Open Book this afternoon (love not being at work and being able to listen to Radio 4 ALL DAY!) was all about re-reading. So I started thinking about the books I read and re-read. Some books I re-read because I wasn't paying attention the first time. I have been known to finish a book and then start it again immediately. This is partly because of the way I read. If I've got to read a book to study it, I usually have to read it twice. On the first time through I'm reading for plot, structure, the big picture. Then the second time through, I notice the details, the individual sentences and words.
But that's not really the sort of re-reading the programme was about. What are the books that you re-read again and again? For me, there are several. The Bible, obviously, although that's a different sort of reading. But for escapism, Pride and Prejudice is pretty high on my list. Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate come to mind as comfort reading, the familiar books I go to when life is a little scary (I last read them in January this year just after moving to Cambridge.) It's about familiarity and (mostly) happy endings. A Room with a View fits into that category too. I suppose all four are partly about romantic dreams and wish fulfillment. Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time is a re-read for different reasons. I've read it twice so far and I can see myself returning to it at different points in my life. I think I've blogged about it before as a sort of measure of life, of where one is in relation to the progression of the various characters.
I've just looked around my bookshelves and I can't see many books I've loved reading that I haven't subsequently re-read. I'm currently re-reading The Once and Future King by T H White, in a paperback edition I used to carry around in my blazer pocket at school, as I later carried around The Name of the Rose. Both books I read and re-read countless times, because I loved them.
I think that's my verdict. If a book's really worth reading, it's worth reading again. There have been books I've finished and never wanted to read again, indeed books I wish I'd never read. But many books, oh so many books, that I come back to again and again and again.
What are yours?