Tuesday 3 September 2013

Classics Club September Meme

I'm a little excited.

This month over at The Classics Club they have selected my question for the September meme.

"Rereading a favourite classic at different stages of your life gives you different insights with each reading. Is there one classic you’ve read several times that also tells a story about you?"

I've reread books all my life. As a child I didn't own many books, so rereading was the only way to feed my need to read daily. Rereading nurtures something deep within my soul. My choice of reread reflects what's going on for me at the time.

When I was young I was drawn to books about adult-free children. I loved the freedom, the independence and the resourcefulness these books portrayed.
(I guess I'm not the only one as there is a whole section of children's books devoted to this theme.)

Early on my favourite reread was a slim early chapter book called Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink. Two young girls, shipwrecked on an island, with 4 babies and toddlers to care for.

I then moved onto The Magic Faraway Tree books by Enid Blyton. Although these children were not orphaned or lost, they went into the forest, made new, strange friends and had adventures in strange lands with unpredictable consequences that they had to deal with.

My next big passion was The Secret Island. Another Enid Blyton with all my classic themes. Orphans, runaways, isolated islands and clever, resourceful children surviving by themselves. The only problem I ever had with this book was the toileting issue. Where did they go to the bathroom? Blyton never mentioned this basic need once. It was only a small island - if they just pooped all over the place randomly, then they would have had some unpleasant walking along in barefoot experiences!

During my late primary years, I discovered my mothers Louisa May Alcott collection and I found reread nirvana. I read the four books so many times in the hope that somehow Jo March's character would rub off on me!

A kind aunt then gave me the first two Trixie Belden books for my tenth birthday. By my 14th birthday I had collected the entire 36 books then in print (another 3 came out later). I reread the entire series several times, but certain books (the ones with a little bit of romance!) got a heavier workout. My needs were changing!

My teens were less about rereads and more about discovery. I scoured second hand bookshops for cheap books and trade-in deals. I devoured lots of romances and light historical fiction dressed up as romance. None of these books warranted a reread. Thankfully I had some good English teachers who lead me towards adult classics and modern literature, so that when I finally emerged from my romance phase I had some ideas on what to turn to next.

The big one, of course, was Jane Austen. Yes, romance is a big part of the Austen oeuvre, but rereading highlights the humour, the clever construction of plot & the sparkling dialogue. I also have oodles of older posts detailing why and how many times I've reread my Austen's.

Curiously my need to be stranded on a desert island returned as an adult as I devoured end-of-the-world drama's. I reread Stephen King's The Stand, Jean Hegland's Into the Forest & John Wyndham's Day of the Trifids several times.

But whenever I need inspiration, the only book to turn to was To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

About 7 years ago I planned a major move. I decided that I had to cull some of my books. It involved lots of hard decisions and lots of quick rereads. I was surprised and disappointed to see that quite a few books that had moved me to tears, to laughter and filled me with joy in my twenties, just didn't cut the mustard in my late thirties. The lessons had been learnt, the message received, I didn't need them any longer. Which made the packing much easier than I had thought!

But ever since then I've been thinking about the reasons why we reread books.

For me it's a matter of survival and sometimes a need for comfort.

What is it for you?


  1. Anonymous3/9/13

    I have never reread a book. The notion: so many books to discover, and so little time...keeps pushing me on to the next read.
    If I were to reread it would be Tale of Two Cities. It was the first book I "studied" during freshman year high school, Eng Lit. I still get goosebumps when I read the last quotation: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." Thank you for your great question and post....

  2. How cool to have your question featured! I have always been a re-reader, sometimes obsessively so (the Little House books when I was a child). I've noticed that my nieces like to hear the same stories read over & over, so maybe it's just something in childhood. I re-read now for the pleasure of meeting old friends again, but also because stories DO change as we do! I'm constantly discovering new insights or sidelights on books I've read many times over the years, like To Kill a Mockingbird - and also now as I read other bloggers' comments & thoughts. A major criteria for whether I keep a book - or buy my own copy - is whether I think it will be re-read.

    1. Thanks Lisa.
      I use the same criteria for buying and keeping books.

  3. I was a serial re-reader when I was younger but now because there are so many books I want to read, I don't tend to re-read at all and in fact I can't remember the last time I re-read a classic. I think it is something I will have to do though. Also, YAY for getting your question featured :)

  4. I used to be a rereader but don't tend to do so as much lately and I think that's simply a matter of availability. I had fewer books available to me then so I reread them. I also think I had a romantic notion of rereading a classic over and over and it being this much loved and battered book that I carried about and gained comfort from by virtually reading any page. I don't quite have the same notions as I've grown up and I also have lots more choice and a much wider scope that I enjoy reading from. Lord of the Rings is one of my most recent rereads but I really only took part in that because it was a readalong and I quite enjoyed being involved plus it gave me the incentive and also I wanted to try one of my old favourites and see how it would compare once reread and then held up against my cherished memory. LotR actually held it's own which is quite reassuring.
    Thanks for the question.
    Lynn :D

  5. Anonymous4/9/13

    Thanks for the question Brona. Love your books that shaped your early years...i think many of us for a long time though that the Enid Blyton kids were the epitome of all that is cool, fun and adventurous. I even wanted to go to boarding school inspired by some of her books. To Kill a Mockingbird is of course one of the most influential books of all times...you already know how strongly I feel about it and I think Ms Lee would be very impressed to know how many generations she continues to inspire and lead through Atticus Finch!

  6. What a wonderful post! I've grown to appreciate re-reading so much in the past year. I read Baby Island over and over again when I was little! There are just certain books that are so great to return to.

    1. You're the first person who has said they also know (and love) Baby Island. I still have my copy :-)

  7. Dude! Yes! "Curiously my need to be stranded on a desert island returned as an adult as I devoured end-of-the-world drama's. I reread Stephen King's The Stand, Jean Hegland's Into the Forest & John Wyndham's Day of the Trifids several times." Same same same! I am really really really into Into the Forest too. Yey. Just finished Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Very good. Have you read that one?

    1. No I haven't.
      What kind of end-of-world scenario does it depict?

  8. Hi, Brona. Thank you very much for the follow! I appreciate it :)

  9. I'm with you ... I reread books for the comfort of returning to a beloved place. (And sometimes I'm just too tired to tackle a new book.) But while some books I've read and reread for years, other books I find once was enough. Great post!

  10. How exciting that your question was featured. And what a great question it was too. And a fascinating post it makes too. I've never heard of Baby Island but have read one of Carol Ryrie Brink's other books, possibly her most famous book -Caddie Woodlawn. I'm so glad that you've kept your original copy of Baby Island. I loved John Wyndham as a young adult, but I don't remember rereading. Indeed I've only really started rereading since last year or two, Ive grown into it. Interesting that you were a rereader form such a young age.

  11. This is an entirely different take on the question. Nice! The Secret Island and the Faraway Tree series were huge favourites of mine as well! I'm not sure that I would be crazy about them now...maybe when I start reading them with my sons some day, I'll be able to recapture the magic. :D

    However, whenever I DO re-read an old childhood favourite I try to keep my analytical mind in check. My main reason for reading them is not to view them as an adult, but to recapture the joy of reading them as a child. Strangely enough I have managed that with books like Heidi and some of the Blyton's I've revisited over the years.

    1. Oh! And as to why I re-read books...I have a couple of reasons: some books I re-read to recapture the thrill, excitement and experience and maybe something more than I did the first time; some books I re-read because they feel like old friends I can relax with and get cozy and comfy with; others I re-read because I feel there is a great deal more for me to glean from them on a second reading that I did from a first. I tend to re-read a great deal! :D

    2. You've summed up beautifully my reasons for rereading as well Risa - thank you :-)

  12. This was an awesome question!! I totally don't re-read books anymore as often as I should. I blame bookblogging, I just keep discovering more good books. But I was a lot like you in that I re-read A LOT as a child, in fact I re-read a lot of the same series that you did!


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