The Sunday Salon: Retro Reading

by Kim on April 15, 2012 · 24 comments

The Sunday Salon.comI spent most of this week taking a break from my normal reading habits and indulging in some retro reading, the kinds of books I used to devour but have since almost entirely abandoned.

When I was in middle school and high school, I read almost exclusively mystery and epic fantasy. It stemmed from my elementary school reading habit of picking out the longest books I could find in the children’s and young adult sections of the library, regardless of the subject. We only went to the library every couple of weeks, and I read voraciously as a kid, so I had to pick out really, really long books to tide me over between visits.

At my local library, those really, really long books tended to be fantasy and, as I branched out, mystery. Later, I also added some science fiction (Michael Crichton, that sort of thing). Fantasy and mystery also had many series to choose from, and I liked finding books in a series because it made picking new books easier — instead of having to peruse the shelves and make guesses, I just picked the next couple books in line and was good to go.

I can’t remember when I stopped reading those genres so voraciously, but at some point I stopped reading mystery and fantasy almost entirely and shifted my reading to what you see most here on the blog, nonfiction and literary fiction. This week I had a major urge to go back to those books I used to love for a little while and see what I thought.

My first retro reading indulgence was Crocodile on the Sandbank, the first book in Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody series of mysteries set in Egypt centered around an intrepid female archaeologist at the turn of the century. I’ve never actually read the first book in this series — when I was a kid, I got started somewhere in the middle, and when I finally got to the end I wasn’t in the mood to go back to the beginning — so it was fun to visit Amelia’s origin for the first time. Crocodile on the Sandbank was just as funny and sly as I remember the series being. It was so fun. I can’t wait to pick up the second, The Curse of the Pharaohs.

I spent almost all of the rest of this week indulging in some fantasy with A Clash of Kings, the second book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I read the first book, A Game of Thrones, last August, but didn’t immediately start the second because I want to space them out. I finally picked up A Clash of Kings because Boyfriend and I just finished watching the first season of Game of Thrones on DVD and I wanted more!

I don’t plan on writing a full review of A Clash of Kings because I don’t think it would be especially interesting. The book is the second in a series, and it continues all of the things that A Game of Thrones did really well (which I reviewed last August), in some cases even better than the first. The huge battle sequence at the end of A Clash of Kings is, honestly, one of the best battle scenes I’ve ever read in a book. The book is almost worth reading for those chapters alone. I loved the book, and plan on reading the next, A Storm of Swords, sometime soon too.

But for now, I’m back to my “regularly scheduled programming” when it comes to books for this week. I just started Jessica Speart’s Winged Obsession, a book about the world’s most notorious butterfly smuggler, which is a delightful nonfiction book so far. And after that… I’m not quite sure.

What books would you consider retro reads? Any genres or subjects you use to love that you’ve since abandoned?

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Vasilly April 15, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I think April is the perfect month for retro reads and re-reads. There’s something about the strange weather and the month that just welcomes these types of books. :-) I don’t think I have any retro reads since I still read the same genres I’ve always read. I would think of retro reads more as re-reads like The Secret Garden or Anne of Green Gables. Winged Obsessions sounds interesting even with the dull title. Have a great week.

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Kim April 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Absolutely. The weather this April has been totally weird. I’d love to do rereads of those books too; I read both when I was in middle school.

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bermudaonion (Kathy) April 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I think a lot of people read sci fi and fantasy at that age these days. It’s always fun to revisit genres like that.

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Kim April 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm

It is fun. Re-reading reminded me of how much I used to love to read plot-driven books like that.

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Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm April 15, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I loved those Elizabeth Peters books in high school/college! I read the latest one a year or two ago, and was a bit disappointed. It didn’t seem to live up to Amelia’s earlier standards. :)

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Kim April 28, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Aww, that’s a bummer! It’ll take me FOREVER to re-read through all of them again, but hopefully they’ll stay being delightful.

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Trish April 15, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Interesting post and concept! And I completely agree with what you’ve written here about retro reads. I think I’ve always been drawn to literary fiction but I used to read a lot of Picoult and now she doesn’t interest me in the least. Not really sure what changed? In high school I really liked Grisham but haven’t read anything by him in YEARS!

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Kim April 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I used to read a lot of sci-fi too, Crichton and that sort of thing. I don’t remember ever being really into Grisham, but I do like political thrillers.

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Clint(Geeky Daddy) April 16, 2012 at 5:39 am

A friend of mine had a retro read in January. We as a group read different Sci-fi books that were from 1979 and before. It did open my eyes to see how rich some of the writing was during that time.

It is a chance also to find authors that you would never think twice about read with all the contempt sff being published right now.

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Kim April 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Oh fun! I took a sci-fi class in college and it was fun to visit some of the early bests in the genre.

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Stephanie April 16, 2012 at 8:52 am

I like the idea of retro reading. As a young adult, I generally read non fiction, the majority of which was true crime. I also threw in some Dean Koontz now and then. I hadn’t quite discovered all the different types of books out there, nor had I honed in on what type of books I liked, so my reading was pretty one dimensional. Once I found a book I liked, I would re read it over and over!

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Kim April 28, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I think that’s how I was — not knowing what was out there, I stuck with what I knew. And since I didn’t reread much, finding a series really helped me do that.

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Jeane April 16, 2012 at 10:17 am

I’ve been enjoying watching Game of Throne on television, but haven’t read the books yet. I’m intrigued by your description of the battle scenes- I usually find battles in books incredibly boring, so I’m curious if I’ll like reading hers!

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Kim April 28, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I usually skim them too, but the final battle in this book was just so, so vivid. I was enthralled and totally impressed.

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Jeanne April 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I was the same way about checking out really huge books from the library, because there was a limit to the number I was allowed to check out each visit. I read some really long family sagas because of that–The Forsythe Saga is one I vaguely remember. I had enough of them and haven’t read one in a great while, not since getting grown up enough to lose the sense of endless time available for reading.

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Kim April 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm

I don’t read a lot of long books anymore either, for the same reason. I miss them though; there’s something great about a chunkster.

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Buried In Print April 16, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I like going back to “fill the gaps” in series that I started as a younger reader but read erratically; sometimes I would just re-read the same (favourite volumes) and never pick up the books in the series that I hadn’t read (I blame what must have been boring covers). Until the past few years (maybe, five?), I always read some fantasy and sci-fi but had lost the habit; I signed up for a challenge this year (aiming for 24), to try to mend my ways…and so far I am finding it incredibly exciting. Why did I lose track of this?! *shakes head at self^ Glad to hear your retro-reading has been so satisfying for you, too!

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Kim April 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm

That challenge sounds like fun! I hope you find some great books in your revisiting challenge.

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Jenny April 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Aw, Amelia Peabody. I remember reading the first two, or maybe three, books on a family camping trip in high school and then it was so great, there were so many to read and I went through them at top speed. They remain some of my favorite comfort reads. They’re funny and adventurey and awesome.

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Kim April 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm

They’re so comforting to read. Peabody is just such a character. I find her so charming. And then you get all the kids and the families and Egypt! So fun.

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Jennygirl April 27, 2012 at 9:46 am

Speaking of retro, I’ve been thinking of re-reading the Nancy Drew series. It’s been eons so I am curious as to how my adult self would see them.

I’ve also been thinking of rereading the GOT series too. Read up to I think Book 4, but I remember 1 and 3 being so fantastic.

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Kim April 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Oooo, I think that would be a ton of fun. I read a lot of Nancy Drew back in the day.

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