“The rice pudding of literature”

At first I was going to respond to each comment individually, in the comments section, but it got too long, so I decided to do it this way instead. THANK YOU all for stopping by and bearing with me despite my long-ish absence!

1. Potty training: Hmmm, I probably should clarify. Perhaps "potty training" is too strong a phrase to describe where we're at now. All I'm really doing is making sure he spends some time naked every day. Some days all morning, some days only half an hour. He clearly has the physical control to be fully trained, but cognitively he's not even close. You'd think with two older sibs he'd get the idea of being a big boy, but he doesn't seem to. Ahava (welcome! I'm always honored to have a doula stop by!), he'll be two and a half at Christmas.

2. Rereading Robertson Davies: I don't believe this is a question of me getting older and wiser. I still think there is a LOT to be gleaned from his books and I'm sure I'll still be rereading them when I'm 80. Unlike, say, The Mists of Avalon -- which I adored when I was 20, but now, um, well. I'm just nit-picking about Davies, really. He IS delightfully wise and fascinating.

But you know? I don't think it's wrong to expect, or at least hope, a book will last forever. A book should have more to it than just plot. When I'm reading for the first time, all I can see, pretty much, is the plot. I have to read a book at least twice to appreciate the writer's craft: plot structure, foreshadowing, writing style. I'm a very fast reader, and I miss a lot the first time through (just ask my book club).

And of course there is the comfort factor of reading a well-loved book for the millionth time. What Crit calls the rice pudding of literature. Crit, you described it perfectly. Robertson Davies is -- still -- rice pudding for me. So is Patrick O'Brian, whose name I try to plug here at least once a month. Little Women. Yes, and Orson Scott Card. And the Narnia books and the Earthsea trilogy. And a couple of really cheesy ones that have stood the test of time for me: The Deed of Paksenarrion and Clan of the Cave Bear. Oh, you would not believe how many times I have read Clan of the Cave Bear.

What's your rice pudding?


  • Robert Ludlum. Anything Ludlam is always a good read for me.

    posted by Blogger Fred on 10:11 AM  

  • Hmm . . . what isn't rice pudding? Austen, To Kill a Mockingbird, Janet Evanovich's books (because you need raisins and cinnamon in rice pudding, too, sometimes), Dorothy Parker's short stories, Catch 22.

    Hmm . . . haven't read that last one in a while. I feel an urge coming on.

    posted by Blogger SuzanH on 12:00 PM  

  • Anything by anyone named Margaret: Atwood, Drabble...good to read when you're sick.

    A few select coming-of-age novels: "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"; "The Greengage Summer".

    And Connie Willis.

    posted by Blogger elswhere on 5:51 PM  

  • I have a very long list, in fact these days it's almost got to be a "rice pudding book" (great phrase) before it merits a place on my bookshelves. Gone With The Wind, All of the Besty Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, The "Shoe" series by Streatfied, historical novels by Anya Seton or Susan Howatch, the Beany Malone series by Weber, and for pure potboiler trash the novels by Grace Livingston Hill.

    posted by Blogger GuusjeM on 6:29 PM  

  • I have a very long list, in fact these days it's almost got to be a "rice pudding book" (great phrase) before it merits a place on my bookshelves. Gone With The Wind, All of the Besty Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, The "Shoe" series by Streatfied, historical novels by Anya Seton or Susan Howatch, the Beany Malone series by Weber, and for pure potboiler trash the novels by Grace Livingston Hill.

    posted by Blogger GuusjeM on 6:29 PM  

  • I just made rice pudding yesterday. Not the literary kind, the real kind--I had all this leftover rice, and I searched around on the net, and I found the perfect recipe, and I made the best rice pudding I have ever eaten.

    But, re: the other question: Chaim Potok, James Herriot, Susan Cooper, L.M. Montgomery, Madeleine L'Engle . . . I'll stop there. And it's the characters that do it for me, like rereading old letter or looking at old photo albums.

    posted by Anonymous Laura on 9:24 PM  

  • The Beany Malone series! I had forgotten about those books until you mentioned them. I'm going to track them down and reread. :)

    I still enjoy Christy by Catherine Marshall.

    posted by Blogger mrsd on 1:18 AM  

  • Not sure that the term is 100% mine, but then not sure where I might have picked it up...

    My list includes Lynne Reid Banks, Jean M Auel,KM Peyton, and right now John Marsden. On a list I read there is currently a discussion about whether you feel that your favourite authors should have written more, or whether they'd be less good if they had. The concensus seems to be that less is better, but like Laura said, for me the rice pudding is in the characters, like looking at old photos, so from that perspective I'd like more. To get more about my fav characters - which I guess is why I keep going back to Auel, and probably will until the saga is over...

    posted by Blogger Mummy/Crit on 4:33 AM  

  • Louise Erdrich and Margaret Atwood are two authors whose works I return to, along with Barbara Kingsolver when I'm feeling the need for beautifully written political outrage.

    posted by Blogger Suzanne on 1:26 PM  

  • I'm beginning to think you may be my kindred spirit. I'm another big Earth's Children fan. CotCB and Valley of Horses are my favortie. I've read the whole series probably hundreds of times, although I'm another one who found Shelters of Stone to be a huge disappointment. Ever visit the Auelboard? I hung out there for years, although I don't get by too often anymore. I'm also the nerdiest of the nerds, in that I belong to several online RPGs based on my favorite books, including CotCB and OSC's Hatrack books.

    posted by Anonymous Ahavah on 1:59 PM  

  • Oh, and another Rice Pudding series of mine would be Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel trilogy. Yum.

    posted by Anonymous Ahavah on 2:01 PM  

  • My Rice Pudding book is John Steinbeck's East of Eden. I read it the first time when I was 14 and have re-read it approximately every two years since then.

    posted by Blogger Kate on 4:32 PM  

  • I'm not a big fan of rice pudding, but in the metaphorical sense we're all appreciating here, Narnia is mine. And, I'm not entirely sure why, Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge.

    I don't re-read very often — there's just too many books that I haven't even read once. Like Robertson Davies. (Although I attended a reading he gave once — very funny.)

    posted by Blogger Isabella on 10:01 AM  

  • My list includes Orson Scott Card, Madeleine L'engle, the Betsy-Tacy high school books, Phillip Roth's "Letting Go", Laura Ingalls Wilder, Chaim Potok, Walden II (for some reason) and Betty Smith. More cozy than any of these, though, is Kathleen Norris, a romance writer who wrote novels from the 20's through the late 40's, mainly set in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of the reasons I like them so much is that my grandmother read them as they were published as a young mother in San Francisco during those years. Beyond the sentimental reasons, though, they are incredible as comfort reading, probably somewhat akin to Grace Livingston Hill.


    posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 10:59 AM  

  • Usually Stephen King. I know--it doesn't sound all cozy, but I like it. For guilty pleasure, Nora Roberts, because I don't have to think.

    Also, I think the HP series is very re-readable.

    In the classics, I have to go with Jane Eyre.

    posted by Blogger Running2Ks on 2:24 PM  

  • Ah, anything by Bill Bryson, mostly because he makes me laugh. I re-read I'm a Stranger Here Myself most. Also Beauty and Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. And Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion by Austen.

    posted by Blogger Melissa on 2:30 PM  

  • Anne Tyler? John Irving? Gail Godwin?

    I'm thinking of author's I've been comfortable returning to when I just want a nice, good read. I don't re-read books, though, so I can't say anyone falls into that category.

    Though with young adult books, the Harry Potters are taking on a comfortable feel as I read them myself and then re-read them with my son. In that same vein, Laura Ingalls Wilder's books are wonderful to read over and over.

    posted by Blogger doulicia on 3:02 PM  

  • For comfort re-reads it's usually quality kidlit for me, particularly books that I've loved since childhood. Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy books are at the top of the list, particularly the high school ones. Others that fall into that category are Lucy Maud Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill and The Blue Castle, Beverly Cleary's Fifteen and The Luckiest Girl, and Elizabeth Enright's Melendy series. I rarely re-read mystery novels since figuring out the puzzle is the bit I like best. But the right kind of mystery novel definitely works as a comfort read especially if it's the latest instalment in a favourite series (for example, books by Laura Lippman, Deborah Crombie, Laurie King, Linda Barnes, Nancy Atherton, Peter Robinson, or Jane Langton).

    posted by Blogger Kate S. on 5:45 PM  

  • Wonderful post, Julie! (I still remember potty training days, including the oldest finishing at her own speed luckily a week before her sister was born!)

    Oh dear, my "rice pudding" is varied and so long; it depends on my mood. I tend to choose a book depending on my mood, to curl up with, even for one chapter when the need for "rice pudding" arises. I have too long a list here, but choices range from the classics to humor to romance to poetry... (usuaslly not kiddy-lit) just depends on my mood. (I'd happily live with a real library on one wing of my home... ;)

    posted by Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) on 11:33 PM  

  • I thought of a few more this morning.

    In the children's lit vein: Beverly Cleary. We read Beezus and Ramona every 4-5 months.

    For more mature audiences: Carl Hiaasen. His eco-crime gonzo tales are too much fun and a first pick for any vacation reading.

    posted by Blogger doulicia on 12:26 PM  

  • Earth's Children books. Anne of Green Gables. Maeve Binchy. Madeline L'Engle. Andrew Greeley. Anne McCaffrey.

    posted by Blogger Carson on 2:28 PM  

  • I looooove PG Wodehouse!! :)

    My all-time rice pudding books are Jilly Cooper's ones about a rich, famous, and horse-loving set in the Cotswolds, especially her earlier ones (Riders, Rivals, Polo, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous). They're bonkbusters, but I think she's one of the best folks at characterization I've read. I love (or hate, if you're supposed to) all of her people.

    The Anne of Green Gables books are also wonderful and they're probably due for a re-read, it's been a while.

    posted by Blogger Tiny Little Librarian on 4:12 PM  

  • Anything by Anne Tyler. Howards End. Harriet the Spy. The screenplay of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (what perfect dialogue!). Lonesome Dove.

    posted by Blogger sfp on 12:42 PM