I’ve been stymied on Day 2 of this book meme, but unlike Steve and Bookmole, it doesn’t have to do with only having a few books that meet this criteria; on the contrary, I have so many books that meet the criteria of having been read more than three times that it was hard to decide on just one to post about!
To me, some books are the equivalent of comfort food, but for the mind & soul. When I’m feeling sick, or down, or just out of sorts, often picking up a book that I have read many times before will be enough to kick me out of my blues. I have a couple shelves of go-to authors & books that I have no problem reading once every year or two – sometimes my difficulty is in limiting the re-reads so I can get on to some new books that I haven’t yet absorbed.
This book is a collection of Niven’s short stories – about half are previously published stories from various magazines of the ’60s and ’70s and the others were apparently written specifically for this collection. Although Niven is best known for his science fiction, about half of these stories are merely Niven’s take on environmental concerns, war, death, and society, frosted with a light scifi/fantasy coating of an exotic setting or set of circumstances.
As the title might imply, there are also quite a few that touch tangentially on Niven’s love for mathematics (he majored in Math in college, and even pursued some graduate work in the field before becoming a prize-winning author.) The title story, “Convergent Series” combines math and demon summoning in an entertaining and humorous tale that stuck with me ever since I first read it.
Some of the stories, though, are much more poignant and even disturbing. “Wrong-Way Street”, “Cautionary Tales”, and “Dry Run” all touch on the fleetingness of life and caused me to pause and reflect on my own actions and the merits of how I’m spending my days. And “The Deadlier Weapon”, involving interplay between an automobile driver and the hitchhiker who threatens him, definitely got me thinking.
All in all, this book is a nice collection of shorter, somewhat-fluffier pieces that nourish without too much challenge. I find myself coming back to it not because it is my favorite book, but because it’s so easy to pick up and put down, as needed, and rejoin the characters and plots of some stories I first read as a teenager. Most people probably won’t want to read it more than once, but then again, as I’ve seen, most people probably don’t read ANY books as many times as I tend to do.
*I had checked out my copy of this book from the library, and somehow lost it. I paid the lost book fee for the book, only to find it a couple years later after a move. The library didn’t want it back by that point, so it became mine. I don’t advocate acquiring books this way though – it’s not nice to the other patrons who would want to read it!