Reads and re-reads

I’m quite a voracious reader – I always have been. I’ve never really kept track of what I read until this year – my husband has kept a reading log for several years, and I decided to try it myself this year. It’s interesting to track patterns in my reading – and to see how many books I’ve read. I’m averaging about two a week – not bad. Some more, some less, depending on how everything else in my life is going. It certainly helps that I’m a very fast reader – I don’t know how fast as I’ve never timed it, but I can easily read a 400 page book in a day, given the time.

But another thing I’ve always done is re-read favorites. There are some books I’ve probably read 15 or 20 times – re-reading an old favorite, for me, is like the mental equivalent of your favorite p.j.s – soft, familiar, and something you want to slip into after a hard day.

So, in no particular order, some of my habitual re-reads.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird – with #2, tied for my all time favorite book. Every time I read this book, something different strikes me. The book has changed over the course of my life – when I first read it at about 12, it was all about Scout – to me, it was a book about a little girl. Later, in college, it was all about the social injustice. Now that I’m older and thinking about having kids of my own, it’s about family – how our biological and adopted families can impact our own lives and the lives of those around us. And in another ten years, it will be about something totally different.

2. Pride & PrejudiceQuite simply, the best romance ever. After all, aren’t Elizabeth and Darcy the prototypical romantic couple? Man and woman meet. Man and woman can’t stand each other. Man falls for woman, bungles it all up, pushes her away further. Woman realizes he’s the love of her life after all. Happy ending. How many Hollywood movies and countless other inferior romances follow this exact pattern? Plus, it’s hilarious (really!) and a striking social commentary on what it meant to be a woman in Regency England. That’s part of Austen’s genius – sneaking in the socio-political bits underneath the comedy and romance so you hardly even notice it!

3. Bridget Jones’ Diary – I’m not afraid to admit it, I love this book. It doesn’t hurt that it’s essentially a re-write of P&P, but it is laugh-out-loud funny, heartrending, and occasionally infuriating. I may not want to be Bridget Jones, but I’d sure like to hang out with her.

4. To Say Nothing of the Dog – a spectacular – and uncategorizable -novel by Connie Willis. Part sci-fi, part romance, part comedy of errors, this book is a joy from start to finish.

5. The Anne of Green Gables series – I have a very distinct memory of being bored at my Grandmother’s house one summer, and her handing me the first of this series to read. I turned my nose up at it – it sounded boring. Some time later, I picked it back up, loved it, and bought the rest of series. You’ve got to love Anne – her imagination, her many “scrapes” – truly great books for girls.

6. The Stand – Yup, Stephen King. I read all of his stuff, but I really love this one. A sprawling end-of-the-world epic – good vs. evil, all that fun stuff.

7. The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde – terribly, terribly fun and clever books. The literary allusions come at you fast – try to keep up! Featuring a heroine who can “book jump” – that is, actually enter books and interact with the characters. Possibly my favorite scene in all the books is when Thursday attends an anger management class with the cast of Wuthering Heights. Check out his website, too – great fun.

8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I love all her books, but this one is probably my favorite. Scary, scary stuff with a feminist (but by no means overly didactic) bent.

8. Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones – DWJ is truly the greatest (semi-)undiscovered kids/YA author out there. This book would be at home in either the YA or the adult section. Fantasy, sort of – set in our world but also parallel worlds that pop up in a lot of her books.

9. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – I love all of his stuff, but this is the one I come back to the most. A book about the London that’s under London – a wonderful book made from a semi-crap (I say with utmost affection, as I own it and have seen it a couple of times) BBC tv series. Now that I’ve been to London, it’s even more fun!

10. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett – absolutely the most hilarious book you will ever read about the apocalypse. Seriously. There is nothing in this book that you will not love.

And there are many more, but these have made it into that upper echelon of yearly or every other yearly (is that biannual? I can never remember if that means twice a year or every other year) re-reads. If you see something that looks interesting, have a look! Or let me know what your re-reads are – I’m always looking for new ones to add to the list!

**A note on the hyperlinks – I’ve linked all titles to Powell’s (and generally do) because they are the most easily accessible online independently owned bookstore. But I encourage you to patronize your own local independent as much as possible. They are a dying breed and deserve your business!

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