Thursday 21 July 2011

BTT: On re-reading

What’s the first book that you ever read more than once? (I’m assuming there’s at least one.)

What book have you read the most times? And–how many?

I'm not sure really!  I used to re-read books constantly as a child.  Some of the books I remember reading and re-reading over and over again include various Enid Blyton series (The Magic Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair, Noddy, Malory Towers, St. Clare's, The Children of Cherry Tree Farm, The Famous Five...), Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables and Susan Coolidge's What Katy Did.  Stories about good kids with rampant imaginations who went on adventures and did all kinds of wonderful things!  I took a subset of these books everywhere - in the car to the shops, on holiday, anywhere that involved travelling really - and read and reread them voraciously in between trips to the library.  Lordy, those were the days...

These days I still re-read my favourite books, but at a rather slower and less frantic pace!  Aside from the Harry Potter books, which for the most part I used to reread every time a book came out (I've only read #7 once - I think it might be time for a renewed sweep through the whole series...), I'm not really sure what I've reread most.  There are definitely certain books that seem to keep swinging around on a regular basis.  I know it's 'time' because it becomes like an itch that needs to be scratched, or a craving that won't go away - I get preoccupied by that book and within a couple of months will have picked it up to enjoy again. 

Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are fairly regular re-reads, the latter more so than the former I think.  I first read Jane Eyre at a much younger age, and the shadow of my earlier fear of Lowood school and the terrifying presence of Bertha Mason at Thornfield still hangs over me when I think about it! 

I reread The Picture of Dorian Gray very regularly - that might be my most-reread title, in fact.  I bought it when I was about eleven, a Penguin Popular Classics edition from Waterstones in Llandudno (how's that for buyer memory?), fell totally in love with Dorian and the witty pleasure-seeking Henry, and have never looked back!  It's just an amazing book.  It's decadent and sensual and witty and gothic and scary - and I always well up a little bit at the end.  In fact, I'd even say that when that idle question 'Hmmm, what would I call my future kids?' comes up, Dorian's right up there for a boy.  Fabulous.

In terms of non-classics, there are a few more books I regularly re-read.  Bill Bryson is definitely up there, particularly Notes from a Big Country.  Being a collection of short articles, rather than one long narrative, it's that much easier to dip in and out of when I'm bored or need an easy read or a light pick-me-up.  Plus it's very funny, which definitely helps!

I also re-read two books I found around the same time and which are now firm favourites of mine: Donna Tartt's The Secret History and Jeremy Mercer's Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs: The Left Bank World of Shakespeare and Co.  Both are fantastic and come highly recommended!  And both are fairly bookish, of course.  The Secret History is about a group of elite scholars at a small American college whose preoccupation with the classics leads them to murder the most annoying of their number.  Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs is Mercer's account of his time living and working at Shakespeare and Co. under the watchful eye of wonderfully eccentric owner George.  I know both of these are due a re-read because I'm getting all twitchy just writing this!  It's been too long since I read either of them...

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to carry on with my all-new exploration of The Princess Bride, and rather appropriately, to continue my re-read of So Many Books, So Little Time, which is proving much more enjoyable the second time around!