Reading and Rereading Books

I love to read. I will read just about anything — short stories, novellas, novels, poetry, non-fiction, religious books, philosophy, political books, Linux manuals, biographies, autobiographies, and running books. I used to read a book or two each week. Unfortunately, now days, I do not read anywhere close to that rate. Reading books is one thing, but how many people ever reread a book?

There are few books I have reread. Books I remember rereading are Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, and The Sun Also Rises; John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, and The Winter of Our Discontent; Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front; Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, Thoughts in Solitude, and No Man Is an Island; and Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and Dandelion Wine. Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera are two books I have wanted to reread. Henry David Thoreau’s Walden is one I have reread several times. The rereading of these books have not been brought about by having to read them for a class and then later for personal enjoyment or study.

Why reread books? If one wants to learn the craft of writing, then one should study it by studying good and bad books. Wait! Bad? Badly written books are a good study tool. They teach you how poor plotting, pacing, dialogue, and characters can hurt a story. I admit I have not reread any bad books. It is hard to put myself through the experience of a bad book again after having read it once.

One also may reread books for the love of the story. Some people will reread their favorite books every so many years, such as I do with Thoreau’s Walden, Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude, Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. These books provide a sense of grounding for me. They tap at the heart of existence and are timeless in message.

I noticed as I wrote this post, that I have not reread any of today’s best known writers or books. I do not know why that is. It is not that I only reread classics. I think there are some books and writers of today that will become classics of tomorrow. Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams, Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, and Kent Haruf’s Plainsong, I think will be classics of tomorrow. Perhaps rereading books has to do with finding time to read. As I stated above, I just do not read as much as I used to read. And this I have to fix.

If you feel the same, then pick up a book you have wanted to read or a book you have read. Turn off the computer or the television and just enjoy.


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