Do you reread books? If you look over to the side, I’ve definitely placed several books there that I’ve read before. I think it counts as reading a new book when you read something at a different stage of life or from a different place.
For instance, I had to read The Great Gatsby again for class, but I had completely forgotten everything about the story. Yep. Nothing stuck. I find that surprising, because this–2012–is the Year of Gatsby, what with the remake of the movie in 3D no less. It struck me as fascinating this time because even though the novel is about sensory and sensual desire and pleasure in the present, the past creeps in and the future is already predetermined.
In my master’s program, we had to read The Poisonwood Bible. I had tried it a few years earlier and had to put it down because I hated it. Reading it for class, I loved it. Mostly I encounter people who hate what they read for class but love what they read for pleasure. Not always me. Although, I don’t think I’m the only person who feels that way about TPB!
I have a shocking lack of ability to remember details. That’s why all these books are new for me. But it also matters what you read at the same time. In Pocho there’s a scene where Richard is reading Horatio Alger. I’d missed that until reading it in the context of the American Dream and Ragged Dick.
And I’ll admit, I read stuff over for the sheer comfort of reading something that you already know, like meeting an old friend.
Anyway, I was talking about all this with my students last night, trying to convince them that even if they’d already read something, it was worth reading again for another context. And some of them said that they re-read things voluntarily. So, what have you read more than once for seeing different things.
I’ve been composing a blog post in my head on this very subject. I normally do not re-read books, but I re-read Wuthering Heights for book club a couple years ago and was struck by how different it was to read at a different phase in my life, so then I started re-reading other books I used to love. It’s really interesting to think about how context affects our reading and what that says about the type of person we were when we first read the book.
Yes! And then there’s the odd sensation of reading something and thinking, “I would have liked this way better when I was in high school, or college, or before I had children” I feel that way about On the Road. What was different about Wuthering Heights?
The first time I read Wuthering Heights, I was in high school and definitely had romanticized notions about bad boys, so I was like, “Poor Heathcliff. If someone would only give him a chance!” When I read it again a couple years ago, I was like, “Why would anyone like Heathcliff? He’s a jerk!”