Monday, November 9, 2009

New Read or Reread?

“Rereading, we find a new book.” – Mason Cooley

My wonderful sister, who knows how I panic over coming up with blog ideas, recently forwarded me a Dear Book Lover column by Cynthia Crossen in the Wall Street Journal. It featured a letter from a woman who liked to read the same novels over and over. The woman seemed a bit apologetic about it.

The article states: “And Nabokov wrote, "When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, this stands between us and artistic appreciation."

I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t think of a book I’ve reread (with two exceptions). My own manuscripts are exceptions because the editing process makes rereading a gazillion times mandatory. The children’s books that I’ve read aloud, first to my daughter and then to my grandson, are another exception.

The article goes on to say: “In praise of rereading in the New York Review of Books, Larry McMurtry wrote, "Reversal of fortune can, I suspect, be a spur to rereading; where once one had read for adventure, now one rereads for the safety of the unvarying text."

Looking over the books on my shelves, I spot books that I thoroughly enjoyed and may even appreciate more the second or third time through. But these same shelves also contain many books I haven’t had the opportunity to read yet. Those books look more enticing to me because I don’t know how they end. Besides the books on my shelves, I have a long list of other books I want to buy to read, plus there are new releases daily. In other words, so many books and so little time.

I agree with Ms. Crossen when she says: “If rereading enriches, however, it also lacks the thrill of the chase, the feeling of being mugged by the writer and forcibly hauled into a previously unimaginable world.”

According to an article I found from the American Library Association, the most reread books were (Sorry, the most recent survey I found was from 2004, but my research was limited by some very important factors, such as the rapidly approaching happy hour.):

J.R.R. Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Shakespeare's collected works
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter series
Laura Ingalls Wilder - Little House on the Prairie series
A.A. Milne - Winnie the Pooh
Alice Walker - The Color Purple

What about you? Are you a one-time reader or a rereader? What books do you reread?

Thanks for stopping by,

Tags: Mason Cooley, Wall Street Journal, Nabokov, McMurtry, Tolkien, Rowling, Dickens,


thetruebookaddict said...

Hey Jane,

I'm proud to say that I am somewhat of a re-reader! My favorite book is Queen of The Damned by Anne Rice and I have read it three times! I have also read Little Women a few times. I'm in the process of re-reading Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles via audio book. I'm planning on reading the 6th book, The Vampire Armand, next year so I wanted to get up to speed again with the series. It has been several years since I read the first books in the series (excluding Queen/Damned). I've already listened to Interview and I'm in the process with The Vampire Lestat. I will probably listen to Queen/Damned again (my 4th read!). So, yes, I like to re-read. In the future (God willing), I plan to revisit Gone with the Wind, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca and probably a myriad of others I haven't thought of yet. Rereading gives new meaning to "So many books, so little time"!

Good topic!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm a rereader! But then, I have a horrible memory. I usually can only remember that I read the book and enjoyed it. Soon I can reread it again as if I'd never read it before!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Tamika: said...

I'm a little of both. Depending on the story and how it impacted me I will certainly pick it up again. But not right away. I like to forget the story first.

The Old Silly said...

I'm a re-reader, sure. If a book has depth - lots of levels to it, I'll often put it down for a year or two and then re-read it, and BAM! A true timeless well written book will come alive in new ways.

Marvin D Wilson

Joanne said...

I don't reread often, but when a book really moves me, yes I'll reread. It's amazing how there's really something more to be gleaned from the words the second time around, something you didn't get the first time, which enriches the story.

Karen Walker said...

I don't usually re-read. But I do go back to some books for reference purposes. There are too many books I haven't read yet to re-read. For some reason, though, I can see movies I love over and over again. Go figure.

Carol Kilgore said...

Mostly I'm a one-timer. I keep several books, thinking one day I'll reread, but right now only four come to mind. I will say that when I reread those I enjoyed them every bit as much as I did the first time around because I picked up on things I'd either forgotten or not noticed before. And the anticipation was even greater because I knew what was coming.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I am an uber rereader!!!

If I like a book, I will reread it many times. I like discovering new ones, but once I connect with a book's characters and story, I want to visit that world again and discover more. Feel it all again.

As a child, I read all of The Chronicles of Narmia at least fifty times, and Bambi & Bambi's Children more than thirty.
I've read most of Anne McCaffreys' Dragonrider books more than twenty-five times.
There's self-help/relationship/success books I've read multiple times.
And I've read Watership Down close to 100 times!

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I reread. I have several books which I have read so many times that I can pick them up, open it to any page and just read because I know the story so well.

On the other hand, new books are always a wonderful discovery; although some are one-time wonders.


Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Michelle, I also enjoyed Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles – but only once. It looks like you have quite the rereading list – good for you!

Elizabeth, sometimes I can’t remember if I read a certain book or just reviews of the book so there have been a few times when I’m halfway into it before remembering I read it.

Tamika, I like how you like to forget a story before rereading it!

Marvin and Joanne, I have no doubt that some books would come alive in new ways if I reread them. I’m being tempted here.

Karen, I also go back to books for reference purposes. I do tend to only watch a movie one time, but I’m more likely to see a movie twice than read a book twice.

Carol, it’s interesting you find the anticipation greater because you know what’s coming. I now feel like I’m going to have to try rereading to find out my reaction.

Helen said...

I'm a one-time reader. I can't think of a book I re-read, except for the same exceptions you made. My son will re-read, though.

Straight From Hel

Galen Kindley--Author said...

I love my history books. Many times, they’re filled with factoids that get away from me after, well, let’s be honest…five minutes. So, they are certainly something I reread…novels, not so much, but, I do reread them, or tell myself I will. I try to get my history books in audio format, so, the “rereading” of them isn’t as painful.

Best Regards, Galen

Imagineering Fiction Blog

©DGreer said...

I never used to be much of a re-reader until I met my husband who reads his faves over and over. But I did share one re-read series with him: Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy. It's so true; something new comes out of each reading. Love those books. Recently I read some old Daphne Du Maurier's that were really good, too. I have a whole library full of good novels, but don't seek them out too often, mostly because I can hardly keep up with new releases. But some day...

Anonymous said...

I have one of my favorite books on tap to re-read: Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird. Yeah, I like to re-read books. Of coarse. But a few years apart though.

Stephen Tremp

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Helen, I’m happy to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t reread.

Galen, I’d count history books as reference material – but listening to books seems like a good way to reread.

Dani, sharing rereads with a spouse sounds like a fun idea. I’m not familiar with the Merlin Trilogy – will have to check them out.

Stephen, To Kill a Mockingbird is the third most reread book so you have a lot of company with your choice.

Maryann Miller said...

I'm with you, Jane. There are a number of books I would like to read over and over, but there are also so many new books to explore. I have re-read some of Steinbeck and Hemmingway. Also reread Mystic River. More recently, I read and reread Still Alice.

On my TBR pile currently is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I read that years ago and it was a story that touched me deeply. I am anxious to visit it again.

Jen Chandler said...

Hello Jane,
I am a rereader. Unapologetically so. I read Madeleine L'Engle's books "A Wrinkle in Time", "A Circle of Quiet" and "Walking on Water" at least once a year. I will go to my shelf, see the oodles of books I have yet to read and always (always!) pick up an old trusty. I like familiar ground and I love discovering something new while digging :)

Happy weekend!

Anonymous said...

I am a massive rereader. For every new book I read, I'll reread two old favourites in the middle (at least, sometimes more if the new read was terrible). Part of this is I am super busy with work and I can't take in all of a new story sometimes and rereading is far more relaxing and also, with limited time to read I sometimes am not willing to take the chance on reading something terrible.
Over holidays I tend to dig into my new book pile and some of these get placed o nthe shelf to be reread and others are donated away.
Rereading is great because everytime you see new levels to the plot and characters that you missed the first time and jokes and minor ironies that were swept aside become more interesting and important.
Thanks for sharing this fanatstic post.

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world