I wonder if they have another word for the stack of books you intend to re-read?
Mind you, there are plenty enough books in the world I still need to read. I could stay busy the rest of my life reading those and never finish.
Some books, however, beg to be re-read. The characters and the settings and the plot a the dialogue all remain alive in your head, like the memory of an old friend. After awhile, you start to forget the tiny details, then bigger pieces until you start to lose even the picture of that friend’s face in your mind. You feel a longing to revisit that image and see you old friend again.
With a book, that means it’s time to re-read it.
- Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry — my brother turned me on Lowry, and I devoured whatever I could lay my hands on. I’ve re-read his October Ferry to Gabriola several times, but I have yet to return to Volcano, the most explosive of his works. Perhaps one day when I feel up to reading his rich descriptions of inner torture and depression — but I will need to save up strength to confront it again (though I can’t wait to return to the featured cantina Todos Contentos Y Yo Tambien!).
- Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon — This was an assigned book for a course I took back in 1975. The instructor allowed as how he would not require us to read the entirety of it, but he had considered using it as the sole text for the semester. Me, I loved it and read several more of Pynchon’s works as he re-emerged from his hiatus — I have several more recent ones he’s written to catch up on, but I bought another copy of this not too long ago.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude. Gabriel Garcia Marquez — I remember this novel but vaguely, more as a sensation of the time I spent reading it than as the book itself. I suppose that’s part of the wonder of magical realism, and a big reason I wish to return to this one again.
Those three right there represent the high end of my re-reading list — a major commitment of time for each of them. I will scale those summits of lofty literature again — and I have not done so recently, and I’m not quite ready just yet.
Then, there’s a handful of books I routinely re-read every few years, returning to the recognizable writing and characters, settings and stories again. The beauty of re-reading and re-reading is when you have novels that continue to unveil hidden surprises for you upon each re-reading.
My favorites for frequent re-reading:
- The Eighth Day, Thorton Wilder — confession: if I was limited to one book only forever, this would probably be it. Wilder weaves a mix of tales and people and intertwining lives that I’ve revisited repeatedly — most recently just last year — and never been disappointed.
- Strange Peaches, Edwin “Bud” Shrake — set in Dallas in November 1963, this Texas tale runs roughshod over your expectations on a fun and furious ride, filled with weird characters and real-life events. Hearing Bud Shrake talk about those days just reinforces the written comment he included with his autograph: “This is how it was in Dallas in those times — for me.”
- All My Friends are Going to be Strangers, Larry McMurtry — I read this one when it first came out, and it remains a solid old friend I can rely for for entertainment and enlightenment. Danny Deck’s adventures as a young Texas writer opened my imagination as a youngster, and I never fail to enjoy a return run.
Of course, there’s Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, an old favorite I first read nearly 50 years ago. I’ve been wondering whether to re-read the originally published version, or the more recently released “uncut” version.
Oh, I have to order a replacement for another long-lost favorite, Ringolevio by Emmet Grogan. I think I’ve given away 2 copies of that one so far — and promised another oe to a friend. Think I’d re-read it first.
Gotta go now — lotsa reading to catch up on!