Saturday 19 September 2015

Pretending to be a Man Booker Judge or the Art of Rereading

When I was writing my post for A Little Life recently, I got to wondering about the handful of books that I have actually read through six times (or more) during my life time.

What made these books stand out for me so much that I had to return to them over and over again?

I've discussed the pleasures and merits of rereading several times on my blog (the main post is here.)

My list of 6+ reads includes many childhood favourites (when I actually had the leisure time to reread books ad nauseam!)

Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink
The Secret Island by Enid Blyton
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
Mr Galliano's Circus by Enid Blyton
Little Women and Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott

But I'm not sure any of these books are worthy of a Man Booker Prize!

Not so many adult books have reached the heady heights of 6+ rereads though. In fact there are only two.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen

Now, if the Man Booker Prize were to ever decide to award a posthumous prize to anyone, my money would be on Jane Austen. This could be done - there's already a Lost MB Prize, The Best of the Booker and The MB Best of Beryl Prize. What's to stop them from adding a MB Classics Prize?

Jane Austen easily fits into the MB judging criteria which is "the best novel in the opinion of the judges."

The criteria also states 'The aim was to increase the reading of quality fiction and to attract “the intelligent general audience”.'

Again, Jane Austen is all over this! 

Curiously, when I was researching this over at the MB website, I noticed that the MB International Prize has now evolved into a book in translation prize starting in 2016. I was also pleased to note that the prize money for the new International Prize will be shared equally by the author and the translator.

The 3 reread club is a little fuller though:

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery
The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen
Into the Forest by Jean Hegland
Most of the books in the Trixie Belden series
Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien
The Stand by Stephen King
The first three books in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King
Jo's Boys and Little Men by Louisa may Alcott
What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

The twice read book list is too numerous to go into.

Not many award winning books have made it into my multiple reread lists. Does this say something about my reading habits? Or about the books that win awards? Or maybe it's a simple as the difference between adult reading and childhood reading.

As an adult I have had access to far more books than I ever did as a child. I also don't have the leisure time I did when I was a kid or more correctly, I chose to use my adult leisure time in more varied ways.

I still love to reread when I get the chance, but there are just so many new, shiny books out there that I haven't read yet, that rereading feels like a real indulgence now.

What's your rereading philosophy?


  1. I used to re-read books more when I was a child than I do now - mainly because I didn't have as many books then as now! I've no idea how many times I re-read them, but it was lots. Like you I re-read The Secret Island by Enid Blyton, The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, Little Women, Good Wives, Jo's Boys and Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, and the Katy books by Susan Coolidge. As an adult I've re-read Pride and Prejudice countless times and other books a couple of times or more, such as The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. There have been other books I thought I'd re-read but haven't, mainly because when it comes down to it there is only so much time for reading and I have lots of new-to-me books I want to read. But the thought of re-reading books I've loved is enough to make me hang on to them - books like The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro - I've just read The Buried Giant which has made me remember how much I loved his earlier books and I got it off the shelves to look at. It's a case of too many books and not enough time.

    1. Ishiguro is on my reread list for one day too.
      Our recent move helped me work which books to keep and which books to let go - it was the ones I want to reread that stayed with me.

  2. I love to re-read old favourites but as you say, so many new shiny books now! My plan for this year was to change the balance back in favour of more re-reading, but it's only worked to a very small extent. There's something so comforting about returning to a loved book though. Austen and Dickens are the two authors I return to most often in lit-fic, and Reginald Hill in crime.


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