The second time around

The stack of new books perched precariously on a child’s stool by the door in my bedroom is taller than my six-year-old and gaining on my 5’4” height fast.  My e-reader is full to bursting with books, manuscripts, my renewed subscriptions to The New Yorker  and Vanity Fair (which will be less entertaining and provocative now that Christopher Hitchens is gone), episodes of Mad Men I never seem to be able to watch when they run on TV and the awesomely addictive Words With Friends app.  So, perversely, I’m thinking about books I’ve loved or that have been game changers for me that I want to re-read.

I think I’d start with The Good Soldier, Ford Maddox Ford’s perennially underrated masterpiece, move on to some lighter reading with the deliciously unsettling Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier, and, if I’m still in re-tread mode after that, dive into the prodigiously brilliant One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  Thing is, if I go down this road, Jeffrey Eugenides will have finished another novel before I go back to my tottering pile.

What is it that makes us have to go back and re-read, sometimes obsessively so, our favorite book(s)?  What magic or comfort or insight do we find there the second of fifteenth time around?  Most book lovers I know have at least one title they revisit time and again and clearly it’s a widespread phenomenon.

So, what books do you find you go back to over and over again?  Maybe your choices will inspire my own.

11 Responses to The second time around

  1. My “to be read” list is so long that I often feel I will never have time to reread anything, even if I really want to.

    My two favorite books are SPIN by Robert Charles Wilson and SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut, and even though I’ve read each more than several times, I want to read them again.

    I want to reread the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series to catch more of the little details.

    I want to reread the first two books out so far in the Newsflesh trilogy because I like them far more than I thought I would as zombie books.

    I’m currently reading CHILDREN OF GOD and it’s making me want to go back and reread THE SPARROW.

    There are numerous books from my childhood I want to read again, simply for nostalgia. Most of them are by Scott O’Dell, C.S. Lewis, or Cynthia Voigt.

    All of these stories captured my imagination and kept me engrossed for hours on end, and I want to relive those experiences and deepen them by adding new thoughts and realizations from details I didn’t catch the first time around.

  2. YA Writer says:

    I have read The Things They Carried by Tim O’brien and Plainsong by Kent Haruf more times than I can count.

    Sometimes, I just reread certain sections. The prose so perfect it brings tears to my eyes.

    I don’t think I’ll ever tire of those books.

  3. Paula B. says:

    Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and David Copperfield.

  4. emily says:

    Ditto Vonngut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, and also Frank Herber’s DUNE series [although I don’t RE-read his son’s continuation of the series].

    I re-read FAKING IT for the comedy-caper-romance character of the story. Many ‘caper’ tales are also crime stories and some are comedies but so far as I know, Jennifer Cruse wrote the one and only ‘caper’ story that is a fundamental romance.

    And I do re-read John LeCarre’s ‘Smiley’s People’ books about every three or four years.

  5. RamseyH says:

    Like you, I definitely don’t have enough time to read! I try to avoid re-reading, but occasionally I’ll slip up. :) Usually I won’t re-read a book simply because I like the story or the language… I need to feel like there’s something more to be gotten out of the experience, something I missed the first time around. So my re-reads tend to be dense and meaty. I think I’ve read The Brothers Karamazov three or four times, and about the same for Beowulf.

    There is one author that I’ve re-read many times, however – Ray Bradbury. I’ve read The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes more than I can count. Not recently, though… perhaps it’s time?

  6. StephM says:

    I’m currently re-re-re-re-reading Barbara Pym. Her books are funny, poignant and so cozily English that I have a hard time getting to that big stack of books I “should” read.

  7. Jill U. says:

    I re-read books that I loved but couldn’t possibly fully digest the first time around (London by Edward Rutherford), books that I loved in my childhood (Ballet Shoes by Noel Stretfield and Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley), and books that are pure frivolous fun (ahem, Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley.)

  8. kaye Draper says:

    You mean I’m not the only one! My sister never re-reads anything twice, and “recycles” her books at the used bookstore or on-line book trading site. I have always been appalled- and we’ve had many heated discussions about this (it’s truly disgusting). I am definitely a re-reader.

    I periodically re-read Sunshine by Robin McKinley, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and many others.

    I re-read my favorite series nearly every time a new book comes out. This means I have the Hallows series by Kim Harrison, and the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs nearly memorized 😉

    I do manage to throw a new book in there now and then… when not working on my own writing, but I think part of the appeal of reading a book you already know by heart is that you don’t have to work so hard. You don’t really have to think, just turn your mind off and go along for the ride.

  9. Simone says:

    The books I have probably re-read the most are Jane Eyre, Pride & Prejudice, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby and Sister Crazy by Emma Richler.

    But as a kid I know I re-read all the Little House books and The Secret Garden maaaaany times… A Wrinkle in Time and The Last Unicorn too.

    I agree with Kristin that reading A Song of Ice & Fire again is in order!

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