Posted by: Jeanie F | April 8, 2016

Do You Re-Read Books?

plainsong

Lately I have been having trouble settling on a book. I’ve purchased several that seemed promising, but found myself unable to sustain interest in them. I spent some time reverting to short story anthologies – always a great fall-back option for me – and some non-fiction. But I continued to hunger for a novel that I loved. I tried isolating the qualities of some of my favorites, hoping that would lead me to similar selections, when it occurred to me that maybe what I should do was reread some of my favorites.

When I was a child it was standard procedure to reread a beloved book, often many, many times. I couldn’t guess how many times I went through HeidiBlack Beauty, Little Women. All of the Black Stallion books had to be replaced when the covers finally came off and, for  a number of years I could actually quote passages of Lad, a Dog. Happiness on a desert island would have been a single copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I decided if rereading was something that had once been immensely satisfying, there was no reason not to see if that still held true today.

I started with what those of you who read this blog regularly could probably guess – Plainsong by Kent Haruf. Although I read the Holt Trilogy several years ago on my Kindle, after Haruf’s death last November I asked for new copies of all three titles for Christmas. I really wanted the physical objects in my hands. It was such a joy to reread this wonderful book, to revisit the McPheron brothers and Victoria Roubideaux, to admire Maggie Jones strength and Tom Guthrie’s strong character. I almost literally devoured the book, so happy to be reading great writing about characters I loved treating each other with kindness and respect, coping with problems in human ways, trying again and again to get it right.

 

A Fine Balance

The hours that it took me to reread Plainsong were the happiest I’ve spent reading in a long time, so I’ve decided to give rereading one more try. This is a little more of commitment since my favorite non-Haruf novel is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Unlike the Holt Trilogy, with each novel coming in at about three hundred pages, A Fine Balance is larger and more dense, 603 pages and filled with characters and subplots. It is a novel of India and, as the book cover relates, “captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India.”

It’s been a number of years since I first read this book, but I’ve never forgotten it. I’m curious to see if, like Plainsong, it still resonates in the same way it. I’m almost afraid to reread it, lest I find myself disappointed, but I’m going to give it a try.

Do you reread books? How and when do you make the decision to do so? What books have you reread, and are there any that you go back to over and over? I’d love to hear how others balance returning to beloved books with taking the time to read something new.


Responses

  1. I don’t really reread books anymore, although I can understand rereading Plainsong. It’s so beautiful.

    • That it is. I can actually see myself going back to reread it every few years.

  2. I started rereading books when I found out that many of the books I read that are considered classics are free e books. Guilty secret: I started with Sherlock Holmes and Moby Dick.

    • I know you’ve enjoyed having that ability. I might try it next time I want to read q classic.

  3. Sometimes I reread a book but not intentionally. About halfway through, the plot seems familiar and I realize I’ve read it before.

    • I’ve done that, too. Really hate it when I bought the book and then discovered I had it or have read it! 😕

  4. The one book that I love to reread is The Good Earth. Now I might just have to follow your lead and reread Plainsong. Thank you for introducing Ken Haruf to me. I have loved all of his books.

    • I love The Good Earth! And am so happy that you feel the same way about Haruf that I do. It seems that he is not known or recognized for the amazing writer that he was.


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