Among the guiltiest pleasures of reading are time-travel novels. These books can be hokey and hard to believe, but they sure are fun. Who hasn't put themselves in a century-hopping character's place and wished they too could leap backward or forward through time?
I've compiled a top-10 list in this genre, ranking the books in descending order from 10th best to "best best." They're not necessarily the greatest time-travel novels ever, but they happen to be the favorites of the ones I've read. If you think some of my picks should be in a different order or booted off the list, or if you want to name other titles worthy of the temporal-tome elite, I'm listening!
10. "Time After Time" (1979) by Karl Alexander. Jack the Ripper swipes H.G. Wells' time machine to escape into the future, and Wells races after him. Sort of like NASCAR, minus the sponsors.
9. "The Time Traveler's Wife" (2003) by Audrey Niffenegger. How a woman is affected by her husband moving around time. At least his disappearances didn't involve long hours in sports bars.
8. "The House on the Strand" (1969) by Daphne du Maurier. A spooky book about a man who takes a drug that enables him to see 14th-century events that occurred in the area where he's now living. There goes the neighborhood...
7. "Looking Backward" (1888) by Edward Bellamy. The utopian novel that speculated on what life would be like in the U.S. (specifically, Boston) in the year 2000. It even predicted things like credit cards -- putting enthralled readers in Bellamy's debt.
6. "The Mirror" (1978) by Marlys Millhiser. A granddaughter and grandmother involuntarily switch bodies and time periods (1978 and 1900), upsetting genealogists everywhere.
5. "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (1999) by J.K. Rowling. Not a time-travel book per se, but the temporal-shift scene near the end of the novel is wonderful -- as is the premise of how the whip-smart Hermione Granger is able to take classes simultaneously. "A Christmas Carol" (1843) by Charles Dickens is another superb book containing some time travel -- but not to 2009, when Scrooge would have been an early Tea Party favorite.
4. "The Time Machine" (1895) by H.G. Wells. The book that coined the term "time machine" tells the gripping story of a man traveling way into the future. He didn't stop in 2011 to get gas -- too expensive.
3. "Time and Again" (1970) by Jack Finney. This novel puts a 20th-century man (Simon Morley) into 1882 New York City, and also offers a mystery and love story. The descriptions and photos of old NYC are fabulous, and there's a priceless scene in which Simon's 19th-century love Julia watches TV and wears modern clothes during a visit to 1970. Shockingly, Finney doesn't have Julia celebrate the 20th anniversary of "Beetle Bailey."
2. "If I Never Get Back" (1990) by Darryl Brock. You might have to love baseball to truly love this novel, but Brock's thrilling book (like Finney's) also has a mystery and love story. The 20th-century Sam Fowler ends up on the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, and even becomes pals with Mark Twain. But Fowler doesn't paint the outfield fence for Tom Sawyer.
And, speaking of that Samuel Clemens guy...
1. "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" (1889) by Mark Twain. This novel sends Hank Morgan back to a Camelot that's not very Camelot-like. Great predicting-an-eclipse scene, laugh out-loud humor and blistering satire of hyper-militarism. The only thing Twain doesn't throw into the mix is a preview of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."
So there you have it, blog readers from the present, past and future.