I rarely reread novels these days because there are so many books I want to “visit” for the first time. I’m getting older and this blog needs to be fed, so it’s mostly in with the new (to me) and out with the old (to me).
But there was a time when I reread some favorites fairly often, and found many benefits to that. They included the sheer enjoyment of again experiencing great literary works, and the chance to perhaps better appreciate a novel the next time around because I was more mature and ready for it — certainly the case when I returned to such classics as Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter many years after I first read them.
Of course we know what will happen in a novel when we reread it (if we haven’t forgotten everything in the book). That predictability is a drawback — much of the thrill of discovery is gone, especially with genres such as mysteries. But that’s replaced by a certain comfort, and not having to figure out from scratch what the author is doing.
When it comes to series, there’s also the potential of experiencing a group of novels somewhat differently. For instance, I read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books one at a time as they were published — waiting until each was written and released. Then I consecutively reread all seven within a couple months, and felt a greater admiration for the foreshadowing, how the books were tied together, Rowling’s depiction of the young characters at different ages, etc. Yes, one can see things with new eyes when rereading.
Which novels have I reread the most? Number one is Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, which I’ve enjoyed a half-dozen times — not surprising given that it’s my favorite book. I’ve read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings five times (I think). John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Ms. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, Albert Payson Terhune’s His Dog, and Darryl Brock’s If I Never Get Back? Three times apiece. The last book is not widely known, but it’s a page-turner with a ridiculously entertaining time-travel/19th-century-baseball theme. His Dog is a bit over-sentimental, yet extremely heartwarming as we see the effect an amazing canine has on an unhappy farmer.
There are also many novels I’ve reread once. To name just a few: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, George Orwell’s 1984, Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.
Also, The Pickwick Papers — by no means Charles Dickens’ best book, but his funniest. Sometimes that’s how rereading rolls; it can just be for sheer delight. Or rereading can mean again plumbing the depths of profound novels such as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov — both of which I’ve immersed myself in twice.
Getting back to my opening paragraph, a major reason why there are so many novels I want to read for the first time is because of the great recommendations from commenters here. 🙂 Thank you!
Which novels have you reread the most? Your thoughts on rereading?
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” local topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — about a seriously real referendum and some silly fictional referenda — is here.