Thursday, 23 August 2012

Books Worth Re-reading & Why We Should Re-Read Favourite Novels

Books and the power of re-reading
I read an article on The Guardian website today which claims that "anyone who talks about re-reading a book is arrogant, narrow-minded or dim." The author goes on to add that people only re-read in order to show off. I don't agree with him.

I only read very special books more than once, unless they're university course books that I have to sweat over. Generally, I find that there are so many other books ready for me to explore instead of re-reading. The books that I do re-read are often those that I simply enjoyed more than others. Alternatively, there are those that I feel I have more to learn from, or those that I need to return to in order to fully understand. For instance, my re-reading of War and Peace not long ago: how can you expect to take in all of this mammoth book in a single reading?

Books that I've enjoyed and read again include The Waves by Virginia Woolf and Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Berniéres - I felt that both were beautifully written. I also gained more from Love in The Time of Cholera by García Márquez and The House of The Spirits by Isabel Allende by reading them a second time. It wouldn't surprise me if I return to the aforementioned texts at least another time. Other people may well hate those books, but for me there's something in the writing that greatly appeals to me.

Below is a list of some books that I plan to read again, for the reasons I explored in the first paragraph. Perhaps I'll read some of them this summer, but I'm not going to place a time frame on it. I've found it very useful to keep lists such as this on my blog for future reference - is that a selfish reason for blogging? I do hope that such posts get others thinking about their own literary collections - about both what they have read and what they'd like to read.


Anonymous said...

What an arrogant, unfounded statement for a journalist to make. I think there are plenty of reasons to re-read a book. And if it's a great novel, one almost can't help but get something new out of it with each reading.

Also, now that I've hit middle age, it interests me to see how differently I perceive a novel -- and what different things I take away from it -- compared to when I was in my teens and twenties.

Great list! It does include some I'd also like to re-read, including Crime & Punishment, Anna Karenina, and Pride and Prejudice, and some I haven't read yet.

Lucy said...

Thanks for the comment! It's interesting what you've said about your changing perceptions on books with time: I read a lot of must-read classic novels when I was too young to understand them fully, and so returning to them would certainly be beneficial.

Anonymous said...

I think many wonderful books have been ruined for readers because teachers forced those books upon them at a tender age. :)

Lucy said...

I certainly agree. Either classics aren't meant for the classroom, or they shouldn't be forced on students so much.

Dennis Aaby Engebretsen said...

All great art whether it is literature, music, paintings, films or whatever, needs to be absorbed and delved into numerous times to prove its worth. Also, people's opinions (hopefully) and interests change with time. That's why re-reading stuff is so important - to see if the books still give you something worthwile. I'm not even going to tear asunder The Guardian slug's obvious inferiorty complex and expose him for what he really is. I might as well ask a starving African 4-year-old if its hungry.

I love your blog, by the way! It's bookmarked. Looking forward to reading more of your writing in the future.

Lucy said...

Apologies for the very belated reply - somehow I never saw this comment! I agree with you entirely, and I still feel that re-reading is so useful and enjoyable. Yesterday I decided to begin reading Mrs Dalloway for the second time, and I'm interpreting so much more this time round.

Thank you for the bookmark!

ThnkngHuman said...

I just re-read Wallace Stegner's "The Spectator Bird" and got so much more out of it 23 years later. Perhaps because it's a novel about aging and being at the end of one's career/life, different things resonated in my early 60's than they did in my late 30's. Above all, I was reminded what an astute student Stegner was of human nature. As Ivan Doig said, he was "one in a century."