Sunday, 7 September 2008

Have I Read You Somewhere Before?

I think one of the Booking Through Thursday topics in the past has been about re-reading books, but my current re-read of the Mapp and Lucia books by EF Benson has made me think about it again... I always thought I wasn't much of a re-reader. So many books, so little time was my mantra - but... it appears to have all changed this year. Since January began, I've re-read the following:

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day - Winifred Watson
Year In, Year Out - A.A. Milne
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Speaking of Love - Angela Young
The Love Child - Edith Oliver
The L-Shaped Room - Lynne Reid Banks
The Twins at St. Clare's - Enid Blyton
The O'Sullivan Twins - Enid Blyton
Summer Term at St. Clare's - Enid Blyton
Second Form at St. Clare's - Enid Blyton
The Provincial Lady Goes Further - E.M. Delafield
Queen Lucia - E.F. Benson
Miss Mapp - E.F. Benson
Lucia in London - E.F. Benson

Gosh. Last year, as I found out whilst doing this meme, I only re-read six books; this year I'm on sixteen already. I wonder why...

Partly it's because I don't have books to read for university (or haven't, until this point), but on the other hand I have lots of books to review for Stuck-in-a-Book which are neglected whilst I re-read. Perhaps I've come to the point in my reading life, which only really started properly in 2000, where I want to dip back into the past. Maybe I just want a guaranteed good read - but partly it's because I've realised just how subjective an experience with a book can be, and how short. I read a book in, say, four days. It might - like quite a few on the list above - be one of my favourite books. How odd that it should be on a favourites list for years, and have only occupied that amount of time in my life... so a re-read is to test the waters and see if they still make for pleasant paddling.

So much has been said about re-reading; I must get around to reading Anne Fadiman's book on the topic. I don't really know where to throw in my tuppence worthy, other than to say that re-reading this year has brought me more pleasure than almost anything else I've read - but I can't *quite* shake the idea that I should be reading something new. What do you think?


  1. I rarely reread. There are too many books out there that I haven't read yet.

  2. I don't seem to read much these days, let alone re-read. What I really popped in to your comments for was to ask how your foot is as these things can be more painful a day or 2 later.
    How are you?

  3. Thanks for asking, Ruth! Stil uncomfortable, but not really more than uncomfortable. Did some driving yesterday, and found it hurt less than walking... so shall just hobble around for a few days!

  4. Peter the Flautist8 September 2008 at 10:51

    I too rarely re-read, although I have just re-read Cold Comfort Farm like yourself. I do think that one should read for pleasure and that selects the modality, but I also fell that it is important to read books that are new, and (I'm sure we have discussed this somewhere before) outside one's "comfort zone".

    Dark Puss

  5. I love to re-read books - just wish I had more time to do so as, along with your other posters - I do think it's important to read new stuff. But one gets such a richness out of rereading - especially when a significant time has passed - you view the book (and yourself) completely differently. Some authors - like Virginia Woolf, for example - demand constant re-reading if only to appreciate the technique behind her writing. Or to wallow in the language. Poetry requires re-reading. So does Shakespeare. And I love the jolting experience of discovering a book read 20 years ago is not at all the same as the one you remembered.
    A lovely book along with Fadiman's is Alberto Manguel's A Reading Diary - he re-reads 12 books, one a month, for a year and writes about the experience.

  6. "How odd that it should be on a favourites list for years, and have only occupied that amount of time in my life" - very interesting, and it really makes me think. You are so right - if I really love a book, as I think I do, shouldn't I spend more than a short bit of time with it? My re-reads are often audiobooks. It is a good way for me because I can be reading one print book, and re-reading a book via listening. I ought to go through and see how many I've read for a second (or more) time this year. Really a fascinating concept. And frankly, I'm all about 'comfort zone.' Honestly, reading is one of the only choices we ever have in this life, and I'll be damned (oops, can I say that?) if I'm going to waste a minute of that time reading about slashers or vampires or starving children. The news offers enough, thank you very much.

  7. I love to re-read old favourites and books that I want to give a second chance.

    Re-readings edited by Anne Fadiman was an enjoyable read and made me feel less guilty about indulging in re-reading!

  8. Simon - you have made me think about this and I am going to follow your lead and post about re-reading when I have a mo to sit and think (currently reading lots of new stuff so perhaps that is why I want to return to re-reads). Thanks for pointing me in this direction, off now to put kettle on and ponder

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