The Most Addictive Books Ever

A few years back, our friend Julia gave my then-roommate, Heidi, two of her favorite historical novels as a birthday present. One, Outlander, I had already read (and loved). The other, The Game of Kings, looked interesting, but I managed to resist the urge to abscond with Heidi’s gift. The book stayed in the back of my mind, though, and eventually I picked up a copy of my own, as Heidi’s had by then gone with her to grad school in Michigan.

The Game of Kings turned out to be one of the most challenging books I’d read in a long time; it’s unbelievably dense, layered with well-researched historical/political detail and literary/poetic allusions. The story — which begins in 16th century Scotland — and characters were interesting, to be sure, but reading it was work. Julia continually assured me that the payoff of the series (for yes, it is the first of a six-book series known as The Lymond Chronicles) was worth it. And so I continued on. I borrowed — and then bought — a copy of The Dorothy Dunnett Companion, the first of two reference books that explain the more obtuse details.

By about the midpoint of the second book, I was thoroughly hooked, and read obsessively from that point on. In the end, it took me about six months to read the entire series, but Julia was right — it was very much worth it; I actually had to stop myself from picking up The Game of Kings for an immediate re-read when I finished the last book, Checkmate. I knew I couldn’t do it, because  another half-year of non-stop reading just didn’t seem healthy.

This, of course, created another problem — what to do about the prequel series, The House of Niccolo, which consists of eight novels and begins in 15th-century Bruges. I knew I couldn’t jump into it right away; continuing the aforementioned obsessive reading for the better part of another year seemed daunting. And so, the books sat on my shelf for close to three years.

Until about a week ago, that is, when I finally dusted off Niccolo Rising and tucked it in my purse on the way to work. The pacing is a little faster in this series, so rather than taking a book and a half to thoroughly suck me in, it only took about a hundred pages.

And thus, I spent yesterday reading — all of it. I read in bed (pausing briefly to make myself coffee and toast) until mid-afternoon, when my book and I headed to the back porch. When it got dark, I moved to the couch (stopping only to heat up a veggie burger and grab some chips). I got back into bed at some point but kept reading until about 2:00 a.m.

I haven’t allowed myself to touch the book yet today. There are dishes to do and laundry to wash. Oh, and brunch. I’m eating with Julia, and you can bet she’s gonna get an earful about her damned addictive books.

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Updated to fix some links and tweak the wording a bit. Brunch came up a bit more suddenly than I expected, so I published without much proofing. It think it’s a bit better now.

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