Let's talk about re-reads

Re-reads. Reading a book for a second, third, or even more times. I was thinking about this the other day as I hit the play button on my audiobook began my second (or is it third? I can't remember) re-read of Hilary Mantel's amazing novel, Wolf Hall. Because let's be honest, I have - and I say this in the literal sense - hundreds of books in my home that have been read zero times. And given my previous calculations involving my expected life-span and average reading, it seems mighty dangerous to waste any dedicated reading time on re-reading a book that's already been enjoyed.

So why would I live so dangerously close to the edge? As it turns out, I only re-read books if they fall in two specific categories. 

CATEGORY A

Good books that are either a part of a series that the author takes their damn sweet time cranking out the next book necessitating a re-read of the last book in the series to refresh your memory in order to obtain maximum enjoyment out of the most recent release in the series. This nurtures a love/hate relationship with the author, but can be avoided by simply waiting for the entire series to be written before picking up Book 1 to begin with. Essentially, if you find yourself in this trap, it's your own damned fault (although it happens to the best of us). Other books that might fall in this category are books you enjoyed that have finally been adapted to the screen and you want to refresh your memory so you can properly rip apart the screen production and feel the right amount of angst when they completely decimate what was a darned good book. 



CATEGORY B

These books are your absolute favorite books of all time. But it's not as simple as it sounds. Because what may have been your favorite reads ever can be completely ruined by a re-read. I mean, are you ever going to recapture that amazing feeling invoked by your favorite novel twenty years ago? You might be treading dangerous waters here. Case in point: my re-read of Wuthering Heights at age 40 turned my favorite novel from my teens from a nostalgic warm fuzzy in my heart into a serious eye-rolling wall-banger with me muttering "Oh grow the fuck up" every other page. After 25 years, the novel was knocked off my all-time favorites list and that a serious repercussion. One must be wary indeed. 



As I pushed play on Mantel's novel Wolf Hall, I made sure to ask myself whether this was a good idea. The BBC will be presenting a mini-series of the Booker Prize-winning novel in just a few months and I have high hopes for the production. The audiobook version of the novel, narrated by Simon Slater, is utterly brilliant given that reading the novel with it's present tense narration is difficult at best. Slater, as if by magic, elucidates Mantel's story like no internal reading voice ever could. Believe me, I tried. Three times with the dead-tree version to no avail. It took the audiobook version before I understood it and then....it was magical. 

So I feel pretty safe with this re-read. I'm nearly half through and still finding lines and bits here and there that I somehow missed the last time (how?) that make me laugh out loud. Am I sacrificing an unread novel sitting here that will probably now never get read? Probably. It's worth it.

What makes you re-read a book?

The NBCC Finalists

The National Book Critics Circle Awards are probably something all book reviewers should pay attention to even if book awards aren't normally your thing. Even if your reviews don't show up regularly on the pages of the NYT book review, if you've ever written a book-rant on GoodReads or squee'd on your book blog, like it or not you are a book critic. So take a gander at what your fellow critics (you know, the ones who actually get paid for spewing forth the same subjective bullshit we do) chose as the best of the best of 2014. Awards will be presented on March 12, 2015. 

Betting pool, anyone?




Texting with Ahab

Back in November, Mallory Ortberg released Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters. You can buy this book. I need this book.