Sunday, July 13, 2008

To Reread Or Not To Reread?

Just for a change, I am throwing a question out for my readers to chew on. Today was the last day of a four-week sermon series that I worked up on "Faith and Fiction." I chose books that had moved me in some particular way and wrote sermons that connected them to a biblical scripture. After each worship service in the series, we had a group discussion about the book and/or the sermon for anyone who chose to attend. This was the second year I had done this series, and many in the congregation really seem to enjoy it. I give a couple of months of advance notice what the books are, and there is an enthusiastic group of readers who really get into it. It's a lot of fun.

Something I have noticed about my own experience with this series, though. I always reread the books before I write the series sermons. I love reading the books a second time - I enjoy them even more and seem to find even more meaning in them than the first time. This brings me to my quandary - there are so many books that have been important to me and that I would like to read for a second or even third or fourth time. BUT, there are also so many things out there that I am itching to read for the first time that there is no way I will ever get to them all. So many books, so little time! My Amazon Wish List is where I keep track of things I am hoping to read "someday," and at present it has about 250 books on it. Not to mention the stack of things waiting to be read here at home and on my desk that probably numbers 25 to 30 books. Curses on the Washington Post Book World!

This is a serious issue for avid readers. With time being such a limited resource, are we better off reading new stuff or going back to the tried and true? As a kid, I was a total re-reader. I read all of the Little House on the Prairie series at least five or six times. Little Women I have probably read 10 or 12 times, seriously. And who could forget Anne of Green Gables? It may be my most read book of all time - I am sure I have read it at least 15 times. But, as I have gotten older and time has become so much more of an issue, I reread much less than I used to. And I think there is some loss to that - we pick up so much more when we are not racing to see what happens at the end. Nevertheless, besides the ones I have chosen for the sermon series, there are only a few that I have gone back to and read again. I may reread certain sections for a sermon illustration or something, but rereading a whole book is rare. The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter and John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany are two that come to mind that I have read at least twice and maybe three times. I am sure there are more, but not too many, and none that I have read so often I can recite the dialogue by heart, as I could with some of my childhood favorites.

I suppose as with so many of life's questions, the key here is balance. We benefit from staying up on current books, but our lives are also enriched by going back to treasured books and reading them again. Jane Eyre is one I want to get back to - I read it at fourteen and have forgotten a lot of it. E. read it about a year ago and could hardly put it down, he liked it so much. So - what are some books that you read over and over? What is your opinion on the question of rereading versus reading things for the first time? DISCUSS.

Reverent Reader


At 7/13/08, 7:49 PM , Blogger LeAnn said...

Like you, I rarely read a book (fiction) more than once, but there are truly books in which I glean something rich when revisiting. Education of Little Tree is one such book for me as well. I recently re-read Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, and a few years back read the classics of the Bronte sisters. A couple of books that are on my list of re-reading are O Pioneers by Willa Cather and Awakening by Kate Chopin, both books I remember being quite meaningful to me earlier, but for which I can barely string together a plot line from the archives of my mind!

I suppose to answer the greater question, I can certainly relate to the issue of time, and know that there are more books than I will ever have time to read. Reading is not all about acquiring new knowledge or experiences. Sometimes the act of reading good books a second or third time opens me up to new insights in profound ways. So balance... that would be my vote!

At 7/14/08, 2:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you all on the balance answer...but sometimes it's not easy to find that balance! Occasionally one of my book clubs will read something that I've already read and if it's one that has been really meaningul to me it's like a treat...a bonus reading. Others I'll deem not worthy of a second read and just kind of coast through that book club discussion on the strength of my fist reading. Here are some books I've loved rereading:

Handling Sin (3)
Gilead (2)
The Shipping News (3)
A Prayer for Owen Meany (4)
The Sparrow (2)
Straight Man (2)
Fifth Business (2)


At 7/14/08, 2:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read a few books 2 times or more.They are good.

Changes for Samantha (2)
Karen's Ghost(10)
Karen's Kite (5)
Inky the Indigo Fairy (2)

I'm planning to reread Sunny the Sun Fairy and Emily the Emerald Fairy.
Maggie moo

At 7/14/08, 4:24 PM , Blogger Reverent Reader said...

Hey Yeah - Oh Leann, who could forget Barbara Kingsolver? I have read both "The Bean Trees" and "Pigs in Heaven" twice, and certainly want to read all her novels again. E. - given the strength of your recommendations over the years, I am starting "Handling Sin" today to take on our trip tomorrow. I'm psyched!

At 7/28/08, 6:42 PM , Anonymous Betsy said...

Hi Leslie,

Just came to the blog today 7/28. I am still reading for the 1st time! Just finished "Anne of GG" before I give it to Carmen for her 10th b'day. It's awfully long, but she's been thru all the Harry Potter books (with her Dad). "Anne" was the Diane Rehm selection this month, which is what prompted me to get it...Betsy


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