Friday, January 17, 2014

Repeated reading

My son is reading Pride and Prejudice for school. This makes me so happy.

He said to me, "You know, Mama, if I ever have any questions about the book, I'm just going to ask you because you've read it like a hundred times."

This too makes me happy.

And a hundred? Could be. Maybe more. (*wink*)

I remember when I first read dear Jane's definitive novel. My husband and some of the children, I can't remember who or how many, had been gone for the day and I, eager to spend some quality (and quantity) time lost in the pages of a novel, grabbed the slightly tattered copy of Pride and Prejudice that my mom had picked up for me a few years prior; she nabbed it for me from a pile of my great aunts' stuff that no one wanted upon the division of their possessions after their deaths.

Though it seems inconceivable to me now, I was at that point a complete stranger to Darcy and Lizzie and the pride and prejudice they were each guilty of. All I knew was that this particular edition was old and that the novel itself was maybe a classic, I wasn't exactly sure.

Despite my ignorance I read the whole thing in a day.

And many times since.

I wonder sometimes what makes a novel re-readable. Not all are, you know. But there are those, like Pride and Prejudice, for which the experience is all the more pleasurable upon the second...and third...and fourth reading. And beyond.

It's an exclusive club, those books I can't stop re-reading. Dear Jane's novels, but of course. Jane EyreAnne of Green Gables. Harry Potter.

Speaking of Harry Potter, it matters little how many times I've read them nor how familiar I am with the story, there are certain parts of the novels that bring me to tears, in The Goblet of Fire and The Half Blood Prince particularly.

Sharper minds and more astute literature scholars could tell us the whys and wherefores of what makes a book re-readable. I think that the best books, the books we read again and again, are more than mere mechanics of characterization and plot and theme. Our repeated reading of a particular novel surely speaks to the emotion and feeling evoked as well as to the larger story the book tells, the story beyond the actual plot, the story of ourselves and the human condition and beauty and good and evil and joy and sadness. Books speak and some of the best books are worth listening to more than once. Besides, it's a comfort to visit old friends, is it not? And, hey, it's fun too!

Do you often read a book more than once? What books are on your repeat list?

20 comments:

  1. Anne of Green Gables is definitely a favorite of mine, and I've re-read all of Jane's books. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is another fave. Whenever I re-read Pride & Prejudice, I always think of this quote from the movie "You've Got Mail":

    "Confession, I have read Pride and Prejudice two hundred times. I get lost in the language, words like 'Thither. Mischance. Felicity.' I'm always in agony over wether Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are really going to get together. Ah! Read it. I know you'll love it!"

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    1. Yes, love You've Got Mail and love the P&P references!

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    2. Like the Potato peel society too, kind of "different"

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  2. I used to reread all of Jane's books every year. I don't have as much time so I listen to audio versions. Of course the reader must have a British accent. I enjoy rereading childhood books; it's like a reunion with old friends.

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    1. I haven't gotten on the audio book bandwagon though I agree, dear Jane's novels MUST be read with a British accent! And I completely agree on childhood books, that was certainly one of my greatest pleasures of reading to my boys when they were small.

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    2. Audio versions are great if you have a long drive ahead or have a daily commute like I do. It makes the drive into work so pleasurable. Or if i have a project that must get done, a good audiobook accompanies me along the way.

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  3. Austin is a favorite of mine too, as well as Harry Potter. Tolkien's trilogy holds the same affection for me. Good books truly are like good friends!

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    1. Good books are most definitely good friends, I agree!

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  4. I've read the Anne books multiple times as well as Little Women, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and missionary books like By Searching and In the Arena by Isobel Kuhn, Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur by Frank Houghton, and Climbing by Rosalind Goforth.

    I love audiobooks especially for classic stories. I started listening to them when I had a pretty lengthy drive every day, and I hate to spend time driving. Listening to audiobooks transformed the journeys into pleasant ones. A really good narrator with the right accent and different voices for each character really adds to the experience. Now I listen to them when I am getting ready in the morning and sometimes while cooking.

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    1. I first started using audiobooks when I had trouble reading aloud to my children, such books as Tom Sawyer with all the different accents and dialects. Robbie Benson did a fabulous job, as did Juliet Mills for Heidi. These became our friends for long car rides and it kept all 5 kids happy and quiet as they did not want to miss what was next. Now I continue by listening on my drive into work.

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    2. Y'all are about to convince me to give audio books a try!

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  5. Being British I'm having a laugh at you all wanting the accent for Jane's books, but after listening to Stepping Heavenward on Librivox I do have to agree that the accents can make ALL the difference (think Australian accent for Katie). Stepping Heavenward is one I always lift again, I don't tend to watch much twice so I think I'm similar with books. I am the sort of person who reads a book really enjoys it and immediately says, "I need to read that again", too many books, not enough time....

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    1. Stepping Heavenward has been a favorite of mine for many years and we, too, give it often as gifts. In fact, I have a copy in a gift bag ready to deliver to a fellow reader tomorrow. I am so glad to know I can also listen to it! It is presently downloading on my laptop. Thanks.

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    2. Too many books, not enough time...that's my problem too! :)

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  6. This is exactly what I want to be intentional about this year; so thanks for the encouragement :)

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  7. I've read The Lord of the Rings many, many times. I think these are the most beautifully written books and I never get tired of the story. The other two books that I've re-read are Jane Eyre and Persuasion.

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    1. I think Persuasion may be my next favorite after P&P among dear Jane's novels, though I do really love Sense & Sensibility also...

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  8. I've read Stepping Heavenward several times at different stages in life, and gain different treasures from it each time! We're re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia to the the kids right now, and enjoying it as much as they are, though I've read them several times before. Love Lewis and Tolkien! I will read a good missionary biography multiple times--with my linguistic background, I've especially loved Bruchko (Bruce Olson). It's been a long time since I've read Austen, but this post makes me want to revisit P&P :)

    On a side note, isn't it wonderful to see your kids reading the same books you've counted as friends over the years? We introduced our daughter to Anne of GG this Christmas and she's flown through it. Brings joy to this mother's heart :)

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    1. It is wonderful! Having all sons we haven't often enjoyed the same books, The Book Thief being an exception. And hopefully Pride and Prejudice :)

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