#bookaday 29: The one I have reread most often

I don't keep count of the number of times I've read a book, and there must be many contenders for the one I've read the most times. Of the books I've read as an adult, George Orwell's Keep The Aspidistra Flying would certainly be up there. In my teens, I read Dracula, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman's Good Omens and Nineteen Eighty-Four more times than I care to remember. But the books I've read the most times were probably ones I read as a child, when I was a great re-reader, and there's one series in particularly that I've read so many times as a child and as an adult that it seems a worthy choice for this post, and that's CS Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia.

I hadn't started junior school when I started reading them from my brother's box set of the seven books, so I must have been about six or seven. That's quite young for them (The Magician's Nephew was a set text for my class at secondary school, and I was twelve by then) but I was precocious as a child when it came to books (actually, books were pretty much the only thing I was precocious about, as I was pretty hopeless socially and took about six months to learn to tie my own shoelaces).

I've read all seven of them many, many times over the past 32 years, and some of them (Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in particular) I've read many more times than that. I also had them as audiobooks when I was little, perfectly read by the inimitable Michael Hordern and accompanied by truly beautiful flute and harp music, and listened to them so many times that eventually the tapes scrunched up shortly before cassette players began to disappear from Dixon's, by which time I was in my 20s.

I am aware that they are a bit sexist and a bit racist; they were written in the 1950s, after all. I'm aware that they are Christian allegories, too. People who don't like them always like to point this out to me, as if I might not have noticed. But I couldn't give a toss. The Chronicles of Narnia are just brilliant. They are full of magic and mythology and battles and humour and incredibly memorable characters and they are stunning feats of imagination and narrative skill. They are classics of children's literature and classics of fantasy literature and I could never, ever be tired of reading them. I was captivated by them the very first time I read them, and I'm every bit as captivated by them today.

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