Of reads and re-reads

coverThe “Dead dames” series has made me think of the subject of re-reads.  The problem with being a keen reader is how to keep up with the tide of newly-published books. The short answer – it’s just not possible. The problem is compounded by the desire to re-read books that we have loved in the past, or to re-attempt those literary Mount Everests that have previously defeated us.

In this latter  category I would place those heavyweight classics that we feel we should read, but are just too hard. How many times have I attempted War and Peace or Remembrance of things past and not got past the first 20 pages? Now that winter is upon us    it’s a  good time to re-attempt the dizzy heights of reading difficulty.  I think  you really need to be snowed into a mountain cabin with nothing else to read but Henry James or James Joyce to get to grips with them properly.  I think you need a lot of time and nothing else to do. (Trouble is, the typical reading in mountain cabins tends to be of the Sven Hassell/Wayne D. Overholser kind).

The other kind of re-read is the comfort re-read, a pastime that the winter season lends itself to.  Those “old shoes” that we love so much we re-read them every year, especially in winter, when they become the readerly equivalents of chocolate fudge pudding. My favourite winter comfort reads are Love in a cold climate, Wind in the willows (especially the part where Rat and Mole find Badger’s house after being lost in the Wild Wood), Room with a view and the complete works of Jane Austen. Nothing controversial, nothing challenging.

So, gentle readers, which books are your mashed potatoes, your chicken soup?

21 thoughts on “Of reads and re-reads

  1. Marion 25 May 2010 / 1:22 pm

    I love re-reading a favourite book – there is always a new discovery and it is definitely in the comfort spectrum along with good soup, rice pudding and curling up on the sofa to read on a cold winter afternoon.
    I loved Dead Dames – are there some more in the pipeline? Those literary Everests are a bit stressful – so much to read, so little time.

  2. Jane 25 May 2010 / 2:52 pm

    I never re-read. Every now and then I start a book and realise I have already read it – I feel very disappointed when that happens. I much prefer the surprise of the new.

  3. Joycie 25 May 2010 / 7:07 pm

    I used to re-read Wuthering Heights every couple of years, but the pressure to keep up with new releases has put paid to that. Nowadays I’m more likely to re-watch a “comfort blanket” movie or tv series..North and South with Richard “sexy scowling” Armitage springs to mind.

  4. Joycie 25 May 2010 / 7:09 pm

    Marion, you want dead dames? We’ve got oodles of expired,literary ladies in the pipeline!

  5. Michael A 26 May 2010 / 9:06 am

    I’m a regular re-reader – have to justify the many metres of book shelving in the house somehow. Orwell’s 1984; Stephenson’s Crytonomicon; Raymond Chandler anything at all; Updike’s Rabbit series; Gallico’s Man who was magic; Hesse Steppenwolf; the list goes on…

    As for multiple re-attempts – Gravity’s Rainbow took 5 goes (worth it in the end) and, despite many attempts, I’ve yet to finish Godel, Escher, Bach.

  6. Jane 26 May 2010 / 12:16 pm

    When do you all find the time to re-read when there are so many new books arriving every day in the Library?

  7. Roberta Smith 26 May 2010 / 5:06 pm

    Seems as if the world is divided into re-readers and non re-readers. Even though the walls of my home are lined with books that I have carried not only from home to home but from country to country, I remain resolutely a non re-reader. The only exception to this is childrens’ picture books which cross my path at returns, when a rush of memory overwhelms me and I find myself flicking through the likes of Richard Scarry, Dr Seuss and Maurice Sendak.If there’s a pureed baby food of chicken soup and mashed potato – I’m it!

  8. mj 27 May 2010 / 8:48 am

    Phew! *so* relieved to find non-re-readers amongst book collectors … there are shelves of books at home, yet it is rare that I re-read any of them. I tend to re-read (or re-browse) non-fiction faves but it is a rare fiction title that I would re-read. Often I don’t want to break the fantastic memory I have of reading a story the first time around.

    • Michael A 27 May 2010 / 11:13 am

      So why keep the books? Why not sell them or give them away?

      • mj 28 May 2010 / 9:03 am

        I think that’s a fair question, and I really don’t have an answer to it. Perhaps I lend them, get them back, then re-lend them. But it certainly have given me something to think about, because I am forever lugging books around whenever I move house, and I am not sure of the real answer as to why I am still lugging things I haven’t read in years. I shall head off to ponder over a good cup of coffee.

  9. Roberta Smith 27 May 2010 / 2:03 pm

    For my part, I keep them as reminders of times in my life, I also lend them to other people and bottom line I like a room that is full of books. That is, at its very lowest, I use books as decor accessories. Even though I don’t re-read them, I am connected to them on some visceral level.

    • mj 28 May 2010 / 9:04 am

      ooh, decor accessories, perhaps that answer to Michael’s questions above. Hmm, more things to ponder.

  10. jane 28 May 2010 / 9:14 am

    I sometimes buy books that I have read – never having any intention of reading them again. Must sound odd to the re readers amongst us, but I like to look at them, and remember their characters fondly.

  11. Marion 28 May 2010 / 11:11 am

    I’m a bit sad about the anti re-reads. What I read at 20 because I had to might be a totally different read now with years and wisdom (ahem). Sometimes you have to look at the picture more than once to see the story.
    One of the nicest things about being a book owner is giving a book to someone and saying see what you think of this.

    • Roberta Smith 28 May 2010 / 2:36 pm

      I wouldn’t say I was anti re-reading -more just mystified by it. There is a lot to be said for just clutching the book one has read to one’s bosom and caressing it a bit whilst making little low whimpering sounds. Then I put it back on the shelf ready to lend to the next unsuspecting friend.

    • Michael A 1 June 2010 / 8:44 am

      A re-read, especially after a long period, can be a revelation. Two spring to mind; Steppenwolf, read at 20, is nothing like reading it at 50 when the world-weariness and increasing failings of age are more immediate and real; Wuthering Heights at 14 (Maths prize at school, go figure) is incomprehensible. The thing that interests me is that “good books” captivate despite the mis-match and leave with me some sort of mental post-it note to come back another day…and then I can go to the shelf and drag it out and re-immerse myself. What a joy.

  12. Lynne 30 May 2010 / 10:25 am

    When I wrote this blog, I had no idea that there were people who never re-read. I just assumed, egocentrically, that everyone re-reads. For me re-reading is like the joy of revisiting old friends, savouring the written word and the lovely turn of phrase.

  13. Michael A 2 June 2010 / 1:10 pm

    I’ve enjoyed re-reading this blog.

    • mj 2 June 2010 / 1:49 pm

      *lol* this point has prompted a lot of conversation from my circle of friends too – there’s a definite split between readers & re-readers.

  14. mj 2 June 2010 / 1:50 pm

    *lol* this post has prompted a lot of conversation (and some heated debates!) between my circle of friends. there’s a very distinct split between readers & re-readers.

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