November Nostalgia

What are some of your favorite fantasy and science fiction novels of your youth? Do you ever pick those up and reread them?

I’m setting aside the “children’s books” I remember reading, although there were some fantastic, utterly re-readable titles there: The Incredible Shrinking House, David and the Phoenix, The Phantom Tollbooth, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and many more. Some of these are actually super difficult to find in print anymore, as I discovered when our young nephew decided he “only reads actual books” (meaning paperbacks) and we tried to track down a few of these. Classics like the Narnia books are also in this category for me.

When I was a kid, “Young Adult” wasn’t a recognized literary audience, and so “adult fiction” was the next step after “children’s fiction.” And this is where I found some of my real literary loves.

Dragonflight

Dragonflight and the entire Dragonriders of Pern series, was definitely the first one I remember. I can clearly envision myself finishing 8th grade, sitting in a “temp room” (an outbuilding used to expand school capacity), finishing some final exam or other and eagerly opening Dragonflight. I don’t even remember what subject it was. The White Dragon, the third book in the series, was especially memorable. The series led me to many of McCaffrey’s other works, most especially the Crystal Singer series, which was also immensely enjoyable, and the “Brain-Brawn” series that began with Helga, the ship who sang.

A fellow Dragonriders fan put me on to Mercedes’ Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar series, beginning with Arrow’s Flight. I really loved that first trilogy, but nothing prepared me for The Last Herald-Mage trilogy. The first book in the series, Magic’s Pawn, was… groundbreaking. I’d have been in my late teens at that point, I believe, and the very concept of a queer main character was… unthinkable. I clearly remember sitting at a lunch table in a hanger full of F-14s (probably not the ideal place to read a fantasy novel, I guess, with all those Manly Men around), being teased by one guy over the title “Magic’s Price” (the third book). He wanted to make it out to be a girly romance of some kind.

I honestly didn’t care. For Lackey to have produced such a mainstream, well-loved, well-written, empathetic main character in Vanyel—and I mean, there were times when I legit got choked up about what the poor guy was going through—was beyond impactful to me. I need to reread this series again, in fact.

Now, you want to see a battered, dog-eared book? I actually still have physical paperbacks of the Pliocene Exile books, which have traveled with us from Philadelphia, in a 40-foot RV, to an apartment, into our first house, and now into our second condo, mainly because my husband wisely refuses to let these go. The world-building! The characters! The premise! Julian May’s series—which if I’m counting correctly is at eight books—is a page-turner like no other, slyly “explaining” our modern fairly tales of elves and magic in a fully science-based context.

Absolutely worth a re-read, although I’m planning to buy the series on my Kindle and give the old paperbacks a break.

It’s one of the things I love so much about a well-written book: it’s like an old, dear friend. You can set it down and go on with life, but it’s still sitting there waiting for you to pick it up again when you’re ready. And when you do, it’s like a warm hug—all the feels, transporting you back to when you read it the first time.

So: What are some of your favorites for Nostalgia November? Click through to this article on DonJones.com and drop a comment to let me know! Maybe you’ll help me discover a wonderful new read from your past!