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Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Discussion: Re-Reading

One thing I have learned in the 10 years I have been working with readers and training librarians is that there are a lot of people out there who like to re-read their favorite books. Some, I have found, re-read a favorite book once a year.

I myself am not a big re-reader, but there are a few books I have purposely gone back and read again. The only book I have ever read more than 3 times (I am probably up to 6) is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I also happen to have another strange rule with this book: I refuse to own a copy.

Let me explain how my crazy brain works. Bradbury wrote this classic book in the LA Public Library, using their pay-by-the-hour typewriters. Most copies of the book include an introduction explaining how important the public library is as a defense to those who want to squash our 1st Amendment rights. I feel one of my duties as a champion for public libraries is to check this book out of the library only. Owning it, to my quirky brain, is an affront to Bradbury's message.

Obviously the message of this book (the right to read anything you want) strikes a cord with me. But each time I re-read it, I get something new out of the novel.

Thinking back, I have also re-read Little Women and To Kill a Mockingbird in order to experience them during different stages of my life.  I have found new inspiration and interpretations each time I have read these novels, but again, they were purposely read when I was in a new stage in my personal life. I would estimate I have read each 3 times. But until my kids are ready to read these books, I don't see myself reading them again.

One of the assignments my students can choose to do for their research papers is to look into a book that has had made an impact on society. We often suggest to students who are interested in this assignment that they look to classic books they enjoyed as children/young adults and re-read them. We ask them to add their changing impressions about the book and its appeal to them personally to their research paper on the book's larger impact on society. Some of the most popular books researched over the past 6 years are Catcher in the Rye, Little Women, Dracula, To Kill and Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, and 1984.

So for today's Monday Discussion: What books do you re-read and why? If you a huge fan of re-reading, please share why you love it. On the flip side, if you do not like to re-read let us know why.

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Kathy BPL RA said...

I am not a re-reader. Very few books have I read more than once. Mostly the reason is because there are just so many books out there that I feel like it's a waste of time to re-read even though I know this is really not true. That being said I will always re-read a book club book that I have read previously. And there are several books I have read more than once including "To Kill a Mockingbird", "The Master and Margarita", "A Wrinkle in Time", "Alice in Wonderland", and "A Confederacy of Dunces." I guess the difference is that these are some of my all time favorite books.

Anonymous said...

I re-read also! "Sounder" by William Armstrong, "S" by Slavenka Drakulic, "The Secret History" by Donna Tart, "The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald and "S Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving. And all the Scaredy Squirrel books by Melanie Watt. Sometimes it has to do with sentimental reasons or memories associated with the book as well as the book itself. Good topic Becky!

John BPL RA said...

I have about 4 that, for personal, life-guiding reasons I go back to. Of these books only one, in my opinion, MUST be read again by anyone who was ever assigned to read it in school. That book is A Clockwork Orange. As many of you may know, A Clockwork Orange was printed (and taught) in the U.S. in an incomplete form for years. The reason for this was because the American publisher did not like the ending and thus omitted the final chapter. As a result, countless millions of American students and teachers have read and misunderstood one of the most powerful books in English literature. This is a situation that really bothers me. It troubled Anthony Burgess so much that he wouldn't even discuss his greatest book later in life. To make matters even worse Stanley Kubrick, when he made the film version, based it on the American release due to the book being banned in the UK. Everyone that watches the film gets the shortened (i.e. incorrect) ending as well. Burgess deliberately and symbolically wrote A Clockwork Orange in 21 chapters because 21 was the age at which the state recognizes the individual as an adult. In the final chapter the story is revealed to be a distant memory. The world is proclaimed to be "in the rookers of Bog" (hands of God) and thus takes on a theological standpoint that contrasts with the earlier nihilism of the droogs. It is an emotional and shocking ending. It makes a finalized statement about youth and about the nature of the universe. This book has, for a number of years now, been reprinted in full length as the author intended with all 21 chapters. Do yourself a favor. Read it again.

Becky said...

John, thanks for pointing out A Clockwork Orange. This was another example of a book done by a student for the assignment mentioned in the original post.