Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On rereading books

I did something 2 weeks ago that I very rarely do. I reread a book. In fact, I reread THE book, Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, that I've been talking up to pretty much everyone I know. I just recently shelled out a ton of cash on a signed first edition copy of the book for Rothfuss' "Worldbuilders" fundraiser, but I realized I hadn't actually read it for over 2 years and I couldn't even remember details well enough to explain why it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. So I figured, what the hey, why not read it again and see if I still like it. Yep, it was still completely and totally awesome. Picked up on even more awesomeness this time around. I'm not going to review it now, really because I can't quite put my finger on why I like it so much. I mean, the story itself is kind of the traditional kid learns magic, pisses off people, and eventually becomes a hero, except that it's not. Kvothe is not Harry Potter, Kvothe isn't even Ged, though Earthsea is what people tend to compare it to what with the naming of things and all. The book is at once familiar and at the same time completely original. Look, a magical school! Look a rich student who is a complete tool for no apparent reason! Look a quirky, yet all knowing professor! What makes Name of the Wind special is the language, the writing. The words are elegant, yet simple, but not in a bad way. But I digress... This isn't a posting about Name of the Wind specifically. Rather, its about the pleasure of rereading books.

I don't reread very often. I mean, I know the story right? I know what happens in the end (Or in the case of Name of the Wind, I don't because the second book hasn't come out yet so I'm free to use my nerdy little imagination). There are definitely a lot of TV episodes and movies I've seen at least 10 times. There is a comfort in watching, say, The Simpsons or Indiana Jones, because you know how the characters are going to act. It's the thrill of anticipation for that great scene or line you know is coming up. I can literally quote Princess Bride almost from start to finish along with the movie, but I still watch it almost every time its on TNT. Sometimes, you can even predict the way the story is going to end on new shows, which is especially true with comfortable mysteries. So I guess that's reason why people enjoy reading book series that go on forever. Its like a TV show. You can go back and visit with old imaginary friends and neighbors, excited about what might happen, but at the same time reassured that your hero will live for the next installment (usually). But really, the only series I've ever felt this way about has been Harry Potter. Anything else longer than a trilogy usually fails to hold my interest.

For some reason the same pleasure I get from watching an old episode of Star Trek doesn't translate itself into a need to reread a book again. Maybe its because it just takes so much longer (though not all that long, knowing me). Probably it is because I have such a long "to be read" list that I feel like rereading would take time away from "more important things." But its kind of depressing as a librarian that there are so many books I give to people that I give my stamp of approval to that I can't even remember that well. And the number of books I have read more than once is really small: all the Harry Potters, To Kill a Mockingbird, Prydain Chronicles, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Stardust, The Odyssey, Charlotte's Web, Lord of the Rings, Much Ado About Nothing, Island of the Blue Dolphins, A Wrinkle in Time, Inkheart, and... hm...that's about all that I can think of off the top of my head. Mouse and the Motorcycle definitely, um... Fahrenheit 451 I'm pretty sure. As you can see, they are mostly children's books. Many I reread because I wanted to recommend them to kids. Others because I'm a fangirl. Sue me. But there are a lot of books that I often count among my favorites that I have never read more than once. Or, if I read them more than once, I can't actually remember all that much about them except that they were good and for some reason I decided they were my most favorite ever. Seriously, I can't remember the actual plot details of 60% of things I read 6 months after reading them so this shouldn't come as a huge surprise.

So, with that being said, I've decided to reread a bunch of books and evaluate whether or not I still like them as much as I did before. Some I read as a kid or in high school, some I read just a few years ago but still can't remember them to save my life, some have been made into movies and I can't remember which details were also in the novel, a bunch are from the same handful of authors I was crazy for in college. Ongoing challenge, I have no expectations of finishing all these this year on top of all the other reading I'm doing. Just putting it out there. I don't really feel like rereading books that I didn't really enjoy that much the first time, as educational as that might be. Instead this challenge is to reread books that at some point in my life I have considered to be among my "favorites" or have actively recommended to friends/ library patrons, regardless of whether or not I actual remember them. I'm going to stick with those books that have left really strong impressions on me, but I couldn't booktalk or write a book report on today. I am, however, going to reread Dune for an upcoming post, despite the fact that I remember the book pretty well, because I was really, really obsessed with it in 7th grade for some reason and I'm trying to figure out why.

Possible rereads:
Dune - Frank Herbert - REREAD on Audio - completed 6/10

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

Sandman series - Neil Gaiman

Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut

Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut

Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut

Mysteries of Pittsburgh - Michael Chabon

Motherless Brooklyn - Jonathan Lethem

Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Catch 22 - by Joseph Heller

Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingles Wilder

Walden - Henry David Thoreau

Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury

Devil's Arithmetic - Jane Yolen

Number the Stars - Lois Lowry

Ramona the Pest - Beverly Cleary

Egypt Game - Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh

Are You There God, It's Me Margaret - Judy Blume

Siddhartha - Herman Hesse

Candide - Voltaire

White Fang - Jack London

On the Road - Jack Keruoac

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold - John LeCarre

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