Tony’s Month of Rereading

The other day, as I was idly flicking scrolling through my reading list (yes, it exists – it’s on Excel, and it’s growing longer by the day…), I happened to notice that my reading had slipped into a worrying pattern of late, with the last few months showing an alarming lack of books read for the second time (or more).  I decided to investigate this phenomenon further and instigated a thorough audit of my list for rereads – with a disturbing outcome.  Where in 2009 (from 93 books read) 34 books were rereads, and in 2010 (from 91 books) 22 were old friends, the result for the first half of 2011, from an impressive 67 books, was just… 6 😦

While some of you may be starting to wonder what the point of this post is – and others may be applauding my turn towards unfamiliar fiction -, there is a method in my madness.  You see, as I took up my usual, nay habitual, stance in front of my bookcases to muse upon this issue, noticing the many hundred paperbacks arrayed in front of me, a novel, and quite unpleasant, thought occurred to me…

If I’m only going to read new books, and have no intention of giving them a second go, then what is the point of my buying any books at all?!

A scary thought, and one I dismissed rather rapidly; however, it did make me think that I had been neglecting my old friends in favour of new and shinier ones – all of which brings me to the point of this post (and yes, there is one)…

Welcome to Tony’s Reading List’s Rereading July 🙂

That’s right – I have decided that for the following month, it’s in with the old and out with the new, a hello to familiar friends while new books are ignored, shunned and left to gather dust in the corner.  There are only three rules to Fight Club Rereading July (and you may talk about it to your heart’s content):

1) The book must be somewhere on my shelves
2) I must have read it at least once (and possibly several times) before
3) The last reading must have occurred before I began my blog (1/1/09)

After a leisurely perusal of my collection, the following books clamoured to be read:

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto
Die Verwandlung by Franz Kafka
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Adam Bede by George Eliot
One Man’s Bible by Gao Xingjian
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
Seven Shades of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

The above list comprises a nice collection of old friends, representing a fair cross-section of my reading tastes: some V-Lit, J-Lit, a German-language classic, a smattering of translated fiction and a few good old Aussie novels.  I’ve already kicked off the fun with Far From The Madding Crowd and am very happy with my choice – in the long, cold Melbourne winter, it’s nice to have a bit of comfort reading 🙂

You are welcome, dear reader, to join me (or not) – here’s hoping for a wonderful month of things I’ve read before…

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12 thoughts on “Tony’s Month of Rereading

  1. You have a point there Tony. If we are not going to revisit why keep those books on shelf? But the lure of new books are great, one that we may be forgiven to neglect our old friends. I also think a 2nd read offers you more insights than the first but I'm thinking I'll leave it when I am older and tend to reminisence a bit more!

    I want to join you for Crime and Punishment and The Inheritance of Loss. Lets see how it goes.

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  2. I'm terrible at re-reading and only do so on holiday when I'm back at my parents perusing my old books. But there are so many new books that I want to read!!! So I admire you and will look forward to your posts to see whether they will convince me to re-read more often:)

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  3. I always try to re-read 4 books per a year. Still, I feel like that is too little. However, there are so many books on my shelves that still haven't been read that I feel guilty re-reading works right now. I don't think I've bothered to re-read anything this year at all.

    I would add that another reason to own books, even if you don't plan to re-read them in their entirety, is to be able to grab them at any time and re-read choice sentences/paragraphs/chapters for reference during a literature discussion. I frequent some literature forums where having access to those passages in certain books is useful.

    Currently I'm reading The Brothers Karamazov. Even though, I could see myself re-reading the whole book eventually, I could also see myself re-reading just the famous chapter, The Grand Inquisitor, rather than the whole book. So I could see other uses for owning a book rather than just re-reading the whole book again.

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  4. Jo – I have to say that I'm not as attracted by new books as most – I prefer to stick to trusted writers (mainly those who have been dead for a good while!).

    Sakura – Is a book really that good if it's not worth reading twice? That is the question 😉

    Parrish – They're all good 😉 As mentioned, I think I need some good books to get me through the recent bout of squally weather down here in Melbourne 😦

    Eric – I can see your point, but that's definitely not for me. I love to reread my favourite books, especially the classics (there are some – Trollope's Barchester books, for example – that I've read at least five times). What I really want to say here though is that it's easy to fall into the trap of reading books you're not sure about just because you've never read them before…

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  5. “If I'm only going to read new books, and have no intention of giving them a second go, then what is the point of my buying any books at all?!”

    A kindred soul! I've always felt like an anomaly among book bloggers because I usually won't buy a book until I've already read and enjoyed it and think that I will read it again. The only exception I make is for classics that I know that I'll enjoy because of previous experience.

    Enjoy your re-reading! I did buy Crime and Punishment (because I wanted a specific translation), and it's still sitting on my shelf. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it enough to read again, as that's my litmus test when I buy any book.

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  6. Another thought occurred to me. I think it's also good to re-read books at different ages. I've found my reaction to books (sometimes even ones I didn't like the first time I read them) change with age, such as Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, which I passionately loathed the first time I read it and loved the second time through. Ditto her novel, The Age of Innocence.

    When we were studying Henry James in one of my grad courses, my professor mentioned that James is an author you need to re-read after the age of 40 to fully appreciate.

    I can imagine a lot of figure growing richer with age or just our reactions changing with new life experiences to inform the perspective of a text.

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  7. Kristi – Exactly! There's no point in buying books you're not really sure about – that's what the library's for 🙂

    Eric – I can definitely agree with that (especially as I'm under 40 and have had a few, shall we say, unpleasant encounters with Mr. James!). I've just finished 'Far From the Madding Crowd' for the umpteenth time, yet I got into trouble at Secondary School because I couldn't even be bothered to read the first five chapters for a test!

    By the way, I was trying to leave a comment on your Kafka post, but I couldn't work out how! My thoughts on that book are in my review… in a slightly unorthodox format 😉

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  8. It sounds like a fabulous way to spend the month! If I was doing something like this I think I'd end up in my paperback sci-fi section – totally guilty pleasure reading. 🙂

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  9. I've been contemplating something very similar! I've been rereading 2 books/month (except in May), but it doesn't feel like enough. And now I've *finally* unpacked all of my books, I'm thinking September might be all rereading, all the time! 😀

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  10. I'd definitely recommend it 🙂

    I'm on book number three for the month, and my first wrap-up post will be out tomorrow (with a bit of a classics theme!).

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