I love to read. I know, what a shocking statement to make on a guest blog about books. For Tor.com. From an author. I might as well have said, I breathe air or I like Doritos. But I do love to read and I have always loved to read and that was the sole reason the only thing I ever wanted to be in life was an author. And along that journey of reading so many countless books, some have just stood out amongst the others.
I should also say that I like to buy books. There is nothing in this world that I enjoy more than holding a brand new book, flipping through its pages, shoving my nose in there and smelling whatever the hell that smell is that’s inside a book. My kids make fun of me all the time. “Dad, why are you smelling that book? Again?”
Combine all of this and you have a guy who has willingly thrown his money at poor cashier clerks within many different bookstores—often to buy a book of which I already own more than one copy. Yes, publishers are evil this way. “Ooh!” they say. “Let’s hire a new artist and do a new cover for this oldie but goodie and everyone will have to buy it all over again!” Yes, these are the actions of an evil empire, and I’m so glad they do it.
Every once in a while, like when a butterfly flaps its wings and stirs the air and causes domino effects across the world until there’s a hurricane at your door, when all the stars and planets line up just right, something magical comes across your path—a book that stands out among the many. Something that you will never forget. It’ll happen when you’re a kid. When you’re a teenager. When you’re in college. Middle-age. On your death bed. But these are books that transcend the words on their pages or the story or the characters or any of it. It becomes a part of you.
It’s happened a few times to me. And I think it’s fun to have several copies of these special tomes. They stand on the shelf like trophies, or family photos, or little knickknacks your parents brought home for you from exotic, far-flung places. And even if I never literally re-read them, I often pull them down and spend a few minutes with an old friend.
Here are a few examples of such special books:
Dune by Frank Herbert
This is one of the very few times in my life that I have to admit I saw the movie before reading the book. Director David Lynch made an epic, sweeping, insane version of this in the eighties, when I was just a kid, and my dad had been eagerly anticipating it for months and months. My dad was a scifi nerd like none other before him, and the Dune series had always been his favorite. We saw the movie together, and I was completely and totally transfixed by this strange, eerie, captivating world. I immediately read the book.
I can’t say that I love the sequels. But that one book, the first one, with all of its depth and political machinations and archaic machines and dynastic houses (way before Game of Thrones) and the Fremen and the worms… I could go on forever. But it truly took me to another place and it’s one of the few books in life that I’ve read several times. And yes, every time they come out with a new edition, I’m the first sucker to buy it.
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I won’t bore you with the details, because you’d have to be a hermit crab on a deserted island to not know everything there is to know about this world-changing series of books. I loved the movies just as much as the books. I listen to those soundtracks often when I write. These books also took me to another place, and it was so awesome to experience that same feeling all over again when the films came out.
My favorite thing about LOTR is the vast amount of artwork that has been done to celebrate that world and its characters and beasts. I just can’t get enough. Maybe that’s why I own so many variations of this series.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
There’s only really one word I need to say about this series: “Tesseract.” To this day, that word still gives me chills and reminds me of what it’s like to feel a pure sense of wonder. As a child, I absolutely, positively had to know what a tesseract was from the moment it was first uttered on the page. I’ve been chasing that feeling in my reading and writing ever since.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
This book represents a very important chunk of my life—the college years. I saw the musical of Les Mis, then read the full unabridged version over a Christmas holiday. Both the musical and the book combined to affect me on a deep level. It’s just an amazing story, so full of meaning it needs to be read a hundred times to catch it all (although one time is tough enough!). Family, love, sacrifice, bravery, good vs. evil, you name it, it’s all in this story. And it just happens to be one of those books that are in the public domain so everybody under the sun does cool versions of it. Cue in the sucker, me.
The Stand by Stephen King
My favorite book by my favorite author of all time. What else is there to say? Stephen King defined my high school years, and he’s only gotten better since. He may be the only author out there for whom I buy his new book on the day it comes out, without exception, ever. And they tend to do lots of versions of this one.
Yeah, you guessed it. I own them all.
Top image: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
James Dashner is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series: The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, The Kill Order, and The Fever Code, and the New York Times bestselling Mortality Doctrine series: The Eye of Minds, The Rule of Thoughts, and The Game of Lives. Follow him @jamesdashner on Twitter, and find dashnerjames on Instagram.