16 Jul, 2021

Read and read again?

Does anyone read books more than once?  It seems so, when people quote their favourites and the pleasure they get from re-reading them.

I was thinking about this the other day after a faithful follower of this blog reminded me that in August last year I had written about a dictionary – but no ordinary dictionary – that I like to consult from time to time; and if you’ve not read it, click the amber.   “What other books have made a mark?”, he asked.

So, thinking first about books actually read more than once, I reckon that for me they’re limited to things studied for exams; occasional re-reads of Shakespeare plays before going to see them performed (so as not to shame myself); rarely, taking something from the shelves on holiday, because new books were preferred; and that’s about it.  Moving on, I wondered about situations where particular books might be suitable, and this sprang to mind.

In the last 12 months or more, many of us have spent considerable periods of time at home – the pandemic effect.  For my sins, or rather for my illness, I also spent 16 days total in hospital for the three operation attempts in the last few months of last year.  So I asked myself the question: did I miss an opportunity to re-read something suitable, something calming, something that could lead me gently into a more comforting world?

And there it was.  With all that time available, and for me with the backdrop of physical discomfort, why hadn’t I done it?   When I read them originally, years ago, I’d said to myself, “David, you’ve really enjoyed these.  They’ve floated you away.  You’ve been engrossed for weeks.  Remember that”.  Well I didn’t remember.

They?  These?  Yes, more than one. The Chronicles of Barsetshire by Anthony Trollope are six novels.  I’m looking across the room at them now.  It must be at least ten years since I read them.  Maybe it’s a good time, for me anyway, to amble through them again.  You can google them so I won’t say much here, but I will quote a few phrases from the Wikipedia summary: … “published between 1855 and 1867 …. set in the fictional English county of Barsetshire and its cathedral town of Barchester …. the novels concern the dealings of the clergy and the gentry, and the political, amatory and social manoeuvrings that go on among them.”

The Warden, followed by Barchester Towers, then Doctor Thorne, on to Framley Parsonage, and The Small House at Allington, and finally The Last Chronicle of Barset – together quite a read, but a good one.  Some characters: John Bold, Archdeacon Grantly, Dr Proudie and his imperious wife Mrs Proudie, Chaplain Slope, Mr Quiverful, Sir Roger Scatcherd, the corrupt MP Nate Sowerby, Lord and Lady Lufton, Lady Alexandria de Courcy and colourful others.

For a bit of escapism, worth a try?  It certainly worked for me, and might do so again.  

6 Comments

  1. Read books again? You betcha. Some of them are my best friends. Some are comfort food for the brain and soul. Some are sure fire pick-me-ups. Some are just so beautifully written that I delight in the language. Some I notice and learn more with each reading. A few years ago, I got rid of all my paperback books. After a few weeks, I had to go to my favorite used book site and order hardcover copies of some of my favorites. Well, I’m a librarian, after all. The Bible; Charlotte’s Web (surely the best book about friendship ever written, with exquisite language); The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (8 times and counting, imho the best book of the 20th century); Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael series; Little Women; anything by Jane Austen; A Christmas Carol, so superior to any of the movies; and many more. Maybe I need to get one of those t-shirts that says “It’s not hoarding if it’s books”. I’m just now rereading Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical fiction trilogy on Roman Britain that begins with “The Eagle of the Ninth.” And if you don’t know her version of King Arthur, you’ve missed something.

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  2. Nancy…. I love the t-shirt! ! I would send it to my brother, who is moving house, after 30 years in one place, but who has collected books all this life.
    He has a library of heaven knows how many thousands of books, and just doesn’t know where to start to clear out the ones he doesn’t want/need. He wails to his wife ” I might want to read them again” and she asks him dourly, “Well, pick out the ones you want to read again, and donate the rest!” This is followed by another anguished groan from Himself. Decision time obviously…. I bet he packs the lot.

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  3. Absolutely, often read books more than once, some because I loved them as a child like Wind in the Willows and of course Pooh ( I know, you can read it in Latin David), some because they remind me of people like “For the term of his Natural life” a contemporaneous account of transportation to Australia my Grandfather recommended and some just because I forgot I had read them before! The latter usually caused by a change of cover so I don’t recognise them in the second hand bookshop.

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  4. My father loved the Chronicles of Barsetshire, too. He urged me to read them as did you, and this reminder has prompted me to seek them out. This hot afternoon in the garden would have been the ideal time to start! One of my favourite re-reads is The Cazalet Chronicles, five books by Elizabeth Jane Howard. It’s a family saga spanning the lives of various generations during the the years of the Second World War. I have returned to it several times and love the characters as well as the gentle humour and fine use of language and storytelling

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  5. Re-reading is a great pleasure for me. I have a very large library having been an avid bibliophile since I was about 8 years old!! People seeing my library for the first time often say ‘Have you read all these?!!!” to which I reply – “No but I’m aiming to give it a good try!!” But I can’t resit returning to some old faithfuls from time to time. Like Nancy, I am a great fan of Rosemary Sutcliff and her trilogy is a definite read every couple of years. They are hidden gems of depth and sensitivity. Others regularly opened – The Warden & Barchester Towers – can’t quite take to the remaining volumes. Tolkien, Alan Garner, Hardy – particularly The Woodlanders and The Return of the Native. I’m re-reading some Lytton Strachey at the moment. Not everyones cup of tea but a beautiful stylist and word painter! My current new book is a Biography of the Tudor Courtier and Poet, Thomas Wyatt by a former Cambridge friend Susan Brigden.

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  6. I can think of many books I have loved and reread (some mentioned above) but I can also think of a few which were simply amazing as a teenager but a disappointment later in life – Catcher in the Rye or many of Christopher Isherwood’s novels which I had treasured when doing my A levels but found turgid later in life. Happy reading David.

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