I know the old saying about so many books and so little time.
Still, I read some of my favorites again from time to time. I justify spending all that time in territory where I’ve already traveled by following a strict rule when starting new books: if the author’s voice or the story’s flow doesn’t pull me in pretty quickly, I find something else to read.
Now, don’t go thinking I re-read books constantly. Whdunits just aren’t as much fun if you know who done it. And I’m not to the point yet where I can’t remember who done it.
But books that are crafted particularly well are fair game for another visit.
I’ve read Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast and Flannery O’Conner’s stories “Good Country People” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” no telling how many times. One summer I re-read Gore Vidal’s American Chronicle series of novels [Burr (1775-1840), Lincoln (1861-1865), 1876 (1875-1877), Empire (1898-1906), Hollywood (1917-1923), Washington, D.C. (1937-1952) and The Golden Age (1939-2000)]. And Daniel Silva’s brilliant Gabriel Allon spy novels, all sixteen of them lined up on my shelf, will get another visit if I live long enough.
If you’re a re-reader I have a suggestion. Think of a novel you read years ago that you really liked, one of the all-time best books that ever came your way. Read it again and see if it holds up.
I tried that with two books.
Earthly Powers, a novel by Anthony Burgess, blew me away years ago. And when I read it again it blew me away again.
I wasn’t as fortunate with the next one. I liked Inside, Outside, by Herman Wouk -whose The Winds of War, War and Remembrance are two of my favorite reads – but on second reading Inside, Outside didn’t work as well.
My friend Mary Beth Blankenship told me once that she’s re-read Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford so often that her husband Larry asks her every so often if it isn’t time to pull it out again.
Now, fess up. Do you re-read? Which books? Are there any that you’ve re-read more than once?
5 thoughts on “Do you re-read books?”
I re-read 1984 and Farenheit 451 as an adult. I came away with a completely different view- partially because the world was different, but more so that I was very different at that point in my life. I also re-read all the Harry Potters because I got so caught up in the “what’s going to happen next” that I rushed right past delicate nuances of the story.
I would like to say that I did re-read books but I think I’ve only re- read three that I can recall and I’ve read thousands. I have two or three going at all times. Too many books out there and too little time!!
Gone With the Wind, Calico Palace and Beach Music are the three that I can recall and would read them again. Of course, “Into That Good Night ” is a given.
To Kill a Mockingbird meant a heck of a lot more to me when I read it as an adult than when I read it, sort of, in high school.
Every so often, I’ll take a literary trip to Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat to catch up with my rowdy friends who live there.
New Orleans is my favorite city to visit, but I tend to experience it through the lens of Blanche Dubois or Ignatius Reilly. I hope to read A Streetcar Named Desire and A Confederacy of Dunces several more times before I’m through. They both break my heart in the very best ways.
(Streetcar is a play, but I’m hoping any great literary piece counts.)
Gone With the Wind (the movie) ran on network television, over two evenings, for the first time when I was in junior high. We never missed church, and so I was unable to see it in its entirety. I was greatly disappointed. I guess my parents felt bad about it, because they gave me the 40th anniversary slipcased edition (foreword written by James Michener) for Christmas. I read that massive novel SEVEN TIMES THAT YEAR. My mother took it away from me for a while. She said, “There are other books to be read.” She was right, of course, but that book will always be my favorite.
The other work that I can easily read over and over is James Michener’s “Centennial.” I read it my freshman year in high school and became a real Michener fan. I had an opportunity to meet him and get my copy of “Texas” signed, but I had to babysit my sister. It took me a while to forgive my parents for that, but I did. Eventually.