Do you often re-read books? The only book I’ve read more than once (that I wasn’t studying) is The Secret History by Donna Tartt. This was partly because I loved it so much but also because I missed lots of details and didn’t quite ‘get’ everything that was going on (I was only 15 at the time).
Since then I have not chosen to re-read any book. But recently I’ve been thinking about books I’ve read in maybe the last year but also a few years ago, that I loved but have forgotten the details of. I look at their covers and think, actually I’d love to revisit that. It’s like re-watching a film or TV show that you love – something I do quite often.
I’ve made a little list of the books I plan on revisiting, and plan to write about the experience of re-reading here on the blog. So far I have:
How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman – I read this a while before it was published and loved it, but I want to revisit the intricacies of the plot and the writing. The paperback publication in April reminded me how much I loved it.
Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote – I read this in 2008, before university (and this blog!), and though I loved it I don’t think I quite grasped everything that Capote was trying to do with this story. I’ve thought about it a lot since.
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell – I read this quite quickly and really want to re-examine its language and story, as well as the issues it deals with.
That all at the moment! But I’m sure this list will grow. I’ll have to peruse my bookshelves for forgotten gems!
*** Amendment (21/5/14)***
I have added The Little Friend by Donna Tartt to my re-reading list. I read this soon after it came out, having loved The Secret History. I remember adoring the writing and the feel of the novel, of the Southern heat and the Gothic undercurrent. It’s quite long, and very dense, and I want to read it again partly in order so that I can remember everything that happened and also to really appreciate the skill of writing and construction, and the nuances of both the plot and the characters. After all, I read this in about 2003 and it’s now 2014, so I think enough time has passed!
*** Amendment (3/6/14) ***
I’ve decided I really want to revisit the work of Carson McCullers. I got into her writing after having discovered Southern Gothic through Tartt and particularly Capote (there are so many of his books and stories I want to re-read!). I’ve read The Member of the Wedding and Reflections in a Golden Eye, as well as half of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (which I left because I had to start reading set texts for uni), and I own a copy of Clock Without Hands, though I’ve never read it. I would like to read all of these all the way through this year (and next year, let’s face it). Her style is so unique and so utterly Southern. Her characters and her settings are at once surreal and entirely real. I must revisit. These are the editions I own (I adore the PMC covers!):
Do you re-read books? If you do, why do you chose to, and how does it compare to the first read?
[All cover images are from goodreads.com]
14 thoughts on “Re-reading Plans”
Sadly, I don’t usually have enough time to reread books, but whenever I have done so, it has been very worthwhile. I discover new things every time, especially when a decade or so have elapsed since the last reading! Back in my 20s I used to reread all of the Jane Austen novels every year. A bit extreme, perhaps, but I found they really helped clean my palate.
Time is the thing isn’t it? I’ve decided to really make time for re-reading this year. There are always too many new books and sometimes it’s important to revisit/discover older books.
Esme Lennox has been sitting on my bedside table for months gathering dust! I really must get round to it soon. If you’re going to re read, then I’ll assume it’s good first time round.
It is a really excellent novel. So carefully constructed and told, with an original and engaging story. Highly recommended.
I reread books quite often, especially books I loved as a child or teenager. It’s a bit like returning to an old friend & catching up right from where you left off–the Swallows and Amazons books and the Chronicles of Narnia are incredibly good reads for me when I am going through a difficult patch. I do it less with books that I read and loved as an adult, maybe because they’ve had a less formative effect on the way that I read? I don’t know, it’s worth thinking about.
On a different note, I really want to read How to Be a Good Wife. I’ve heard such amazing things about it. Thanks for reminding me to add it to my list!
I agree that revisiting childhood books is always lovely. For me it’s The Secret Garden.
And I really do recommend How to Be a Good Wife – would love to hear what you think of it!
I rarely reread books, mostly because I always find there are new books I want to read and a long TBR to work my way through! But when I do reread books I often discover new things in the book and I love revisiting familiar characters. There’s something quite comforting about rereading a favourite book, I think.
I’m the same, there are always too many new books! But it is wonderful to revisit previous loves, or those that you feel you need to understand a bit better.
I reread The Little Friend just before The Goldfinch came out. I loved it the first time, but appreciated it much more the second. It breaks my heart to say this because I love The Secret History to death, but The Little Friend is a technically better book (and The Goldfinch is better again). Donna Tartt’s particular brand of disturbing is just absolutely brilliant.
That’s what I meant to do before starting The Goldfinch but of course there was not enough time. I think you are one of the few people I’ve heard say that The Little Friend was better (in a way) than The Secret History – I’ve read a lot of people say they thought it was just Not As Good. I really loved it, but read it so long ago! I look forward to re-reading.
I think The Secret History has broader appeal. It’s capital L literature, but also a real page turner. But it’s also very earnest and references ALL THE TINGS. Tartt was still a student when she started writing it, and it reads very much as though she wants to prove how much she’s read in case she doesn’t get another chance. I found The Little Friend more focused. Southern Gothic isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s a very unsettling book. But in terms of craft, it’s a better book. That’s not to say The Secret History isn’t incredible.
@Margot – I agree that The Little Friend is better crafted. I love Southern Gothic so it was great for me! I think I just belong to the All Hail Donna camp!
[…] and the captivating (and utterly real) characters. Its difficulties are why it is currently on my To Re-Read List, and when I’ve got the time (!) I really cannot wait to get into it […]
[…] I wrote about re-reading – why we do or do not choose to re-read certain books, and what we can get out of revisiting […]