Recently I was faced with an interview question of “If you’re stuck on an island, what three books do you have to have with you?” I brought this up with a group of friends, and of course we wondered about all kinds of qualifiers – are you ever going to see people again, does a collection/series count as one selection, is there wi-fi on this island, etc. It’s a toughy. One of my friends and I agreed on a bigger problem, however – we don’t reread books.
And that is making my New Year’s Resolution very difficult to stay committed to. Back in (okay, I was late) February, I decided that I would reread my top 25 favorite books to see if they still meant as much to me now as they did when I first read them. As of this moment, I have about 8 left to go. And it’s killing me. Not because I’m finding I don’t love them after all, but because I just do not enjoy rereading books. I have a freakish memory anyway, and so rarely am I finding that I’ve forgotten anything about these stories. I don’t get much new out of them. And so, as I’m reading, I’m finding myself glaring at the pages yet to go in my right hand and just wishing to be done. Which is bad, because I do love these books. Rereading is proving to me that I kind of wish I could just hold onto my memories from the first time I read them – my initial loves, surprises, fascination, etc.
However, so far there is one book from my Top 25 List that I’ve discovered does NOT mean as much to me now as it originally did, and so I guess this is accomplishing what I originally intended. “My Name is Asher Lev” is the book I’ve most drifted from loving. At the time (in college), I got a lot out of the book because it was about an artist trying to break from his familial/religious mold to find his artistic identity. Now, I just don’t connect with that anymore. It was a very important book to me during that particular time in my life, but now maybe I’ve just outgrown it. Odd, considering I reread “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator” and don’t feel I’ve outgrown that one at all, but whatever.
Fortunately, all of the other books (so far) that I thought were my favorites really are my favorites, so there’s that. And (again as a lover of lists and checkmarks), I’m finally able to commit to rating these as 5-stars, because now I’m sure. I’m also sure this is making some of my friends happier, since I used to have a very gymnastic-scoring-eque approach to rating books, proclaiming there’s no such thing as a perfect 10. But I guess a perfect 5 I can commit to. Go me.
So, anyway, here’s my Top 25 Favorite Books List:
The Time Quartet (L’Engle)
Jane Eyre (Bronte)
The Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (Poe)
Twelfth Night (Shakespeare)
Freedom in Exile (Dalai Lama)
The Demon in the Freezer (Preston)
I Was Told There’d Be Cake (Crosley)
Young Kate: The Remarkable Hepburns… (Andersen)
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (Dahl)
The Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis)
Through the Looking Glass (Carroll)
Agent to the Stars (Scalzi)
The Dark Tower (King)
The Raw Shark Texts (Hall)
Kane and Abel (Archer)
Still to read:
The Vampire Lestat (Rice)
Speaker for the Dead (Card)
Shadow of the Hegemon (Card)
Shadow of the Giant (Card)
A Game of Thrones (Martin)
The Cosmic Trilogy (Lewis)
My Name is Asher Lev (Potok)
Out of curiosity:
Has anyone else done this? Does anyone else have this problem when rereading books?
I’ve always loved rereading books, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself getting impatient with it. I do have certain passages that stick in my brain, verbatim, but there are times I catch myself skimming for the “favorite” parts. If I were to do as you’re doing, I’m willing to bet I’d demote many of my “so good I have to own this forever and ever” books to the “I’ll borrow them from a friend if I really get the hankering” status. Part of my waning rereading might be due to having so many potentially good books in the queue and not having the time to bother with ones I’ve already gone through.
I completely agree that the desire to read the books in my queue is a deterrent for rereading. I’d always rather expose myself to something new.
I know that’s why my poor DVD collection doesn’t get re-viewed much – the abundance of options on Netflix is too much of a draw. 🙂