It's time for a new edition of "Packing for a Reading Retreat," where I imagine which books I would take with me if I were heading to a reading retreat, where there would be no distractions and I would be free to do nothing but read for a week. I imagine my packing in three categories: "New to Me," for books I've never read before; "Old Favorites," for past reads I'd like to revisit; and "Just in Case," for one book that can always be counted on to save me if one of the other selections turns out to be a dud.
New to Me
The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller
A retelling of The Iliad, as told by Patroclus. Readers of the last installment of "Packing for a Reading Retreat" already know that I am a sucker for retellings. The Ancient World and all the myths, legends, and epics that go with it have always been on the periphery of my imagination. I know they are out there, and I know bits of the stories, but, despite being fairly intrigued by them, I've never really dived in. Perhaps this retelling will inspire me to go to The Iliad itself. Song has gotten a lot of good reviews (I started hearing good things on LibraryThing almost immediately after it was published), so I'm excited to read this one.
The Cove, Ron Rash
Set during WWI in the Appalachians of North Carolina, The Cove is both a stranger-comes-to-town story and a love story. I've been meaning to read Ron Rash for a while, and I find myself drawn to stories set in or about the Appalachians since living in Tennessee and Virginia (though I have always lived in or near the Appalachian mountains).
Widdershins, Charles de Lint
I read a novel by de Lint a few years back, and, though I was ultimately somewhat disappointed with it, I was fascinated by de Lint's style, his used of both urban and fantastical settings, and his use of Hispanic mythology and mysticism. I've been saying I would try another by him since, and the cover of this one drew me in. De Lint is meant to be one of the masters of urban fantasy (and one of its pioneers), and I think he probably deserves a second go.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
I read and enjoyed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in my early teens, but I've never reread it. It was a bit of struggle for me at the time, and I know much of it went over my head then. The setting of early 20th-century New York appeals to me, and I'd love to read this one again with adult eyes.
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
I have a hardback, beautifully illustrated edition of The Secret Garden that was given to me when I was six or seven as a Christmas present by a great-aunt who had a reputation for giving perfect presents. I know I read the story at least once, but my strongest memory of this book is just sitting and looking at the pictures, of reveling in the book as a beautiful object. I haven't looked at the book beyond a quick glance since middle school, and I plan to sit down with it some day soon and turn every page with relish.
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
I love Jane Eyre for the way she stands up for herself and doesn't let fear stop her from doing things. My recent reading of The Flight of Gemma Hardy has rekindled a desire to read Jane Eyre again. It's been too long anyway.
Just In Case
The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
The retelling of Arthurian legend from the point of view of the women in the story utterly engrossed me at sixteen. It's still the best contemporary telling of the Arthur stories and would be the perfect book to have along in case of running out of other things to read.
Past Editions of "Packing for a Reading Retreat"