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Tuesday, 11 February 2020


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Good idea. Perhaps tonight I will go pull down Plains Song by Wright Morris for another read.
It was a challenge for me in the early 80's but good.

Let the ceremonial calling out of favourite reread books begin! For me, it's The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin. Really, anything by Ursula Le Guin, except the Earthsea series.

I read The Alchemist in my early 20’s, and while it affected me, I could never quite put my finger on how. I reread it in my late 30s, just out of curiosity. I understood why it appealed , and added it to the pile to take to the second-hand book shop.
I should pull Brave New World off the shelf for a re-read, to see how it compares to school vs my mid-40 year old self.

You really ARE tired with photography.

[I have always been a reader! --Mike]

I read Catch-22 three times, saw the movie twice. I read the Detective Aurelio Zen series twice and will probably read them again one day. I read some of Joseph Heath's books twice now (U of Toronto philosophy professor, writes a lot about politics and human affairs). So far, those are the only repeats. While I was studying in the field, I read physics textbooks over and over again but I think that's a little different.

Well worth checking out Anne Fadiman’s excellent non-fiction book:
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures .

John "Sandford" with Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers novels - entertaining and enjoyable.
Michael Connelly with Lincoln Lawyer and Harry Bosch novels are also good.

But, John Steinbeck is it for me. The one I re-visit for well written stories.

Steven King, but not the horror novels. Shawshank Redemption in both written and movie form.

Same with Norman Maclean and A River Runs Through it - a true story from where he grew up. The movie is well done and has some great lines... “The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.”

So much to read and enjoy and Sally Mann's HOLD STILL is written much as she speaks - well and clearly stated.

"bailure". I like that, and it describes a lot of my reading these days. The older I get the more apt I am to bail out of books that are poorly written and don't hold my interest, sunk costs be damned.

Thank you, too,for mentioning "The Scarlet Letter". It's time for me to reread that and to reread for the third or fourth time "The Way of All Flesh" by Samuel Butler.

Wow, you managed to talk about rereading without mentioning C. S. Lewis' An Experiment in Criticism!

There are indeed too many excellent books out there to read them all in one lifetime, which can seem depressing. But look on the other side: you'll never run out. For the last few years I've set aside a certain number of hours per week to read good literature, helped a lot by the library I inherited from my mother (English major at Smith College).

But there should be a word for my experience recently with Paradise Lost. I hadn't read it before, but had read all about it, seen references to it along the way, etc. There was a feeling of almost disappointment when I finally got to the orignal and found no, well, surprises. Not really disappointment, but as if the trailers had largely spoiled the movie. I should have read it long before.

Catch-22. The later movie only reiterated it all.

Catch 22

Interesting. I regularly reread my favourite books. Several more than 10 times since I first read them as a teenager. They both remain the same and change with you.

In my youth, I was an inveterate re-reader, and I think I read Asimov's "Foundation" series at least three times before I left high school and Tolkein's "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" at least five times. As I got older, though, my desire for new stories waxed, and my rereading stopped. I think the last thing I reread (barring children's books; parenting has given me complete mental copies of several Dr. Seuss books) was the Tolkein books sometime around when I was writing my dissertation (in analytical chemistry, not English; I needed a mental break from nitrile vibrational modes and Liouville space diagrams), so almost 20 years (!!!) ago. I really should go back to Tolkein one more time as a middle-aged (sob!) person, since I would be curious to see how my perception of it has changed.

Surely we can't talk of Hornblower without mentioning Patrick O'Brian and the Jack Aubrey series, which I just started on for the second time.

I've read and re-read Vladimir Nabokov's "Ada" three times and I'm still mystified at parts.

I re-read Hemmingway's collected short stories once a year, around my birthday.

Some novels I have re-read a number of times; I seem to be able to re-immerse myself in them. Others I read only once, and other I fail to finish even once.

In general it seems to be author-based; for example, I have re-read many of Kate Atkinson’s books several times. This has been useful, in that the re-reading revealed how in earlier books she developed and refined the major themes that she deployed so well in her two masterpieces, Life After Life and A God in Ruins. In other cases a given author’s works have received variable treatment - for example, I have re-read The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga a couple of times but have been unable to finish his Last Man in Tower even once. That said, pretty much anything by Iain Banks (and Iain M Banks) has been read many times, while Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books are my guilty pleasure.

I read 'Shogun' in January 1983 on vacation in Tunisia, then 20 years later while recovering from surgery at home in Wisconsin.
Then again 10 years later (because it had been 10 years)
I will read it again soon. My fav story, I think.
I also loved the BBC TV series based on the book, which I think ran to about 13 hours.

Similar with the 'Millennium Trilogy' (The 3 'The Girl Who...... books)
But with those I started back at the beginning as soon as I finished the third book.
I also watched the full Swedish TV series all the way through 4 times.
Great story!

I read Catch 22 while serving in Vietnam and found myself occasionally laughing out loud at certain passages at what might have been inappropriate times given my location. I've read it again once since and it did not conjure up the same chuckles, though it was still a most worthy read.

I made the mistake of rereading Orwell’s 1984 a year or too back. It was much more scary this time round.

I read "Dune" by Frank Herbert three times.
First time in German and then twice in English.
Liked it very much how he managed to weave quite a yarn and still maintained a dense atmosphere.

Besides that I never re-read anything.

Love McCarthy though... might be one of his books. I enjoy his sparseness.

Also love James Sallis. Could also be one of his Lew Griffin books.

Hi Mike:

Most of the books mentioned in your post and the comments came as no surprise. E.g., I was directed in high school to read The Brothers Karamazov as a disciplinary measure and it is one of the most influential books I have ever read; I tried to read The Magic Mountain (auf deutsch) in college, but wasn't up to the task. The mention of Giants in the Earth completely surprised me. My mother was the daughter of Norwegian immigrants who homesteaded in the Dakotas, so I am familiar with the book, but I think of it as somewhat obscure.

I have attached a picture of my great-grandparents' homestead in South Dakota and can only imagine the feeling of isolation during the howling winds of winter.

_IMG2048 copy

One book that keeps dragging me back is Homo Faber by Max Frisch. A book that I first read about 40 years ago. Iain Banks, also known as Iain M Banks is someone I also reread for his inventive mind, interesting themes, and delight at making his characters real.

Don Quixote. The older you get, the better it gets.

I had never heard of O.E. Rolvaag before - so as a Norwegian myself I had to look him up. And I think you can count his books as American literature. He was born in northern Norway, but moved to South Dakota in 1896 and became a U.S. citizen in 1908.


Now to check out his books.

I reread Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels on occasion, but that's just for fun. The plots in Chandler's novels are often so convoluted that I don't remember who did what or why after I put the book back on the shelf. But, oh boy, Chandler's evocative Los Angeles scene setting is a treat!

I had a feeling of whiplash when I reread Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger a couple years ago. I first read the book when I was 13 or 14. I thought Holden Caulfield admirably saw through all the BS in the world. When rereading the book in my mid-30s, my view on Caulfield underwent a complete 180: he was a confused, maddening, angry boy with huge capacity to contradict himself from one moment to the next and undermine his best interests. He was no sage, but a typical teenager.

I've read Great Expectations by Dickens maybe a half dozen times, starting in junior high school. Over the years, my view of Pip has changed from being a sympathetic character to a little shit. Every reading over the years provided me with a new take on the story.

I have also read several different translations of War and Peace over the years. I think I am finally starting to understand Pierre.

Among my favorite things to experience over and over are Lawrence Durrell's exquisite "Alexandria Quartet" and just about any Leonard Cohen music. Open to any page of Durrell or set the needle down on any track of Cohen, and I'm done for the day.

I've been a lifelong re-reader, though I went on a moratorium while my children were very young -- couldn't devote precious personal time to such indulgences.

As a youth, I had read Moby Dick about 6 times before I'd finished high school. I re-read it for the 7th, and likely final, time last year. Sadly, it didn't hold up: I've moved on, as has the world of literature, and Western culture at large. I re-sampled some of Melville's other stories, and found that only Bartleby the Scrivener still retains its essential weirdness and relevance, without disfiguring elements of unconscious racism.

I've read Lord of the Rings more than 6 times, and I'm in the middle of reading it aloud to my youngest child. That one holds up.

Surprisingly, Dune holds up as well -- I've read that 4-5 times over the decades, most recently 2 years ago.

Other rewarding re-reads (in no particular order) include: Blood Meridian, 1984, A Winter's Tale (Helprin), Fahrenheit 451, The Secret Sharer, The Great Gatsby, A Christmas Carol, anything from Shakespeare, A Clockwork Orange, Riddley Walker.

I'm going to bring in the recently deceased novelist James Salter. Often called a "writer's writer," he was certainly a reader's writer. Transcendent, limpid prose that is like a drug (in the best possible sense!). "Light Years" or "A Sport and a Pastime" are probably the best places to start. Surely the best writer to come out of West Point (intrigued?).

Gotta sing the praises of Mark Helprin also. The first time I read "Soldier of the Great War" I read it straight through without sleep. Slept eight hours then read it again. Never before or since I have I done that. His short story collection "The Pacific" is the best one author collection I've ever read. I've reread Tolkien numerous times and also Dune. I've read at least a couple of books a week for over 60 years. Generally read new to me books, but some books HAVE to be reread. Considering Moby Dick again, but the loooooooooooooong description of ship is holding me back.

'Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it.'

Vladimir Nabokov

Hi Mike, Had to laugh last night.
My wife was watching reruns of the first series of 'Cheers' when I walked into the room. After a few minutes that ditzy blonde said she was thinking of spending the evening in bed with The Brothers Karamazov.
You can imagine the look on Ted Danson's face.
All I could think was about the culture level of this post being "raised"?

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