I’m a little obsessed about the concept of time in my writing. My first book, We, was about a man who travels back in time only to get stuck as a parasite inside the head of his seven-year-old self. In my latest novel, time stops completely, except for one 17-year-old kid. I suppose the recurring theme is that we have no control over time, even when it gets a little bit wonky. In honor of my obsession, I have created a list of five time-related books (or more precisely that have the word “time” in the title) that I’ve enjoyed over the years.
1) The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
The one that started it all. The original time travel story. Without it, there never would have been Timecop. Seriously though, it is a little hard to imagine that we’d have more than a century of time travel related books, movies, TV shows, etc. if Wells hadn’t had the idea that a time machine was the way to travel to different eras. Of course, unlike most modern time travel fiction, which focuses on the ways that traveling through time can change the present, purposefully or not, Wells had his protagonist travel into the far future where he encountered a parable about class and society. Still, the guy coined the phrase “time machine.” That’s pretty cool.
2) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
We don’t need no stinking time machine. In L’Engle’s classic children’s book series, the characters travel through space by “wrinkling time” by means of the tesseract. Most writers now call it a wormhole. No vehicle required. That freed a lot of writers to just zap characters from place to place without tricking out a Delorean. The book also is about how children can save the world without the help of the adults around them, particularly parents. Hello, Harry Potter!
3) A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
OK, this one has the least to do with manipulating time though it is a story about how past family narratives can help soothe present pain. A young woman in Tokyo considers suicide, but researching the stories of her feminist Buddhist nun great-grandmother and her disgraced WWII pilot great-uncle lead her to some surprising revelations about herself.
4) Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis
Amis uses a unique device to write about the horrors of the Holocaust. The narrator is a consciousness inside the head of a former Nazi who is now living a new life in America. But the story is told in reverse chronological order. Time in the book literally runs backward, so we start with the war criminal as an old man and travel unavoidably to his horrific past. It is an unusual and difficult book that allows the reader a new window into understanding the inconceivable cruelty that people are capable of.
5) Time Bandits
OK, I’m totally cheating here. Time Bandits is a movie. But it also happens to be my favorite movie. And it is about traveling through time. So there. One of Terry Gilliam’s earliest films, this one follows a young boy who falls in with a group of dwarfs who previously worked for the Supreme Being until they stole the Big Guy’s map of time holes and decided to use it to steal from the rich throughout history. That only begins to describe how gloriously messed up this movie is.