Sunday, February 17, 2008

Eternally returning

For the last few years, I've been reading as fast as I can to keep up with the influx of new books to review. Because of review assignments, there's no doubt I've read a lot more books than I probably would have for pleasure. Just this week I finished Iain Banks' Matter, an astounding science fiction adventure for which I never would have found time if it hadn't been part of my job. (Rule #1 for happiness: Take what you enjoy doing, and make it your job if you can -- or at least find some way to obligate yourself to others for doing it.)

But the need to stay ahead of the curve in new books means giving up the opportunity to go back and reread favorites. I still manage to reread The Deed Of Paksenarrion, my favorite book and a source of continuous inspiration, every year. But other books -- not to mention series -- sit on the library shelves, and every once in a while I envy those encountering them for the first time and vow to return to them someday, before I die.

Chief among those pleasures for which I long is Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. How I wish I could immerse myself in its dense jargon for a month or so, never coming up for air! Similarly, Jane Austen's collected works form an encompassing atmosphere of diction and emotion that I would gladly breathe exclusively for as long as it lasted.

I wish, too, that I could go back to the books I reread obsessively as a child -- Charles Lindbergh's The Spirit Of St. Louis, Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, the autobiography of Agatha Christie (one source of my enduring Anglophilia). Or the books that blew my mind in college -- The Soul Of A New Machine by Tracy Kidder, Stop-Time by Frank Conroy, Into The Heart by Kenneth Good.

As long as the stack of review copies teeters by my bedside, though, I'll be putting off those trips. Not forever, though, I hope. I imagine that if I get myself a Kindle, I'll manage to dip into my list of perennials much more often. Meanwhile, is there some way to make a job out of returning to old favorites, I wonder?

What books do you most want to reread?


Timothy said...

I want to read every novel Toni Morrison has written. I'm 4 novels in, so wish me luck. I try to re-read "The Bluest Eye" every year, just to see if it will make me cry again. It always does.

As a teenager, I read and re-read "A Separate Peace." Once, I devoured it in an afternoon while laying on my bed and flipped to the beginning and started it again.

I re-read poetry collections, too. I can never get enough of Whitman's Complete Works, and in my younger young adult life, I was always drawn back to Plath's "Ariel."

W.E.B. Adamant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
W.E.B. Adamant said...

I agree with Tim on Whitman (coincidentally, I just bought "Ariel".)

I tagged you over at AF. You can take it or leave it, but I thought it would be interesting to see what you had to say.

W.E.B. Adamant said...

Oh, and I'd like to add Orson Scott Card's Ender series. I loved the spiritual aspect of that series against the hard, tactical aspect of the Bean series.

katie j. said...

If you can find a way to teach a class on any of those old favorites, you'll be pretty much bound to rereading them.

I could spend the evening listing books I'd love to reread. If my hand so much as grazes a favorite book, I'm guaranteed to spend some time perusing favorite passages.

Eric Grubbs said...

Stephen King's On Writing

Adam Villani said...

I have enough trouble getting around to reading everything I want to read once. That said, I have re-read a few things years after the fact, if I don't remember them all that well. I recently re-read a collection of T.S. Eliot poetry, and I think I got it less this time around than I did the first time. I read Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" in high school and then re-read it a couple years later, and it made a lot more sense.

Right now I'm in the middle of both Thomas Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon" and Steve Gerber et al's "The Essential Man-Thing."

Stephanie said...

War and Peace, War and Peace, War and Peace.

I just received the new translation as a gift and it may have to leapfrog to the top of the pile of books next to my bed.

All the Kings Men.
The Museum of Happiness.
there are more but I have to run.