Jerome Klapka Jerome - Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)
Read at some point in my late teens (1999?) and reread at the end of a wet British summer in 2011.
The English original version is way better for getting Jerome's devastating sense of humour. And Montmorency's joyrides.
I love how this book is irresistibly lapidary in its descriptions of the towns along the river Thames.
Let's take the six lines dedicated to Abingdon, where I currently live:
"Abingdon is a typical country town of the smaller order - quiet, eminently respectable, clean and desperately dull. It prides itself on being old, but whether it can compare in this respect with Wallingford and Dorchester seems doubtful. A famous abbey stood here once, and within what is left of its sanctified walls they brew a bitter ale nowadays".
In short, better than a Baedeker.
Now that this bitter ale is bygone (Morland, was named), the pride of calling itself old or rather "ancient" stands while quietness and dullness walk arm in arm. It's that eminent respectability which puzzles me: it probably took a sabbatical century.