really needs to get right.

  7. Agree with Hanneke that whatever book I chose I would end up getting sick of, and that’s just not fair to me or the book! Vorkosiverse series, if I had to. Lately I’ve been re-reading it almost annually. The writing makes me so happy. I also re-read the Touchstone series and Black Dog series pretty regularly, but they have fewer books and somewhat less broad scope so wouldn’t last as long.

    The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer, if I had to pick a single book: it’s just so delightful, and if I was in whatever post-apocalyptic hell would only allow me one book for the rest of my life, I would probably be in need of some delightful humour!

  8. Hanneke, I also thought of the Touchstone trilogy because I’ve read it so often in the past couple of years — I’m just about finished with the audio version now. But if I had just one work forever, I think TLotR would hold up for quite a long time, probably longer than anything else. Anything else that’s fiction. An Encyclopedia would be a good choice if we allowed the choices to expand in that direction.

    I do like the idea of a Georgette Heyer book. If they were longer … a lot longer … or if we allowed all books by an author rather than one complete story, then she might be a wonderful choice.

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