Midweek @ Musings: Same Book, Different Year

On Sunday I posted my review of The Handmaid’s Tale, which generated some interesting comments about the book’s powerful message and impact.  Then Robyn wrote,

The first time I read this book, it didn’t really strike me as that interesting or powerful. The second time I read it, it was deeply creepy thinking about how this world could happen. Funny to think what happened in my life in between those two readings.

Serendipitously, on Sunday Florinda posted about re-reading, and I commented:

I almost never re-read either, except for the occasional book that I read when I was very young and thought I’d enjoy differently as an adult. To Kill a Mockingbird and Jane Eyre are two examples. I also think I need to re-read Pride and Prejudice because it was my first Austen, and read way before I read the rest of her work.

All of this got me thinking, and I started making a list:  books I should re-read from time to time.  So far my list includes only the three books I mentioned to Florinda:

  • Jane Eyre:  I was 13 when I read this for the first time, and I did it just to prove to myself that I could read such a chunkster.  I didn’t appreciate its literary merit until I re-read Jane Eyre as an adult.  Then I read Iris’ recent posts while reading Jane Eyre, and they were so thought-provoking!  Now I know I need to read it again someday.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird:  A few years ago, a blogger mentioned they re-read this book every year, because it’s just that powerful.  That prompted me to re-read this classic, which I had last read as a teenager.  It was great, of course, and its message moved me.  This book is so rich, you can learn something new every time you read it.
  • Pride and Prejudice:  I first read P&P in my 20s.  I liked it a lot, but didn’t fully appreciate Jane Austen until I read the rest of her books several years later.  I think I could read P&P once a year, just to get my “Jane fix” and appreciate her brilliance.

These books made my list for three reasons:  literary merit, themes and messages that stand the test of time, and the opportunity to discern new truths by reading at different stages of life.  The third reason particularly intrigues me, and takes me back to Robyn’s comment.  Which books should I re-read now, because I failed to appreciate them when I was younger?  Which books should I read now for the first time, and then read again in my 50s or 60s?

Help me out here!  Tell me about books you enjoy re-reading, and why.

7 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: Same Book, Different Year

  1. You always get the grey matter folding with excitement.

    Every winter at some point, I reread a Jane Austen and have for decades. Why? Every time I do, something new comes out of each book but also it is like walking and talking with a good friend, sharing her observations of everything from nature to people.

    I have a comfort read which never fails to comfort: the Mapp and Lucia series by E.F. Benson, all six books. It got me through my heart surgery recovery, the death of my father, some stressful times on other fronts. I think I’ve reread it through about six times now.

    When I was in my teens, I reread Lord of the Rings in a non-ending loop about eleven times. Why? The language, first and foremost – the sounds of the words in my mind’s ear were like the finest music. Then its style harkening back to the edda or saga, which appealed powerfully to the Celt in me. The story itself, that mighty struggle of good against evil, of the world of magic retreating from the world to allow humankind to have the stage, of flawed personalities, and true love. I haven’t read it since then, though.

    There are certain poems, too, that I go back to time and again for a refresher.

    • Wonderful comment, Tui, thank you! Your re-reading of LOTR reminds me of my daughter with the HP series. I also like the idea of reading “an Austen” (as opposed to the same Austen) every year. Must think about that.

  2. I’m afraid I can’t help you. I’ve only ever re-read one book (1984 for a book group) and I didn’t enjoy the experience. I’m too scared that I won’t love books I enjoyed as a child anymore and will ruin my wonderful memories of them. One day I’ll re-read something, but for now I’m too busy enjoying all the new books.

    • Jackie, I’m usually too busy to re-read as well. There’s just too much out there, I feel like no matter how much I read I’ve only just scratched the surface. Nevertheless, I like to challenge my tried and true reading habits, just to see if there might be a different dimension to discover!

  3. I like your re-reading reading list so far! I’m sure you’ll have fun fleshing out the list over time.

    I’ve made myself a reading promise to re-read 12 books this year, particular favourites, and The Handmaid’s Tale might well make my list.

    So far, the only one that I’ve re-read this year is Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, and it was one of those re-reads that made me a little anxious. It was a powerful reading experience for me when I first read it, but I hadn’t responded the same way to his other fiction in the intervening years; on re-reading, though, I did understand why I loved it so much then, and there are aspects with intense appeal even now, though they’re a little different.

    That’s the part I love about re-reading, the sense of loving the same-ness of it and loving the different-ness of it at the same time.

    • 12 re-reads, eh? I use the “book-a-month” approach with some other categories, like Virago Modern Classics, and books gathering dust on my shelves. It helps bring a “balanced diversity” to my reading. Since writing this particular post, a LibraryThing group decided to read Jane Austen in March, so that gave me the nudge to re-read P&P. I can’t wait!

  4. I was doing that with the VMCs last year too and it worked really well. I’ve lost track of them (with a couple of exceptions) since last autumn, and I really must try to make more reading time for green spines. Maybe I should re-read some Austen too… ::eyes the A shelves:: ::forces eyes back to teetering stack of library loans::

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