Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Sorry, I’ll read that again

A piece in the Observer a few weeks ago had prompted me to muse about rereading, what we come back to and why.  I lost interest, but a friend has just reminded me of one.*  I said I’d come up with my top ten.  (I’m good at self-imposed challenges.)

To deal with the ‘why’ first, some rules are needed.  (I’m good at self-imposed rules.)  Rereading from desperation because there’s nothing new to hand doesn’t count, except when it does.**  Comfort or nostalgia are insufficient motives – for example, I will never read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ again, because though it may have been a comfort blanket in the past I now recognise that, basically, it’s crap.  And some books are just plain worn out.  I’ll never read ‘Catch-22’ again.  And big fat multi-volume sagas are not allowed, just because I say so.  So no ‘Dance to the Music of Time’, or Patrick O’Brian, or Harry Potter (hah, gotcha!).

No, the ‘why’ has to be caught in that one ineluctable word: quality.

So here we go.

·         ‘The Outsider’, by Albert Camus.
·         ‘The Great Gatsby’, by F Scott Fitzgerald.
·         ‘The Tin Roof Blowdown’, by James Lee Burke.
·         ‘The Third Policeman’, by Flann O’Brien.
·         ‘Vilette’, by Charlotte Brontë.
·         ‘The High Window’, by Raymond Chandler.
·         ‘Good as Gold’, by Joseph Heller.      
·         ‘The Code of the Woosters’, by P. G. Wodehouse.
·         ‘?’, by ?
·         ‘?’, by ?
Perceptive as you are, you’ll have noticed two things (apart from how boring and narrowly read I am – some of those Observateurs were doing Aristotle and Thomas Mann and stuff like that): they’re not ordered; and there are two empty slots.  Those are for you to fill, with a book that you reread but I’ve probably read once at most.  You’ll have to apply some guesswork there, of course.  And obviously I can’t rank them until I have all ten.

 * It’s on the list, but I’m not telling. 

** That’s a snitch from another one on the list, by the way.


  1. Life of Pi. Or at least I will reread it again once I've found it.

  2. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.

    Has saved my life and my sanity over and over for 50 years.

  3. Last year I reread War and Peace for probably the 10th time. And recently I reread Vanity Fair and Crime and Punishment. I reread very few modern novels. Actually, I don't even finish a lot of them nowadays. Life of Pi was an exception.

  4. Mostly I don't get to read them the first time. But being reminded of Crime & Punishment is probably one, thank you Z. I was quite small when I first read it (I'm larger than that now)& don't recall much - something about a horse wasn't it?
    And The Seige, Helen Dunmore.
    Is it something about Russia? I have to ask myself.

  5. I don't reread many books either, but I one I did reread with pleasure was The Count of Montecristo by Alexandre Dumas. Such a ripping good yarn.

    Sometimes I pick up a book thinking I haven't read it and then half way through think 'this sounds familiar' and realise I have read it after all.

  6. AQ, I will buy Life of Pi and read it, twice.

    Z, no wonder you never have time to do anything.

    Lo and Eliz, I like your candidates very much, and will re-reread them, if I can find them.

    Sarah, never read it! At least I don't think so - I'll probably get halfway through and think oh...!

  7. I read in the night on my phone. But you're right, I'm the laziest person I know.
    Diary of a Nobody, yes! (and I read it again recently). Also Huckleberry Finn. And I read Saki all the time and have done for 50 years. Chris and I both love Saki.
    I last read Lord of the Rings in Kerala, having read all my books I went to buy one and it was suitably long, in English and readable. I've no problem with reading crap.

  8. Apologies for blathering on, btw. I'm waiting for a taxi.

  9. "We didn't mean to go to sea" by Arthur Ransome. I know his books are old fashioned but they still tell good stories if you want a bit of escapism!

  10. How can Catch 22 have slipped off the list and Good as Gold be on it???

    Anyway no list of re-reads is complete without The Sun Also Rises, Sunset Song,The Catcher in the Rye, Wide Sargasso Sea, The Quiet American and er Frost on my Moustache...

  11. Thank you all for your stimulating suggestions. Some of them don't yet qualify for me, not having read them the first time - but that's easily fixed!

    Macy, Catch 22 belongs to a category of books that don't need to be reread, because they've been memorised.

  12. Kim by Kipling, I reread it about once every ten years and it seems different every time.

    And I'm saving The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver for a special treat and then I'll probably have to reread all the rest of hers too.