Re-reading Books

Discussion in 'Other Books' started by Boreas, May 13, 2016.

  1. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Do you re-read books? Regularly, once in a while, or not at all? Are there any authors or specific works that you just love to re-read and get more out of every time? I mean for the whole spectrum of literary genres: prose or poetry or plays > non-fiction or fiction > journalism, essays, history, commentary, novels, novellas, short stories, etc.

    I like to re-read, and a few favourites that I like to pick up again and again are:

    Iain M. Banks' Culture works
    These are fantastic, super-fun science fiction adventure stories with subtle and many deep moral/philosophical conundrums, especially when it comes to organising society, the role of the individual and power politics. They can be quite dark, but are also filled with wit, irony and humour.
    Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo
    One of my earliest favourites and one of the greatest adventures on the folly of taking revenge too far. This book has thrilled me again and again.
    Eiji Yoshikawa's Musashi
    One of my all-time favourite books. Another high adventure that starts out with base, martial goals and transforms into a search for spiritual enlightenment. Understated, subtle and beautiful, covering all the great themes.​
     
  2. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    I've never reread a single thing :( I started to reread Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb (well, I listened to it this time round), but the audiobook wasn't doing it for me, so I stopped.

    There's too much out there that I really want to get my teeth into to consider rereads, especially with SF (less so with fantasy)
     
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  3. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Re-reading books is important to me. Usually those books that I have both loved for their sheer fun-factor in combination with their impact on me emotionally and/or cerebrally. There are a few reasons why.

    If it's a book that I've really loved in the past and only read once, re-reading it can be a new kind of discovery, precisely because you know the overall plot and ending. You can't always remember all the details, so to be reminded of them is a pleasure. Re-reading a book knowing the narrative allows you to notice other aspects of the story more clearly. You might have initially only taken a cursory glance of such elements since you were caught up in the momentum of it all the first time. The other thing is that these books don't remain the same. I mean, they are in their essence, but you've likely changed with time and new experiences. So the re-read of an old favourite is now coloured through this new prism of experience and changed opinions. You can find that it re-affirms certain things you thought to be true to an even greater level. Or, you start to see the plot, the characters, their interactions and other situations from a slightly changed or completely different perspective. And, of course, there's that simple pleasure of thoroughly enjoying the story again and again.

    Also, there are those books that you might not have clicked with the first time around. Such books I rarely pick up again. However, every once in a while and for whatever reason I do end up picking them up again, I might in fact get a lot out of them at a later date. I've felt this way recently about an author.

    In the case of the three examples I've mentioned, the Culture novels have changed for me again and again. The first time I read them, I was caught up in the adventure and the idealism of it. Re-reads were so pleasurable because they were fun with plenty of action and adventure and just fantastic writing, but also because I started to think more deeply about my own stance on a lot of the issues raised. At this current point, after having re-read them many times, while I still fantasise about living in the Culture's ultimate wish-fulfilment society, I see it from a very different perspective than when I first started out (probably the reason why I've been attracted to Consider Phlebas so much lately). The Count of Monte Cristo is, for me, one of the finest romances of all time. The pleasure I get out of re-reading it is enormous. Musashi is another superlative adventure. And it brings up all these themes concerning self-betterment and harmony from an eastern perspective that I identify with, so re-reading it is a reminder to stop and take stock while I also re-experience the badassery of Musashi's duels.
     
  4. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    I hardly ever consider re-reading books. The idea is highly appealing but the lack of time makes it unrealistic. I appreciate your points and I share them, but given the choice of diving into a potentially great new story or revisiting an old one, my feet always take me to the new: little-me-too-curious.

    The few cases I have re-read books has been an out of pride decision: Zß The Aleph by Borges "I didn't get it all first time round, I'll crack you on the next read"
    It could also be when I'm teaching, and a particular book forms part of the curriculum and the re-re-re-re-read is kind of professionally imposed and not that exciting.
    I guess you @Boreas, are quite disciplined; you push yourself to discover new aspects of an enjoyable old book and reward yourself with the little hidden jewels you missed first time round. I'm just not quite that way...
     
  5. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member


    There's another reason to consider when you decide to reread a book from your past, especially books from childhood... a book that may have had a profound effect on you in your teens, may now upon its rereading seem quaint at best, and really lame at worst. Plenty of things that would really bother the grownup us, just sailed over our heads when we were young and naive.
    About three years ago I listened to The Mote in God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, which is considered a classic and is included in just about every "100 Best SF Novels of All Time" list. I loved the book as a kid!
    Yikes, listening to it in audio form was sheer bloody torture! The characters are poorly rendered cardboard cutouts; though the story takes place well into the future there appears to have been absolutely no progress made in society! Where are the Chinese, African Americans, Latinos, and of course... Women?! Worse, what few women do populate the story, are portrayed exactly the way you'd expect from a novel written in the early 1970s. The protagonists are dashing white men, what a surprise, any mention of characters of other races/ethnic groups are full of stereotypes. And even if I could ignore those things, I couldn't ignore that the story has such a bad ending (no doubt the writers thought it was a clever twist), that I never finished listening to the book.

    So beware of ruining perfectly good memories of a book you loved as a kid.
     
  6. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    Absolutely! That’s precisely why childhood books memories should be left alone as they are “childish” They rarely age well. For me, it is tantamount to watching a movie from my teen-age years, or looking at old school boyfriend photos...:eek:o_O :eek:
     
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  7. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member


    Then it's just not me... years ago, just for yucks, I googled the names of ex-girlfriends just to see what became of them. Only two ever got married, both are divorced now, and oh my do they not at all look like I remembered. They did not age like fine wine.:eek:
    Movies like Highlander and Star Wars, my favorites when I was young, are just too stupid when I got all nostalgic and watched them again. Let's not even talk about the hair bands of the 80s!.. though that song by Europe, 'The Final Countdown'... that's still the best song in the history of songs.:p

     
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  8. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Well, I didn't mean to give the impression that I constantly re-read books. But I do find myself re-reading those few books that are special to me. But there are other books I'll pick up again occasionally if the mood strikes, or if I specifically feel nostalgic and want to re-read them again (like I've been planning on doing for Asimov and Clarke for the last year). But like @Sparrow says, that's a double-edged sword. It might turn out to be worse on the re-read. Sometimes, re-reading makes me feel like Linus reaching for his blanket. It can be a default option to pick up a book I've previously really enjoyed when I can't make-up my mind on something new.

    By the way @Elvira, what do you teach?
    Actually, this is a book I want to re-read since I remember very little of it except for thinking it quite amazing during my teens. Although I won't be going the audio way as you did.
     
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  9. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    Swedish Group! I remember so well...
    Good god! Highlander? Hair bands? You’ve just got me thinking… not sure I want to go down that road on a Friday evening after some wine. It could well open Pandora’s Box… Next thing I know I’m wearing leg warmers!:eek:
     
  10. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    Spanish as a foreign language. I have taught adults and wonderful, cheeky teenagers, which also involved Spanish literature to some extend, especially those with bilingual level. Now I'm back to basic with my "A,B,C..." and the little ones in a international multilingual school. Fun somedays, some other days can be fun-strating...
     
  11. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Don't forget sweat bands. Or go for the coup de grâce: shoulder pads!
     
  12. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    Mmmmmm, very tempting indeed...:D
     
  13. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

    Aye, times were simpler back then.
    I fit in so well with the Hair Bands era, and when musical tastes turned it was the "Grunge Metal" days... heck, traded my tight Levis and band t-shirts for cargo shorts, flannel shirts, and hiking boots. Plus, I didn't need to brush my mop anymore or worry about personal hygiene so much. I do however have a tattoo I very much wish wasn't a reminder of those times.
    The really sad thing is, I'm typing this while wearing cargo shorts, a flannel shirt tied around my waste, and hiking boots... I at least have on a t-shirt I received from my youngest niece (the smart one), of the old book cover for Watership Down. So I'm literary as well as grunge.o_O

    Those are two books I wouldn't dare read again. Watership Down, and also To Kill a Mockingbird. I have very fond memories reading those, and they have stuck with me ever since.

    My old driver's license from the middle 90s... holy shit, how the time flies by!

    [​IMG]
     
  14. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    My daughter's nursery had a Spanish teacher in for a session last week. Suffice to say it didn't have a lasting impression on her .. at 19 months old she's still struggling with the basics of rudimentary English.
     
  15. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

    Me too.
    There's no way I can even consider learning a second language until I've nailed English.:)
    I took Spanish in high school and I just could never get past the quirky sentence structure. I've retained very little of my two year experience with Spanish... I can request a warm or cold glass of milk, and tell you the color of my shoes, so long as the shoes are red, blue, green, white, or black. Also, I know intimate body parts and what someone could possibly do with those body parts. But that's just about the extent of my Spanish.
     
  16. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    Well, never underestimate those little brains. She might surprise you before long... English, Spanish plus a dash of Chinese and you are on top of the world!
     
  17. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    Great mop! Very Pearl Jam…
    Well, when facing nostalgia, one always has the possibility of tapping into “eternal recurrence” Déjà vu!? Didn’t we already discuss this? Anyway, this way you can enjoy your future, grunge selves over and over again. Not sure I want to go down that path in a never-ending loop of leg warmers…o_O
     
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  18. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I'm getting a Robert Plant's older, more washed out cousin vibe.
    Both on my reading list. Damn, I must especially get on to Richard Adams soon. Been seriously thinking of picking up his works since last year. Have seen the movies for both films, though.
     
  19. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    So, none of you have any authors or books that you like to re-read? I know @Elvira said she's re-read a few for her class' curriculum, but I won't count that.
     
  20. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    Well, I have very fond memories of Poland and The Bay of Chesapeake by J. A Michener. If I had the time, I think I would go for Poland...
     

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