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Re-reading BooksWas it C. S. Lewis who said that a good reader of literature is not...

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 19, 2011 at 8:57 PM via web

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Re-reading Books

Was it C. S. Lewis who said that a good reader of literature is not defined by how many books he or she has read, but by how often they re-read those books? One of the books that I try to re-read about every year is The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. Ever since I first read it I have been captivated by the fate of Isabel Archer, her desire to live life to its full, and the decisions she makes that leave her with those unfulfilled desires. Each time I read it my understanding of the novel grows, and I always spot something new. What books do you re-read, and why?

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted October 19, 2011 at 9:51 PM (Answer #3)

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I am generally NOT a re-reader -- I always look at the ever growing pile of NEW books to read and can't think I should spend my time re-reading something, but in the past two years I have re-read To Kill a Mockingbirda couple of times for a couple of different reasons and I do understand the pleasure of re-reading now.  I first read it when I was a student in high school, but came to really understand it when I taught the novel to sophomores.  Each year I would re-read it in order to prepare the lessons for class, but eventually I didn't have to read it that closely to remember what I needed to remember.  I loved the book, but the charm and pleasure of reading it wore off.  It had been close to 10 years before I read the novel again, for my book club.  I completely fell in love again with ALL of the novel. I was more than just transported back to my teaching of novel, I experienced it as a whole and have a different appreciation of the novel now.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 19, 2011 at 9:21 PM (Answer #2)

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The books I re-read most often are the books I teach. I consider it one of the supreme pleasures and privileges of an English teacher. I get to revisit my favorite characters year after year! I can't imagine a year going by without saying hello and getting to know them a little bit better through fresh eyes. I usually get to meet some new ones too!
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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 19, 2011 at 10:57 PM (Answer #4)

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I re-read books quite frequently, but I will freely admit to them not always being books that are considered "literary" or even books that I use in the classroom.  I can't think of how many times I've read Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising, or Tolkein's Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  But it is always a great pleasure to go back through them, and often come across things I didn't quite notice before.

I do also enjoy reading the books we are going to go over in class so that I can try to find new ways to approach them or perhaps figure out ways to help kids read them when they don't get the chance to choose.

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 19, 2011 at 11:56 PM (Answer #5)

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I am reminded of a lapel pin our local librarian often wears: "So many books, so little time." I reread "Uncle Tom's Cabin" rather frequently, because I assign it to my students, and also because I learn more about the nuances of the book each time I re-read it. I also tend to re-read "The Jungle' for the same reason. Other than that, there are so many books on my bucket list, I fear that I will have lost something if I don't read as many as I can. Re-reading books is a wonderful idea. Now, if someone can only invent a 30 hour day.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted October 20, 2011 at 12:35 AM (Answer #6)

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As an English teacher, I shouldn't admit this, but I really hate to reread a book. I will reread certain passages or chapters, but I just cannot make myself read an entire book more than once. I want to be surprised; I don't want to know in advance how the story is going to end or what the characters are going to say and do. The odd thing is that I can watch old movies over and over and over and never get tired of them. I guess it's because they take only 2 hours of my time.

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pacorz | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted October 20, 2011 at 1:04 AM (Answer #7)

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I rarely reread, partly because like other posters I could read 24 hours a day and still never get to all the things I want to read. I also understand what #6 is saying; it's just not the same once you know what the ending is going to be. I have a super memory; I can often quote entire passages and cite exact details after a single reading, so rereading doesn't really enhance the experience for me in most cases.

 

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speamerfam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted October 20, 2011 at 1:56 AM (Answer #8)

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Interestingly, one of the series I have reread over the years is The Chronicles of Narnia, not even realizing that I would thus fall within Lewis' definition of a good reader of literature.

There are few other works of fiction I reread unless I am going to teach them, because it is so true that knowing the ending detracts from the experience.  However, if I do lose it someday, just think of how much I'll enjoy again the books I already own!

I have also noticed that some books read in my youth are disappointing now.  I do think this is a function of a better reading sensibility, but I also think that some books are of their time and moment, and if one is not living in that time and moment, the book lacks something.

I do reread nonfiction from time to time, since knowing the end of the story in no way interferes with the journey.  Often, with history, sociology, or psychology, for example, the book is enriched because I know more and am able to make better connections.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 20, 2011 at 3:21 AM (Answer #9)

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I also rarely re-read a book, because the stack of books I have bought but have yet to read is already huge, and growing.  With the limited time I do have for academic or pleasure reading, I am usually reading something new.  A notable exception is The Death of Jim Loney which I have read about 5 times.

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted October 20, 2011 at 3:26 AM (Answer #10)

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I am constantly re-reading books, especially the classics.  If a book is a mystery or an intricate story, re-reading will bring out new details that were overlooked the first time.  If the story is especially hard to put down, I will most likely re-read it.  I find that the first time I read a really good book I plow through because I just can't wait to see what happens.  I go back and re-read the book more carefully and find a lot of enjoyment in the second read.  When I was younger, I would start my summer off by re-reading several favorites.  As a teacher, I often find that I enjoy re-reading certain classics for pleasure rather than looking at how I can teach them.

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mshurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 21, 2011 at 5:17 AM (Answer #11)

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Three books come to mind that I have re-read more than once over the years because I wanted to, in addition to reviewing them for teaching purposes: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and A Separate Peace. I find these three to be "bottomless" novels. No matter how many times I read them, I find new insights and literary subtleties. Also, the pure artistry of language in these novels can be enjoyed again and again, like listening to pieces of beautiful music.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 23, 2011 at 1:58 AM (Answer #12)

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Any book that a teacher uses in courses should be re-read, at least partially.  For, doing so refreshes the enjoyment of the language of the author and each time one reads a classic novel or one that is truly worthy, he/she will find something new.

Rereading a novel that one has read years ago is a very interesting experience.  How different and more comprehensible that novel seems to one who has lived for ten, twenty more years!

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lit-scribbler | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted October 24, 2011 at 9:50 AM (Answer #13)

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While we all struggle with limited time and a seemingly unlimited number of books we'd like to read, rereading is essential for writers and teachers of literature. There are certain aspects of craft and artistry that become clear only on a second or third read. Having said that, I don't reread as much as I should. My favorite book to reread is Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, which never ceases to startle and amaze. I'm also a big fan of the stories in Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son, especially the story "Emergency," whose careful construction is not evident on a first read.

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ramonnetje | Student , Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 16, 2011 at 11:47 PM (Answer #14)

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Sorry for this off topic question: I really, really need a study guide of this site but i'm not a subscriber and I only need 1 so i'm not going to pay like 50 bucks for that, with al due respect haha. If you search for Bluebeard and then Max Frisch and then the 2nd one...that the one i need! Can you download it and send it to ramonmiesfacebook@hotmail.com? You would really help me out!

 

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bhawanipur | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted November 24, 2011 at 1:58 AM (Answer #15)

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Re reading is now a theory in English literature to read the text without knowing about the author. I still remember, when I went to Aligarh Muslim University for a 21 days Refresher course, I was given three poems of same name without the name of the poet and I was asked to read and tell after one hour what comes to my mind. There were about 31 teachers and we had different interpretation of those poems. The more read the text, the more innocvative thought come to mind.

Look at the different interpretation given about the poem "The Road Not Taken" in enote com.

I read Srimadbhagawat daily at least for an hour and I feel I can play with the words and find different meanings.

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted November 26, 2011 at 3:17 AM (Answer #16)

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I found a good lesson in rereading Hesse's Steppenwolf.  In my salad days (the 60's) it was very popular, mainly for its Magic Theatre idea.  I re-read it in my 50's and realized it is really about middle age (Harry Haller sitting on the landing of his landlady's staircase.)  I related to the lone wolf (wolf of the steppes).  So I think in a sense there is no such thing as reading a book twice because you bring a different person the second time.  I wonder what Crime and Punishment would feel like one more time around. Wordprof

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted April 20, 2012 at 1:31 AM (Answer #17)

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Three books come to mind that I have re-read more than once over the years because I wanted to, in addition to reviewing them for teaching purposes: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and A Separate Peace. I find these three to be "bottomless" novels. No matter how many times I read them, I find new insights and literary subtleties. Also, the pure artistry of language in these novels can be enjoyed again and again, like listening to pieces of beautiful music.

I re-read Mockingbird every summer, and I ALWAYS get something new out of it. 

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