Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: Name up to three books that you’ve read more than three times each. (Bonus Points: Reveal why you keep coming back to that particular book.)
Lisa J. Jackson: Other than a couple of writing-related books for grammar, writing prompts, and inspiration, I haven’t re-read any books. There are so many books out there in the world to read, that I just haven’t gone back to re-read one I’ve already tackled. That being said, if I find an author I like, I will generally seek out and read every book I can by that author before moving on to any other books.
Deborah Lee Luskin: There was a time in my life when I performed bibliomancy on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I kept a copy by my bedside and opened it at random before I fell asleep at night. I’ve read all six of Austen’s novels more times than I can count – and not just because I wrote my dissertation about them. Other favorites include Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, Dicken’s David Copperfield and Our Mutual Friend, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
There are others as well: No matter how well I know a book, I almost always reread it before I teach it, so that it’s fresh in my mind. And while part of me thinks this leads to being over prepared and that I should really be reading only books I haven’t read before, I’ve learned that each time I reread a book, I read it anew – because I’ve changed and the world changed, and I always find new meaning in a good story well told.
Diane MacKinnon, MD: There are so many books I’ve read more than three times, it’s hard to limit myself here. One that I’ve mentioned many times on this blog is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, which I always learn something from, no matter how many times I’ve read it before. I’ve also read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein at least three times. I hope to read them again–to my son, whenever he is ready for them. And one more book that I’ve read many times is, (like Deborah,) Jane Eyre. I first read the book in 5th grade and I was captivated by Jane, maybe because she’s a child in the beginning of the book, as I was at the time I first read it. Every rereading teaches me something new.
I reread a lot of nonfiction but I also enjoy rereading fiction. There’s something about returning to an old favorite that I love. I think it has to do with the certainty that the book I’m diving into is going to deliver, even though it now lacks the suspense of the first reading. New books, known books, they’re all good friends, aren’t they?
Jamie Wallace: There are not many books that I’ve read more than once. A Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin is one (it’s also one of my picks for best winter reads), and like Diane, I have also read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy multiple times. I also find that I sometimes return to childhood favorites (The House at Pooh Corner, Wind in the Willows, Julie of the Wolves). And lately, I’ve been re-listening to certain audio books (though my return listens have been less about reliving the story in question and more about having a pleasantly familiar accompaniment to some manual labor). Lillian Jackson Braun’s “cat who” mysteries are perfect for this purpose. I am sure there are other books I’ve reread, but their titles escape me at the moment.
As for why I reread certain books, I think it’s mostly to recapture a particular feeling. Most of the books I return to are ones that represent a sense of comfort and well being to me. They create a space in which I feel safe and “cocooned” from whatever trials I’m facing in the real world.
Interestingly, this question has made me ask myself why I keep so many books when there is such a slim chance that I’ll reread them. I have several bookcases filled to overflowing with novels and nonfiction books that I will likely never reread, and yet I cannot bear to part with them. Is it because I just like to have them around me? Do they serve as some sort of physical tally of my reading conquests? Are they still here “just in case” I should one day like to reread a passage or two? I don’t really know. I only know that I’m happier with my shelves full than empty.