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Old Books And Book Collections


Al Agnew

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Not only do I love to read, but unless the book is a real dog I keep it and re-read it about every five years or so. And since I've probably averaged well over a book a week ever since I was old enough to read adult books, I've amassed a lot of books over the years. I especially like re-reading a complete series of books from the same author. Some of my all time favorites:

Zane Grey--this old Western writer was one of my first loves. My grandfather had a pretty good collection of Zane Grey westerns, along with a couple of his young adult books about baseball. I read them all, and then my parents were in one of those book of the month clubs for a while where they'd send you a couple of books from the same author every month, and they added to the collection, which Grandpa had given to me by that time. I picked up a few more through the years, and now have about 35 or so Zane Grey books. Only bad thing about him to a kid like me was that he was a little heavy on romance, and too many of his books were set in the "contemporary" West--contemporary to the time he was writing, which was in the early 1900s--so there wasn't enough gunfights and such in those books. But I've read some of his stories at least a dozen times.

Edgar Rice Burroughs--I was reading Tarzan comic books when I was a little kid when I came upon an unabridged edition of his original "Tarzan of the Apes", specially adapted for young readers. Not sure how an unabridged version could be adapted to young readers, except that it was nicely illustrated. After reading it, I was hooked. By the time I was in high school I was buying every Tarzan book I could find in the local drugstore, and it just so happened that at the time Ballantine Books was coming out with a new edition of each one about every 3 months. Eventually I had the complete collection of Tarzan novels, along with most of Burroughs' other books. If you only know Tarzan from old black and white movies with Johnny Weismuller, you'll find the "real" Tarzan to be vastly different and superior fictional character.

Ian Fleming--the James Bond books were my first introduction to spy novels, and just "racy" enough to interest a teenager like me in more ways than just the main plot. But if you read the books, you'll realize that the "best" and most "true to life" James Bond of the movies was Sean Connery, no contest.

Louis L'Amour--I lost interest in Westerns after Zane Grey, until I discovered L'Amour in my late teens. After that, I couldn't wait for the newest L'Amour western to come out. I have every novel he ever wrote, and every one of them is a great story worth re-reading periodically. But the Sackett series is better than most of the others, although a few of his stand-alone novels, like "Sitka", are terrific.

Donald Hamilton--If you're as old as I am, you may remember a short-lived series of bad movies starring Dean Martin, where Dean was a character named Matt Helm. Well, Hamilton wrote the Matt Helm series of novels, and while the movies were trying to be copies of the early James Bond flicks with all kinds of gadgetry, the "real" Matt Helm was a tough-minded killer for the U.S. government who loved the outdoors and dogs and hunting, and the books, which went to 20 or so from the early 60s to the late 1980s, were great stories. In fact, Hamilton was simply a great storyteller, who also wrote several terrific "gritty" Western novels.

Andrew J. Offut--Robert E. Howard is famous for creating Conan the Barbarian, but he created another great character, Cormac Mac Art, a pirate and swordsman during Celtic Britain times. Howard wrote only one Cormac book, and I never really liked Howard's writing all that much, but Offut "took over" the Cormac character and wrote a series of Cormac books that I absolutely loved. Offut was a prolific fantasy and sci-fi writer and I've liked some of his books and not others, but the Cormac books are great.

Gordon R. Dickson--As a science fiction writer, Dickson has been one of the best, and his Dorsai series is terrific sci-fi, but those are not my favorite of his books. A bunch of his stand alone sci-fi books are better, and he has also written a series about a 20th century American that was transported back to a magical Britain in the times of knights and dragons that I really like. Dickson has been writing for a long time, but apparently he's still alive, because a new one in the Dragon Knight series just came out in paperback.

As for contemporary writers of "series", or at least recently completed series, my favorite hands down is Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth books. Goodkind recently came out with a "sequel" to that series which was good but not quite up to the quality of the original series.

Another series that I really like is Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp books. Rapp is the present day version of Matt Helm.

So...as our first winter book topic, what are your favorite "older" books and series?

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I've read a ton of classics but never really got into any series type collections like that...unless you consider Hemingway's long decline to insanity, documented in novel form, a "series." Other favorite American authors are Mark Twain, John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac.

I've read most of Dickens' stuff, my favorite being "A Tale of Two Cities." And I've read a bunch of European existentialist authors...Sartre, Camus, Hesse, Kafka, and the best of them all, Dostoevsky, who I think I've read complete. But all that darkness started getting pretty depressing so I gave it up.

Read the first 100 pages of War and Peace about a dozen times, but can't get past all the names. I've also had Moby Dick and Robinson Crusoe on my nightstand for about a decade now, but I never pick them up and give them a chance either, even though I've been wanting to read both of them nearly all my life.

I spend too much time on the internet.

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You haven't read anything until you've read "the Illiad" and "The Odyssey".

There's a fine line between fishing and sitting there looking stupid.

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I'm a bit older so Ian Fleming was a series I read as a 20 something. I guess I have read everything by Mark Twain and my wife gave me "The Autobiography of Mark Twain". I guess my favorite Twain book was "Roughing It". I was given "The Iliad" and "The Odessey" in 1952 by the Nun who was my 6th grade teacher, my first real grown up books and what a great adventure and literture, no more John Tunis books for me. I was pretty much a fan of popular novels "Caine Mutiny","Anatomy Of A Murder",but I also like Mickey Spillane and other pulp detectives. One advantage I've had is my wife was a librarian so anytime a new book was at the libray I got it first. Now that she's retired I've had to wait or buy it. I've read a lot of Pat Mcmanus "I Fish, Therefore I Am" etc. and James Lee Burke's books about New Iberia' LA police detective Dave Robicheau novels. The other books I have read recently are "59 In 84" about 19th century Hall Of Fame pitcher "Old Hoss" Rathbourne who won 59 games in 1884 but more a history of baseball at that time and " When the Mississippi Ran Backwards" by Feldman ahistory of America before during and after the New Madrid earthquake and how it effected everything from the War of 1812 to Steamboats on the Mississippi.

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Some great names have already been dropped. I hadn't thought about Matt Helm in a long time. Here are a few more that fit with those already named.

Try Roger Zelazny - dead now - but one of the best during the same time period as Dickson. His Princes in Amber series is my least favorite of his, but still good. The stand alones Damnation Alley and Call Me Conrad are excellent and his short stories are superb.

Check out the Alvin Apprentice series by Orson Scott Card.

Joe Lansdale has a really great series going in which the hero detectives are anything but.

David Weber has a 13 to 15 book series in which he takes Horatio Hornblower (a great series in its own right) and makes him a female space ship commander. First book of the series is On Basilik Station. I preorder all his books.

S.M. Stirling just published the 7th book of a post apocalypse series that begins with Dies the Fire. I preorder his stuff too.

Steve Ericson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series is an excellent blend of warriors and magic.

Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch police procedurals are very well done.

W.E.B. Griffith is fun but somewhat predictable. I enjoyed the series about the lieutenants, captains, etc.

I realize that many of the above are not really older, but they seemed to fit. However if you really mean older as in 50's, 60's, and 70's, then try E.E Doc Smith's classic space opera, the Lensman series.

Enough for now.

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Gene Hill, Corey Ford (anyone remember the minutes of the lower forty series in Field and Stream) and Ed Zern are among my favorites. Just finished reading "The Best of Corey Ford" for about the twentieth time and it is as good as it was the first. Good topic Al

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Related...do any of you use the Kindle or Nook to download titles? Just seems something "obscene" about not being able to turn pages, highlight a quote or write in the margins.

Dano

Glass Has Class

"from the laid back lane in the Arkansas Ozarks"

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The series may not be as old as some you've mentioned, but Patrick O'brian's Aubrey/Maturin series is great. I felt like I was on a ship in the royal navy during the napoleonic wars. I'm hoping they come out as ebooks sood so i can read the series again. With all the traveling I do I really appreciate my Kindle, and I can skip the airport kiosk and the trash (for the most part) they are selling.

- Charlie

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Related...do any of you use the Kindle or Nook to download titles? Just seems something "obscene" about not being able to turn pages, highlight a quote or write in the margins.

Dano

Dano,

The Kindle does allow highlighting and annotations, and the file can be downloaded to a PC for further editing. I was originally oposed to ebooks but ince I picked uo the Kindle I haven't but it down, in fact I'm reading more.

- Charlie

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Some more:

Cities in Flight series by James Blish.

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series by Fritz Leiber.

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