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What Are Your Favorite Books To Reread? / How Many Times? / Why?

Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by Fading Fast, Oct 15, 2016.

  1. For a variation on a theme, what are - not necessarily your favorite books - but the book(s) you return to time and again and why?

    What is it that keeps drawing you back: the story, the characters, the dialogue, the "feel" or "atmosphere," the ideology or something else?

    I'll kick it off with one of my favorite re-reads (I have read it four or five times): "Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro.

    I keep coming back to this one because the characters are absolutely believable and relatable and are in such structured rolls that pulling out their personalities and individuality takes skillful writing that is marvelous to experience again and again.

    The subtly of the book is beautiful and it took (for me) several readings to see how well Ishiguro builds his characters bit by bit with small details sprinkled along the way. Every time I read "Remains of the Day," I see something new, glean an insight I missed before.

    I enjoy the story, the atmosphere and (also) the subtle global history and timeless philosophy tucked into a seemingly "small" story, but the characters are what I think most about when I'm not reading it.

    Mr. Stevens and Miss Kenton are heroes not because they lead armies into battle or invent new life-saving medicines; they are heroes because they live by a code of morality day to day - which is much harder to do, IMHO, than having a great spectacular moment. Do they fall short, yes, but they acknowledge that and try harder and get closer to living by that code than most.

    That code costs them a lot in their personal lives, but they stay true to it. Real people, living real lives by a respectable code that extracts a huge price slowly, quietly, but very painfully. Real heroes living "ordinary" lives - heck, I want to read it again right now.

    Others I love to reread (in no particular order and not a complete list):

    "House of Mirth," "Summer," and "Ethan Frome" by Edith Wharton
    "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" by William Kotzwinkle
    "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand
    "The Winds of War" by Herman Wouk
    "The Great Gatsby" by Ernest Hemingway (Just checking to see if any reads this far)
    "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles
    "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger

    And two that I haven't reread but want to:

    "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" by Victor Hugo
    "Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin" by Leon Uris
     
  2. "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole. What a brilliant, brilliant piece of comedy, theology, and geometry, and what an epic loss to literature was Toole's suicide.

    "In Dubious Battle," by John Steinbeck. The most militant book Steinbeck ever wrote. Makes "Grapes of Wrath" look like the Wesleyan Monthly.

    "The Autobiography of Malcolm X." Not a novel, but a gripping, enveloping American epic nevertheless.

    "Earth Abides," by George R. Stewart. The greatest post-apocalyptic novel ever written, the most thoughtful, and the most haunting.

    "It Can't Happen Here," by Sinclair Lewis. Nuff 'sed.

    "The Code of the Woosters," by P.G. Wodehouse. The best of the Jeeves-and-Wooster novels, and also the one that puts the lie to any claim that Wodehouse was in any way, or could ever have been in any way, a Fascist sympathizer. "Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags!"
     
  3. ⇧ I had a feeling Steinbeck and Lewis would be on your list - but would not have guessed the right books of theirs.

    I was going to kid you and include a footnote in the first post that I won't post "The Wealth of Nations" or "The Road to Serfdom" (both repeat read for me), if you don't post "The Communist Manifesto" or "Rules for Radicals" (debated between "Unsafe at Any Speed" and "Rules for Radicals").
     
  4. When it comes to books criticising the auto industry, I like John Keats' (the journalist, not the poet) "The Insolent Chariots," which preceded Nader by almost a decade, and had the added advantage of a sense of humor. I like ol' Ralph, but he's as funny as a doorstop.
     
  5. The Great Gatsby...
    That was funny. That is also something my students do on occasion because they have a hard time believing that a teacher might read everything they write no matter how many times I tell them that I do.

    I have so many books to get to/through that I no longer reread any of them unless by accident. As a youngster with more limited funds and access, I would read the books of Tolkien and Robert E. Howard over and over. I especially enjoyed Howard's horror stories. Now, my plan is to somehow get through the ever growing stack/list (kindle) before I pass on.
    :D
     
  6. He and Al Gore have a similar style of humor - none.
     
  7. Good for your students and good for you for proving them wrong.

    I know what you are saying as I always feel as if I'm cheating a bit when I reread a book, but just like I no longer force myself to finish a book I really am not enjoying at all, I am trying to allow myself to just enjoy and not over-think things as much, which includes allowing myself to reread a book even though I have so many great books that I haven't read. (How's that for a horrible run-on sentence?)
     
  8. I find that I only reread fiction if there's something about the way it's put together that caught me the first time. I've read "Confederacy of Dunces" dozens of times, and every time I read it I discover new turns of phrase or character quirks that make me laugh out loud. I have known Ignatius J. Reilly in person, and he's also been present in several different bodies over the years here on the Lounge, and that recognition of reality in the caricature really makes the book come to life.
     
  9. You raise an interesting codicil to the theme - do people re-read fiction or non-fiction more?

    I'm about split, but the non-fiction books I reread tend to be economic / financial-market oriented books that relate to my work.

    I've read Henry Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson" well over five times as I think it is one of the best primers and reminders of basic economic theory written in a way a normal person like me can understand it.

    And while I enjoy reading it, and other non-fiction books that I reread, they don't bring the same pure joy for me that fiction does. I love leaving present day and escaping to Gilded Age New York, England in the '30s or the time of the Berlin Airlift when I reread some of my favorite nonfictions.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
  10. There's tons of non-fiction I've read repeatedly, mostly narrative history things like Allen's "Only Yesterday" and "Since Yesterday," or Manchester's "The Glory and the Dream." I can reread a non fiction book immediately after finishing it the first time, to catch things I might have missed, but I have to wait a year or so between readings of fiction.
     
  11. Jack London's ' The Call of the wild " & ' The year-long day' by A.E.Maxwell & Ivar Ruud. I'll sit & read 'em from cover to cover in one sitting a couple of times a year.
    Why ? .......'cause they keep the flame flickering.
     
  12. Bushman

    Bushman Call Me a Cab

    Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton. There's always bits and pieces I forget about, so it's always a fun adventure to reread at least once a year.
     
    greatestescaper likes this.
  13. daddy0d0

    daddy0d0 One of the Regulars

    Killer Angels by Michael Shaar. Love Civil War history. He had a great way of giving life and character to the men who lead and fought at Gettysburg. Great mixing of history and humanity. Must have read this book 5 or 6 times.
     
    ChiTownScion likes this.
  14. greatestescaper

    greatestescaper One of the Regulars

    I've found that my first read through I as fast as I can devour the words. I just have to know what happens next. Following that I read at a slower pace, enjoying the story more, savoring the experience, and certainly gaining more from it. Much to my dismay I think an unsettling number of people seem to shun this idea of rereading books. I remember being told, even as an adult, "but you've read that already." My reply to that now is, "yes, but there's still more to experience." I want to ask such people if they only listen to a song once and then never again, or whether or not they allow themselves to watch a film or television show more than one time. Why should it be any different with books?

    As such I have several books that I read annually, and some I come back to after a longer pause. I find that I can almost relive previous reading experiences, that I am transported back to those times and places. Some I read because the mood strikes (I sort of cycle, through moods some specific genre is what I'm really hankering for: fantasy, science fiction, pulp, westerns, mystery...) some I reread seasonally, others to see what I missed in previous readings, and others still because it just seemed a good idea.

    And also, I have that most difficult time sleeping during a full moon. The moon out here is brighter here in West Texas than the city lights I grew up with. As such, on the night of a full moon, and sometimes the nights on either end of it, I'll set up to read myself to sleep. Usually I pick some old favorite of mine. In fact I find a good familiar book an excellent cure for insomnia. I sometimes wonder if my monthly insomnia is not now in some small part due to my anticipation of the full moon readings.

    The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an annual reread for me. Something about September gets me feeling as though it's time to start reading The Fellowship of the Ring. Something about leaving the Shire, passing Rivendell, and making for Moria, just feels like September. Also perhaps because I'm not quite ready for Samhain, but really the darker elements of Fellowship just seem to naturally proceed stories like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Dracula, and all that.

    Jurassic Park is also a reread for me, though not annually. It's just a great adventure that is very enjoyable to revisit, and there are parts of that novel that just make my hair stand on end, even now after so many rereads.

    Periodically I'll pick up a Louis Lamour novel, or some other pulp (Doc Savage and the like), especially to pack for a trip. It's always good to have a book to read while away. And also, sometimes you just need a little brain candy.

    Come Yuletide I have to read A Christmas Carol. It has been one of my favorite stories since I was a child, and there is something about the familiarity of the tale, and also of the hope of it's ending that keeps me coming back to it each year (I also usually end up watching the film, my favorite being the television movie starring Patrick Stewart).

    And finally, my rereads often have the wonderful benefit of inspiring a flood of literature. When I find that I've finished a reread, but am still thirsting for the topic/genre/author I wind up going down the rabbit hole, often to great new places, books, and interests.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
  15. ⇧ I love how engaged you are with your rereading. I'm more haphazard, but you're encouraging me to look at re-reading more thoughtfully.

    Your comments reminded me of a time I speaking with our neighbor who is an editor for a NYC publishing house and when I mentioned re-reading, I could tell she thought I was a bit whack-a-doodle. To be fair, she has to read an insane amount of books and is always behind, so I can understand her not using her valuable reading time for re-reading.

    That said, that is alway one of the problems of turning an advocation into a vocation as, sometimes, a lot of the fun is stripped out. I had a friend who loved antique cars and became a dealer in them. Overtime, he lost his pure passion for the hobby and became almost cynical to it as the demands of making a living at it changed his outlook and joy of it.

    Like you, a re-read has lead me to explore some lessor known works by an author only to discover that, sometimes, those are as good or better than the more famous ones.
     
  16. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

    On my first reading of ACoD, I noted that Toole did something I'd never seen in fiction before: He really reproduced the way New Orleans people talk. For instance, every other author I'd run across spelled the dialect version of "children" as "chillun." I'd never heard that in real life. When Toole used "chirren," which is the way many white and black Noo Awlins people say it, it opened my eyes.

    I grew up in the French Quarter in the days the novel is set in, the early Sixties, and so in some ways it's a time trip between covers.

    When a particularly irritating member of my local writing group, a woman from Nebraska, commented that she found the book "completely unfunny," I stopped listening to her.
     
  17. I find that's an excellent litmus test. Either you get it or you don't, but if you don't I fear for your lack of imagination.

    I find myself quoting Burma Jones quite often, especially when someone criticises my sweeping skills. "Good an' splintery!"
     
  18. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

    As for my rereads, there are many. I revisit some of the Rex Stout mysteries about Nero Wolfe every year. Steinbeck's East of Eden I reread parts of all the time. Just last week I reread Stephen King's Pet Sematary. Part of why I do it is that I read the given book when I was much younger, and perhaps didn't understand some of the subtleties or the references (the James Bond books are good examples). Now, sometimes, I can get even more out of a novel that I enjoyed at age 14, say, for its adventure or its humor, but now can appreciate references to real world things I didn't get then.

    Example: In one of Stout's Wolfe novels, he has as a central element a magazine clearly based on Time Magazine. In one scene he has Archie the narrator mention the publisher/owner of this fictional magazine, "Mr. Tite." Clearly this is a gag on Henry Luce, who founded Time. I only got that last year when I reread that novel.
     
  19. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    I hail from Chicago's South side and the French Q and Nawlins' and the speech showed a unique facet of life.:)
     
  20. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Practically Family

    Fascinating. My mind immediately jumped to Hawai'i, where it took a while for it to be regularized as to whether the "R" would be used, or the "L" when transliterating Hawaiian speech. I.e. - Honolulu could be pronounced "Honoruru".

    Anyway, books I periodically re-read: Tales of the South Pacific by Mitchner, Fatu-Hiva by Heyerdahl, and The Once and Future King by T.H. White. Also Islands in the Stream by Hemingway and A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
     

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