It’s September 1st, and you know what that means, right? It’s the return of the Doctor! (And if you’re asking, “Doctor who?”, the answer is — yes!). The BBC’s Doctor Who returns for a much-anticipated 7th season tonight, and Whovians everywhere are dusting off their bowties and sonic screwdrivers in preparation for another fantastic journey through time and space.
Inspired by the Doctor, step inside my TARDIS (that’s Time and Relative Dimension in Space, for the uninitiated) for a tour of my favorite timey-wimey books — books that deal with time travel, time slips, or just plain old time-related weirdness.
1) The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I was just swept away by this mind-bending journey through a relationship between a woman who is fixed in time and a man who is not. Claire meets Henry when she is six years old; Henry meets Claire when she is 21. Early on, they discuss their temporal relationship in comparison to a Mobius strip, and it’s an apt metaphor. Older Henry visits child Claire; young Henry visits older Claire. In the midst of all the comings and goings, they find true love. At once tragic and beautiful, this book will make your head spin as you try to puzzle out whether the words “before” and “after” have any meaning whatsoever. This was one of the very few books that I began reading a second time immediately upon reaching the end the first time through, just to see how the pieces fit together knowing what was still to come.
2) Kindred by Octavia Butler
As Kindred opens in the mid-1970s, Dana is an African American woman in her 20s, happily married to a white man and living a contented life. She is yanked back through time to the ante-bellum South, where time and again she must intervene to save the life of her ancestor Rufus, son of a slave-owner. Dana’s experiences are shocking, raw, and brutal, and the effect upon her and her marriage is indelible. Kindred is less about time travel than about slavery, power, and freedom. It is a shocking book, and packs a powerful punch. Not to be missed.
3) Replay by Ken Grimwood
Replay is not about time travel, but the timey-wimey weirdness is here just the same. At age 43, unfulfilled and bored, Jeff Winston has a heart attack and dies… but wakes up again in his 18-year-old body, with his whole life ahead of him again, and with all the memories of his previous life. Is this a chance to right old wrongs? to set a new path for himself? to make an impact on the world? Jeff relives his life, but with alterations along the way, all the way through to age 43, when he dies again… and so on, and so on, and so on. Each time around, Jeff comes back to himself just a bit later, and each time around he thinks he’s found the way to get it right — but of course, life isn’t something you can plan for or make turn out just the way you want. Replay is hard to explain, but marvelous to read.
4) Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson
Until a couple of years ago, I actually had no idea this was a book. I fell in love with the lush romance of the Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour movies years ago, and was astonished to find the book at a used book sale. And by Richard Matheson, no less — someone who really knows how to tell a story. Richard is a modern man who falls in love with a woman in a photo from decades earlier, and using the power of his mind, finds a way to travel back in time to be with her. Passionate and intense, this is yet another interesting spin on a journey through time. (For more details, you can see my Goodreads review here).
5) 11/22/63 by Stephen King
I love Stephen King, am fascinated by the Kennedy assassination and all the associated conspiracy theories, and adore reading about time travel. Clearly, this massive novel was right up my alley! Given the opportunity to travel back through time and avert a national tragedy, would you? Should you? 11/22/63 is a combination of time travel, historical fiction, and romance, and it works. As I say in my review, I recommend this book wholeheartedly.
I’m leaving out some other great ones, not because I don’t love them — I do! I really do! — but because time’s a-wasting, and I must move on. So I’ll wrap this up with a list of a few other favorite books full of timey-wimey goodness. Let me know what time-related books you’ve enjoyed!
More time-travel, time-slip, and time oddities:
Outlander (and sequels) by Diana Gabaldon (which I didn’t include in my top 5 despite my mad love for them, just because I’m always raving about these books to the point of sounding like a broken record. Read these books! There, ’nuff said.)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling — the book that introduced my children to the brain-twisting concept of time travel!
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen
The Future of Us by Jay Asher
The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
Lightning by Dean Koontz
The Sound of Thunder (short story) by Ray Bradbury