18 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY JUNE 27-JULY 3, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com If you’re searching for a good book, you really should judge it by its cover—a tattered jacket, deep creases in the spine and perhaps a loose page or 20 are telltale signs that it has been well-loved since it rolled off the printing press. Read once, and the book looks like it could still land on the “just released” shelves at the bookstore. But it takes a special kind of book to transcend the “one and done” fate that many suffer, and instead rise to the level of a comforting friend, one that readers come back to time and time again. Nikki Nedeff of Carmel Valley first grabbed a copy of Basin and Range in 1981 as a UC Berkeley grad student studying biogeography. The book is the first in John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World, a series that dives into the world of geology and geologists, quite literally. In Basin and Range, McPhee examines Interstate 80 in North America, and how the rocks that were carved through to make way for the road show the geologic history of the continent. “The title intrigued me because I’d already explored a lot of beautiful country east of the Sierra Nevada in the Basin and Range region of the country and it seemed like a classic geography kind of story,” Nedeff recalls. Annals of the Former World is a fivebook series, which in addition to Basin and Range, includes In Suspect Terrain, Rising From the Plains, Assembling California and Crossing the Craton. McPhee wrote them over a 20-year period as he traveled through the United States researching the geology of the North American continent. “It was a no-brainer to read every book in the series and I still find each one really, really interesting,” Nedeff says. Now, Nedeff rereads the series every few years, and each time says she learns something new. “It’s engaging and heady stuff for those interested in the deep history of the earth,” she says. “McPhee talks about geologic processes that take place over millions and millions of years, which also sort of keeps me humble about my place in the world.” We asked Weekly readers what books they have read not just once or twice, but countless times. The Winged Energy of Delight: Selected Translations by Robert Bly Robert Bly translated various poems from Europe, Asia and the Americas into English, giving English-reading audiences the opportunity to experience the works of poets such as Pablo Neruda, Mirza Ghalib, Cesar Vallejo and others that they might not have otherwise known about. Before each poem, Bly provides a background, which “breathes a human element into what you are reading,” says Shawn Boyle of Pacific Grove. “It shows you that no matter what differences we may have, we all have this human connection,” Boyle says. “We just see things in this life from a different angle. And this is what brings me back to this book time and time again.” Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx’s collection of 11 short stories are tales from rural Wyoming about love, pain and family struggles. Suzzane Mansager of Salinas says the stories are “masterfully told, with prose clarity and a cracking uniqueness.” She adds that her favorite story in the collection is The Half-Skinned Steer, a tale of an elderly man who heads to the ranch he grew up on to attend his brother’s funeral, yet dies close to home. “For a real treat, listen to it on audiobook, narrated by Campbell Scott, son of the late actor George C. Scott. Campbell’s voice ‘could make you smell the smoke from an unlit fire,’” Mansager says, quoting a line from one of Proulx’s stories. Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday and Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck For a local angle, Eric Palmer of Monterey is drawn to these three books by Salinas’ native son John Steinbeck, having read them several times. Cannery Row is self-explanatory: set on Monterey’s Cannery Row during the Great Depression, it follows the everyday lives of a group of characters. Sweet Thursday revisits those same characters. Tortilla Flat is set in a community above Monterey after the end of World War I. “It’s enjoyable to picture the characters in downtown Monterey, Pacific Biological Laboratories, tidepooling or interacting ‘on the hill where the forest and the town intermingle,’” Palmer says. “Knowing the locations helps bring the books to life and takes me back to a time I’d love to visit.” The Tommyknockers by Stephen King and The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley Stephen King’s dive into science fiction, where an alien spacecraft transforms the denizens of a small Maine town, is something that Stef Helbock Pummell has read “to shreds since I was in high school.” The Mists of Avalon is a take on Arthurian legends told from a female perspective, which Helbock Pummell describes as “a favorite that I read every couple years or so.” Discworld by Terry Pratchett; House of Niccolo and Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett Martha Diehl of Big Sur says she reads the Discworld books in varying orders “pretty much whenever I get too sick to think.” And she’s got plenty to choose from: 41 books in the fantasy series were published over a span of three decades. The series is known to parody traditional fantasy tropes, and is set on a disc that rests on the back of four elephants who stand on a space-traveling turtle. Diehl, though, reads the House of Niccolo and Lymond Chronicles, two sets of series of eight and six historical novels, respectively, in their proper order “pretty regularly.” Read Over Readers share what books they continue to pick up, and why they keep coming back to the pages. By Erik Chalhoub Nikki Nedeff of Carmel Valley with her beloved copy of Annals of the Former World by John McPhee, a five-book series that goes deep into the geological history of North America. Nedeff rereads the series every few years. DANIEL DREIFUSS DANIEL DREIFUSS Summer Reading issue