Bibliophiliac, and I mentioned that maybe I'd do a posting about what books we tend to re-read, and why. So without further ado, I've a couple of questions for you:
1. Do you typically re-read books? If not, why not? If so, may I be nosy enough as to inquire about what criteria you generally use in reaching a decision to to re-read a book?
2. What books would you include in your 'Top-Ten Novels to Re-Read' List?
Regarding the first question, I do re-read books, and not all that infrequently either. Most of the time it is after a few years have passed and I just get a hankerin' to revisit a specific author, or a particularly favorite novel. I have a few books that are just timeless classics for me, and I just get more and more out of them with each visit (e.g., Tolstoy's Anna Karenina). Generally, my only criteria is that I had to have loved it the first time around (e.g., Dickens's Bleak House), or I grew to love it over time (e.g., Austen's Mansfield Park, or Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway).
People tend to look somewhat askance when I casually mention that I am re-reading 'such-and-such.' Typically, I get in return, "Why would you read it again, when you've already read it?" Without 'smacking them up-side-the-head,' I kindly reply, "Because it was so good the first time I read it, I want to see if it still is." That usually shuts 'em up. Seriously though, folks, re-reading a favorite book is like visiting an old friend--it is comfortable, companionable, and there's always something new to learn and appreciate. In short, it strengthens the relationship! Take a moment and share your opinions of what re-reading books means to you.
My 'Top-Ten Novels to Re-Read' List (in no particular order):
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo -- A serious 'fat book' that is simply sensational. I just purchased the new Julie Rose translation (2008) in hardcover, and am really looking forward to revisiting it soon!
The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton -- 'Oh, Lily Bart, Lily Bart, Lily Bart, whatever am I to do with you?' I will always love this novel. Edith Wharton is probably my favorite American author, and this novel is one reason why!
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy -- Another 'fat book' that has stayed with me since the first time I read it. This is the novel that I have probably re-read the most over the past 30+ years, and occupies a spot in my 'Top-Five Favorite Books' list.
The Stand, Stephen King -- What can I say? Stephen King's "The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition" is just the ultimate post-apocalyptic tale. My gut says that this novel will still be read 150 years from now. Oh, and it is another 'fat book' too!
Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy -- Tess, one of fiction's most famous women. On that basis alone, Thomas Hardy's Tess of that "delicate feminine tissue" is well worth revisiting! I just re-read it again for the first time in a long, long time, and was perhaps even more profoundly devastated this time around.
Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy -- I just finished reading this novel for the very first time, and realize that this is clearly Hardy's magnum opus, and there is a lifetime of study ahead of me to fully grasp this novel. Maybe a modern re-telling of the biblical story of Job? This is a hugely significant novel, in my opinion.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke -- Clarke's debut novel, and just brilliant. I have described this 'fat book' as magical, mysterious, dreamy, witty and funny, and incredibly engaging. Without sounding too trite, the characters are Dickensian, the dialog Austenesque, some of the vision and fantasy of Lewis Carroll, and much of the prose like that of Patrick O'Brian.
Possession, A. S. Byatt -- This novel is like peeling an onion. Each time you read it, you peel back a layer and expose a whole new world to appreciate and ponder. It was this novel that allowed me to develop a life-long love for the poetry of Christina Rossetti, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and the Brownings. I love this novel with all of my heart and soul!
Outer Dark, Cormac McCarthy -- Personally, I view McCarthy's writing as the contemporary American descendant of the Victorian Thomas Hardy. This novel, not particularly well-known, is perhaps the most powerful of all of his novels. It is a massive 'punch to the gut' to read, but the prose is powerful and moving. McCarthy paints one helluva portrait of Appalachia in the early-20th century. Read it! Re-read it!
O Pioneers!, Willa Cather -- My oldest daughter turned me on to this beautiful novel. "O Pioneers!" describes life on the Nebraska prairie at the beginning of the 20th century. This is one of the most lyrical and emotionally powerful books by an American author, and is brilliantly plotted too. It is interesting to me, but not surprising, that both Edith Wharton and Willa Cather were the first and second women, respectively, to win the Pulitzer prize for fiction (Wharton in 1921, and Cather in 1923).
Well, there we are. My thoughts, and my list. What say all of you?