Sunday, October 4, 2015
Taking A Second Look At Favorite Books
When I wrote about the Tuck & Patti concert we enjoyed several weeks ago, I mentioned how Patti reminded the audience to listen to old favorite songs over again. This was so that we could look at the songs in a fresh light. Being a Bookhead who enjoys reading I thought that can apply to reading favorite books as well. It was rather fortuitous that at that same time of the concert I came cross a book at the library about rereading books. The book is: Nothing Remains The Same: Rereading and Remembering by Wendy Lesser.
Wendy Lesser begins the book discussing how at one point she was rereading a Henry James novel, The Portrait of a Lady, and that experience had a startling effect on her reading experience. She shared how she had first read the book as an undergrad student and then in her graduate classes. Then the time she spoke of in her first chapter she was rereading it when she was in her forties. She found that she was looking and listening to the book from a totally different perspective from when she read it as a young student.
She found herself understanding the characters of the book in a different manner from the eyes of her own life experiences. In her words, “…I used to be tempted to skip ahead, I now wanted to saunter through the commas, linger at the semicolons, and take small contemplative breaks at the periods. The book was a much better that I had remembered it. More to the point, I was a much better reader of it. Both pleasure and understanding came more easily to me.” (page 2). This reminded me of mandatory readings in my college experience. There was always the temptation to skip ahead to have the reading over and done with. On the otherhand leisure reading that was enjoyable was always a more slow pace taking in fully what the author was saying.
She also makes the point that when rereading a book it is a new experience. “The idea that a simple rereading could also be a new reading struck me with a force of a revelation. It meant that something old wasn’t necessarily outdated, used up or overly familiar.” (page 2) The book then goes through a series of books that she reread and she shares what she learned from each of the rereading experiences. It is interesting how in many cases she remembered when she read the books for the first time and what was going on in her life at that time. Memories are powerful. She then would share how her rereading showed the books from a different perspective as she was at a different point in her life journey.
I have reread a few books over my reading life and I do agree with Ms. Lesser that the different life perspective does add value to the reading experience. I remember reading Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis as a young teen and the impact of his logic and thinking had on my thoughts on the competing worldviews that I was thinking about at the time. Then as an adult I reread Mere Christianity and I was able to understand more of it on a second reading and had a deeper appreciation for his thoughtful writing.
Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is another book I remember reading when I was searching ideas in high school and then I reread it as I began teaching college students later in life. Again the rereading is affected by being at a differing point on the life journey. I was able to understand the need for purpose more as I had traveled more life experiences than when I was in high school. So Frankl’s book holds so much more meaning to me in my later years.
Of course as a Christian I have reread the Bible and numerous portions of it over and over again. With each time I read a certain passage I can gain new life lessons based on what life experience I am going through at that moment in time. I am sure those of other religious faiths experience the same with their religious writings.
This book piqued my interest in other books I will want to reread in the future. Of course I emphasize the future as I have mentioned my next year of reading will be tied to my soon to start dissertation work on my PhD in Psychology. As I contemplate rereading some of my favorite books I realize I have quite a long list of first time read books that I have facing me as well. Of course that is the life of a Bookhead. At least I have interesting mind growing opportunities as I look at my ever-growing list of books to read. But with this book on rereading I will definitely begin adding to the list favorite books I want to reread.
Reflection: Is there a book you have reread? Think about the experience. Did you view the book differently in the various times you reread it? Are there other books you want to reread? Think over two books you want to reread. Why do you want to reread them?