April 30, 2019

Have you ever read a book, reached the end, then turned back to page one and started reading it again?

Instead of going on to your next book, you instinctively know you've got to read the same book again. If this has ever happened to you, did you really continue and read the same book all the way to the end, so that the same book was really the next book you read?

Please don't include short things, such as "The Cat in the Hat." I know children are happy to reread the same book, and I think they show the way to the instinct to reread, but I'm not interested in hearing about an adult choosing to reread something short. It just doesn't mean enough, because it's so easy. It's like hitting replay after a pop song you like. I've played "Crimson and Clover" over and over.

I mean a substantial book. I've often turned back to page one and started to read it over again, and maybe I've gotten half way through something (something long), but I've ended up moving on to something else. Until this last book. I've really got to reread the whole thing, and it's 500 pages long. And the reason I have to read it is that I can't understand it without reading it (and the author, in fact, says you have to reread it — he has to reread it — to understand it).

This is a book that presents many mysteries along the way, and you might take them in and carry them along feeling it will come together in the end. That's the conventional approach to mysteries: They're solved in the end. But that's not how this works. There are so many mysteries, and you can see something of how they ought to pull together, but by the end, you can't remember all the details exactly enough to do all that you want to do. Even reading it a second time, I write down words that I think will be useful in a search of the whole text.

For example, yesterday I wrote down "shadow," and today, searching, I see 48 appearances of the word "shadow," and reading these passages with "shadow," I get so many ideas about the meaning of the book that I would be happy to go on to a third reading. Now, I have such an overflow of ideas about the meaning of the book that I feel that I'd need to write 500 pages of my own to really understand.

165 comments:

Openidname said...

I read "Bluffton," by Matt Phelan. It's a graphic novel, primarily for kids, so it's a quick read. When I was two-thirds of the way through, I realized I was enjoying it so thoroughly that didn't want it to end, so I started over on page 1 before I'd even finished.

Henry said...

I recently did that with Camus' The Plague. I reread about a quarter of the book. It clarified in my head a number of narratorial tricks and the who's who of characters.

That was rare, though. The last time I did that was years ago with The Old Man and the Sea. It's a short novel and the actual story is very spare, so I wanted to reread it for the atmospherics.

Michael K said...

I did that with The 10,000 Year Explosion. It is so dense with data that I have read it about four times.

I have also given several copies away. It got me studying genetics again.

Matt Harris said...

I do that a lot with fanfiction, especially if it is unfinished. Normally, though, I will read something, read something else, and then reread the first thing. Kind of like a palate cleanser.

Ken B said...

Technical books certainly. Candide by Voltaire when I read it in French; it was a slog getting through the first reading and then I went back and read it again. I perused through Paradise Lost when I finished it, but did not actually reread it.

Professional lady said...

I did that with "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer.

tim maguire said...

There are books I've read several times, but never twice in a row. I have done that with movies--the usual suspects, for example.

rcocean said...

Yes, a novel called "White Jazz". The only time I've don it. Listened to it, and then went back and listened to it again. Otherwise, I can't remember any.

MadTownGuy said...

Ann Althouse said...

"I've played "Crimson and Clover" over and over. "

I see what you did there.

TerriW said...

I do that with the Bible, but that feels different from, say, fiction.

(Leaving a wide open for anyone who'd like to say that it is fiction, of course.)

tcrosse said...

I did that with Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, rereading the whole thing in light of what I learned reading it the first time.

MadisonMan said...

Yes; Matthew Walker's Why We Sleep because it was so fascinating to me.

Unknown said...

Yes! It was Gene Wolfe's "The Book of the New Sun." (Actually it was four volumes, not one bound book. So let me know if that's cheating.) I got to the end, with the late realization that even though I greatly enjoyed the story, I did not know what was really happening for most of it! (That was a deliberate trick by the author, using an unreliable narrator.)

YoungHegelian said...

Oh, Lordy, yes! Read the whole book through & then read the preface over again, just like the author probably wrote it -- the preface written last.

I do this with philosophy all the time.

The other fun thing to do is to read a collection of texts, e.g. the New Testament, in the order it was written. That means reading the Pauline Epistles first, since they're the earliest Christian texts we have, then Mark, Matthew, Luke/Acts, John, the non-Pauline Epistles & Revelations. It gives a whole different picture of the development of doctrine.

tam said...

I had that experience with Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum". The first time through, I was so caught up in the mystery and suspense that I read as fast as I could to learn what was going to happen. But I knew I was missing out on the depth of the history and language that was in the book. So I immediately started over again so I could more slowly savor the writing.

Bay Area Guy said...

Yup. "Catch -22" by Heller.

I read it at age 15 or so. I laughed out loud about Yossarian and his merry prankster Army pals. I didn't want it to end.

The funny thing was that it made me want to serve in the military (which I did a few years later). I don't think Heller intended it to be a recruiting manual, but, alas, I didn't get the memo.

I used to re-read it every 5 years or so, but I haven't done so in 20-25 years.

Heller came out with a sequel "Closing Time" in 1994. I bought it, scanned the first few papers, then returned it, without reading. No need.

I would say, Catch-22, Bonfire of the Vanities, and Confederacy of Dunces are my 3 favorite all time novels. Those 3 should be on a literary Mount Rushmore.

Nonapod said...

I had to reread Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, mostly because I read it over a very long period of time and I had to reread large parts of it to remember a bunch of plot points. It was a bit of a slog.

narayanan said...

I have done it with all of Ayn Rand novels.

narayanan said...

Also Lois Bujold novels

traditionalguy said...

Everything moves relative to something else. So a book's meaning must start with a starting point. Trying to work back and figure out if you got the starting point(s) right requires re-reading. And again if there is another clue found at the end.

PM said...

From Dawn to Decadence, Jacques Barzun. 3 times in a row.

Kelly said...

I did that with To Kill A Mockingbird.

traditionalguy said...

Yes this post describes Catch-22.

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

It's not the same thing - but in college I was so stunned by Taylor and Burton in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and feeling I hadn't taken it all in, I remained seated for the second show and watched with even more attention and was even more blown away. That never happened before or since. (Didn't do it right away, but reread "Cien AƱos de Soledad" when a friend said how funny it was, which I'd completely missed first time around, but got the second time around.)

Jupiter said...

No.

Christopher Smith said...

Just a guess here, but are you reading Murakami Haruki again? One of his longer ones, so maybe Wind-up Bird Chronicle?

Anonymous said...

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Not wanting it to end, the best thing is to experience it immediately again.

stevew said...

I've read plenty of books more than once but never in the way you describe: finishing then turning back to page 1. I've reread sections and chapters along the way to make sure I understand. When I reread an entire book it is for entertainment purposes not to understand. Though I often find parts I missed or had forgotten from the first reading that are fun and enlightening.

Tolkien, Vonnegut, Bradbury, Asimov.

Come to think of it, I did read "The Language Instinct" by Pinker a few times in order to understand what he was saying. The first time through I found myself lost two-thirds of the way in; went back and started again.

Ann Althouse said...

"Yup. "Catch -22" by Heller."

I've never read this book. I have started reading it numerous times. I always get hung up!

Ann Althouse said...

"From Dawn to Decadence, Jacques Barzun. 3 times in a row."

Another book I put down. I know right where it is on a shelf in the dining room. I do mean to get back to that.

DTR said...

C.S Lewis would call that vulgar: “Perhaps the experience had been so complete that repetition would be vulgarity - like asking to hear the same symphony twice in a day.” - Perelandra

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Sebald's The Rings of Saturn. Not because I enjoyed it so much but because I felt like I had missed something profound. Still a little fuzzy on what that was.

tcrosse said...

I read Catch-22 in college, thought it was OK. A few years later I read it when I was in the Service, and it all made sense.
Robertson Davies, BTW, said that you should read a work when you're at least the same age as the author was when he wrote it.

Retail Lawyer said...

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. Psychology is hard for me and I was not pleased with my ability to convey its argument.

readering said...

I don't know Crimson and Clover. Never charted in UK. Hmm.

TWW said...

Catch 22

Ann Althouse said...

"Just a guess here, but are you reading Murakami Haruki again? One of his longer ones, so maybe Wind-up Bird Chronicle?"

I read "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" and have considered rereading it. It's definitely rereadable. But the one I feel so compelled to read to solve some mysteries (and to reexperience) is "Kafka on the Shore."

Here's what Haruki Murakami said about rereading:

[We hear that your Japanese publisher has actually produced a website to help readers understand the meaning of this book. Since we won’t be able to read the site, can you tell us in your own words what some of the “secrets” of the book are?]

On this website in the space of three months I received over 8,000 questions from readers, and personally responded to over 1,200 of them. It was a lot of work, but I really enjoyed it. What I concluded from this exchange was that the key to understanding the novel lies in reading it multiple times. This may sound self-serving, but it’s true. I know people are busy—and it depends, too, on whether they feel like doing it—but if you have the time, I suggest reading the novel more than once. Things should be clearer the second time around. I’ve read it, of course, dozens of times as I rewrote it, and each time I did, slowly but surely the whole started to come into sharper focus. Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren’t any solutions provided. Instead several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the kind of novel I set out to write.

bagoh20 said...

Ikea assembly instructions, but the second read doesn't really help. Best to just dive in blind until all the parts are gone.

Leland said...

This probably fits in your exclusion rules, but I've done it with a few audiobooks. Each time I did; I typically caught something I missed earlier.

Christopher Smith said...

"Kafka on the Shore" is a great one. I've reread Murakami Haruki books many times, but not usually immediately after finishing. I usually feel like I need a break after making it through one!

Some of my favorite novels by him are "Dance, Dance, Dance" and "Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World."

TWW said...

And, 'The Name of the Rose' by Umberto Eco (The movie is terrible).

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Oh, also The Milagro Beanfield War. Because it was the only book I had on me during an interminable Greyhound ride. I didn't finish it a second time...

Anonymous said...

A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. A tour de force, like a one-armed violinist. I laughed and I cried while reading that novel. As soon as I finished the last page, I started over again on the first page.

MountainMan said...

Nope, never done that. Have a few I have read more than once, but many years apart. Now that I get a lot of my books via Kindle or iBooks there are a lot of places where I bookmark a particular passage and maybe go back to it again, especially when wanting to quote on a Facebook or blog post. I do have a number of books or series of books I have started, not finished, and mean to get back to. One of U. S. Grant's memoirs, I've finished the first volume but not started the second. Also completed the first volume of Rick Atkinson's "Liberation Trilogy", about the US Army in the ETO in WWII, but not yet started the second volume. Taking a two week cruise across the Atlantic the latter half of May and will probably try to tackle one of these and finish it while Europe-bound, probably the Atkinson books.

Sam L. said...

No. I have reread books, but not immediately having finished one.

Yancey Ward said...

Never back to back, cover to cover. However, the closest to that sort of thing I have ever come is Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. I had read both novels during my freshman English Composition course during my freshman year in college- sections of both novels had been assigned reading for course discussions, so I just read both books for the full context. Later during the Spring of that same year, the May concentrated course I took was in Russian Literature under the same professor, and both novels were assigned reading- so I read them again.

Yancey Ward said...

Outside of course work- I have read some technical books twice, but never spaced together closer than a year or two. Probably the fastest I have ever reread a novel just on my own initiative alone was probably The Stand by Stephen King. I first read it in February of 1980 during a snow week during the 8th grade. I reread the book in the Summer of 1981. It is still one of my favorite books- I also reread it when King published the unabridged version in the early 1990s.

Michael said...

William Craig's The Fall Of Japan.

Although written in 1967, I did not know of this book till last summer. Great at capturing the drama taking place in the Imperial Palace and Tokyo as Japan was being beaten to its knees. Compellingly shows how the leaders of Japan twisted logic to all ends in order to not accept the reality of their predicament.

Much better than Craig's more famous Enemy At The Gates.

mockturtle said...

Yancey beat me to it. I re-read The Brothers Karamazov immediately because I couldn't bear to part with its characters. Crime and Punishment is the better novel but I didn't re-read it until years later. Both novels had [I think] weak endings but Dostoyevsky had such a gripping style that his novels don't want to end, if that makes sense.

john said...

Not quite. I picked up Chesterton's "A short history of England" because the title it said it was short, and it said it was a history. Whereas I soon found out Chesterton never writes anything short, nor does he write history per se, but engaged in ongoing sparring matches with his contemporaries, who were historians. So as soon as I finished I read Fraser's excellent "The Story of Britain", and thus armed, went immediately back to Chesterton and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Yancey Ward said...

The only book I ever considered rereading immediately was 2666 by Roberto Balano, simply because the story told is so complex I thought I might better understand the first half having now read the last half- but the length (close to 1000 pages) changed my mind. But I now I want to reread it- I hadn't thought about this book in close to a decade until just now.

mockturtle said...

Incidentally, I have just started reading the world's oldest novel. Anyone care to guess?

Fernandinande said...

No.

I just re-read "Nightmare Alley", which is one of the creepiest stories around, written by an alcoholic religious nut who killed himself in a hotel, and whose ex-wife married C.S. Lewis, about an alcoholic "spiritualist" scamster who gets out-scammed.

The movie is quite pale in comparison.

It's reprinted in Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s: The Postman Always Rings Twice / They Shoot Horses, Don't They? / Thieves Like Us /...

Now reading The Wolf and the Watchman, a murder mystery set in 1790 Stockholm.

Fernandinande said...

Incidentally, I have just started reading the world's oldest novel. Anyone care to guess?

Christian Bible?

Robert Cook said...

"I do that with the Bible, but that feels different from, say, fiction.

"(Leaving a wide open for anyone who'd like to say that it is fiction, of course.)"


Some things go without saying.

Yancey Ward said...

That should be "Bolano".

Robert Cook said...

"Incidentally, I have just started reading the world's oldest novel. Anyone care to guess?"

Gilgamesh?

Robert Cook said...

"I have done it with all of Ayn Rand novels."

Ah! A masochist!

Anonymous said...

Gimmicky.
Wait until you realize there's no there there, that the author left a lot of unwrapped thoughts for you to ponder just because that's seen as deep in today's loose-style writing. Enjoy, if that's your thing...
Doen't make you deeper though. More shallow really.
Gimmicky.

(Most people, when they find something good, finish it, then remember and return to the GOOD parts, the best of the work. No author shines on every page, and if he's convinced you you've got to keep re-reading just to ... understand, man!... then you know it is a marketing ploy. Just trip already, anne!)

Anonymous said...

"On the Road" by Jack Kerouac. I read it twice while in college. Then I read all of his books. Same with "Steppenwolf" by Herman Hesse.

Lewis Wetzel said...

I once read a book where two characters had the same name. Until about the middle of the book, the reader was made to believe the two characters with the same name were one character. The book then changed its nature completely. That was a neat trick, so when you reread the book, the story changes. Clever.
In Tom Tryon's The Other, you have to get far into the book before you realize the two main characters (twin boys) are really one schizophrenic character.

Kirk Parker said...

Far Pavilions

chuck said...

Dostoyevsky had such a gripping style that his novels don't want to end

Pulp fiction with class :) That was my impression after reading some of his early works.

stehlin said...

Every books by Maurice Walsh
Stehlin

Mike Sylwester said...

As soon as I finished reading the 424-page history book The Last Platagenets by Thomas Costain, I turned back to page 1 and re-read the entire book. I did this on summer vacation, about five years ago.

The book tells British history from 1377 to 1485 -- basically, the Wars of the Roses. It's the period covered by Shakespeare's series of history plays, beginning with Richard II.

In the Amazon reviews, 74% of the readers gave the book five stars, and 13% gave it four stars.

------

In regard to that period of history, see my blog article The Philippa Gregory Trilogy on Starz.

MayBee said...

This post gets my tag, "Althouse Needs to go to Japan"

Megthered said...

The Honorable Schoolboy by LeCarre. I read it on a cross country trip and immediately retead it because of the amount of characters and numerous locations and plots. I reread it every summer. It's my summer read.

MikeR said...

I just did this. "Quantum Computing since Democritus" by Scott Aaronson. Recommended, though I had to skip through a lot of the math. I skipped enough that a rereading was absolutely necessary.

Yancey Ward said...

Megthered,

I have also read that one more than once, but that applies to all the Smiley novels for me.

MayBee said...

Mike- I tried to comment on your blog but can't figure it out. Thank you for reminding me about The Spanish Princess.

rhhardin said...

I can't think of any book I've reread, though there are several I've gone back and typed into the computer so as to be able to search them quickly.

When I read a book, it stays read.

Amexpat said...

There have been a number of books that I've been sad upon finishing because I've enjoyed them so much, but I don't think I've reread any right away.

I like to reread books years later to see how they hold up. I've reread most of Murakami's books. Both the "Wind-up Bird Chronicle" and "Kafka on the Shore" held up very well on the second reading. I recently reread KotS and how forgotten how humorous the book was in parts. I actually laughed aloud a few times - especially the scenes with "Colonel Sanders" and the truck driver.

Murakami's "The Wild Sheep" didn't hold up as well on the second reading. But I'd still recommend that for anyone interested in him. It sort of establishes the template for many of his later books and it's fairly short. "Dance, Dance, Dance" is the sequel to that book as well.

Ralph L said...

I read Trollope's "Phineas Redux" 30 years ago, again last year, and again a week later. One day I'll redux it right. But I might have read "The Duke's Children" in between, come to think of it. Trollope may not be profoundly or stylishly written, but he's so fluid and charming to read, you don't notice the length.

rhhardin said...

I rewatch DVDs after I've forgotten exactly what happens, suggesting that I watch DVDs with less attention than I read books with.

SDaly said...

I immediately reread Pnin, but purely for the pleasure of Nabokov's writing, not to figure out any puzzles. It helped that it is a relatively short novel. I've re-read Pale Fire 4 times (but never back-to-back) mostly to figure out the puzzles.

Mike Sylwester said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Sylwester said...

One book that I read about five times was Jim Hougan's 347-page book Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat, and the CIA.

I read it when it was published in 1984. Maybe I turned back to Page 1 and re-read it immediately, but I honestly do not remember for sure. I re-read the book every year for about five years.

On the Amazon webpage, 80% of the readers give the book five stars, and 15% give it four stars.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've reread w/o some mind-clearing any book, as much as some might deserve it:
Catch-22, Pale Fire, The Coup.

I tend to chain-read author-by-author, whether fiction or not. The three listed above are on my reread list (and have been for decades, alas . . .)

Phillip Kerr and Alan Furst write great spy/detective stuff set in pre-war and WWII Europe;
Kerr especially sets actual mysteries in some of his Bernie Gunther series (i.e. it's all there for the reader).

Just finished Wolfe's Kingdom of Language, and in the middle of Nolan's Allure of Battle and Kurlansky's Paper.

Narr
Atkinson is good, but after the second volume he just forgets there was a war in Italy

Ralph L said...

As soon as I finished reading the 424-page history book The Last Plantagenets by Thomas Costain, I turned back to page 1 and re-read the entire book

"I, Claudius" is even worse, but I imagine keeping the bloodlines straight would almost require re-reading.

SDaly said...

I took the plunge into Murakami this year, reading, in order, Killing Commendatore, Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood and, currently The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles.

I have enjoyed them, but I need a break from the passive, drifting main characters. Suggested title for his next book "A Deep Hole Full of Cats."

dustbunny said...

At the end of Richard Powers’ Galatea 2.2 I didn’t want it to be over so I started reading it again but I can’t remember if I finished it. Also Ghost Atlas by David Mitchell. Terrible movie, wonderful, astonishing book.

Stoutcat said...

Silverlock, by John Myers Myers. First time through, I just read for the story and the language. Then promptly started again to see how many literary references I could pick up. I still read it about every three years or so, and I usually find another nugget I'd previously missed.

Rick.T. said...

No, never. I do read the collected works of Jack London and a collection of T.C. Boyle short stories every couple of years though.

dustbunny said...

Anonymous said “no author shines on every page”. Then you haven’t read The Great Gatsby or Lolita.

mockturtle said...

"Incidentally, I have just started reading the world's oldest novel. Anyone care to guess?"

Cookie guesses Gilgamesh?

Nope. I think Gilgamesh is considered a poem. It's The Tale of Genji, written by a Japanese noblewoman in the very early 11th century. It is considered, at least by some historians, to be the first real novel.

Bay Area Guy said...

@Mike Sylvester,

One book that I read about five times was Jim Hougan's 347-page book Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat, and the CIA.

Outstanding book. Really opened my eyes, and re-shifted the standard narrative of Watergate.

In essence, two high-ranking "retired" CIA officers (Hunt and McCord) infiltrated the White House plumbers, reported their shenanigans to the CIA, and one of them, McCord, likely sunk the whole operation, because he disliked Nixon and got concerned that Nixon trying to blame the CIA.

ALP said...

Definite "NO". Probably because I read a lot of detective/mystery/thriller stories - body counts and cat/mouse chases. Generally doesn't do well with a second reading as you already know who did what.

Christopher Hitchens has written the only books I've read twice like that but most of those are short.

mockturtle said...

Mike Sylwester: I'll put The Last Plantaganets on my reading list. Thanks for the tip.

Henry said...

utI backtracked a few times in "Kafka on the Shore." Put it down one day and the next day decided I better go back half a chapter to ground myself.

Hard Boiled Wonderland is probably my favorite Murakami book so far.

Kevin said...

Pictures from an Institution, by Randall Jarrell.

The best book I've read in my entire lifetime.

meep said...

Yes, several times, but I've done it less and less as I've gotten older.

When I was a kid, books were my primary entertainment, and I did not have huge access to getting new ones all that frequently. So I often automatically re-read books. I liked re-reading mysteries, because I'd go back and see when all the clues came in. I still re-read mysteries, and yes, I remember the solutions when I re-read. (and I remember re-reading Catch-22, having Cliff's Notes for the second read so I could finally make sense of the chronology)

Now that I'm a lot older, I do this only if I like the book so much I want to experience it again. The most recent book I did that with was Brothers Karamazov.

In my 20s, I was on a Dickens kick, and usually on re-read, there would be bits I skipped. I almost never re-read the American scenes in Martin Chuzzlewit now. They're crap.

Fernandinande said...

"Crimson and Clover"

The Joan Jett version maintains the mood with more power.

Molly said...

(eaglebeak)

War and Peace. Read it twice in a row. I was bowled over by it--as I was by Don Quixote (which I read twice, but not without a break between).

Pierre Bezukhov was one of the most wonderful characters I ever encountered in fiction, and come to think of it, Don Quixote was another....

Obadiah said...

"Anathem" by Neal Stephenson. I found it fascinating and deep in all sorts of ways, and I needed to start over to get it sorted out properly. It is hard to get started as the first chapter is baffling until the reader gets some context, but well worth the effort.

meep said...

Heh, I see Yancey did the same as me.

For Karamazov, I started yelling at my friends asking them why they didn't tell me this was so good?

To be sure, I think most of them hadn't read it, so it wasn't really their fault.

(read Karamazov.... it's very very good)

The only nonfiction book I've tried something like this is Godel, Escher, Bach by Hofstadter, but that was a very weird reading experience. It took me several years to work through it completely.

meep said...

Molly/eaglebeak:

Interesting you should say that. I found Pierre to be the only likable character in the novel, and pretty much wanted everybody else dead/gone by the end. I don't feel like reading War and Peace ever again.

I've not read Don Quixote yet, and I really should.

Michael said...

Two years ago I did what you describe with an Edith Wharton novel called The Glimpses of the Moon, published in 1922 shortly after she had had won a Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence. I was puzzled by the end of Moon, which was so mixed in its quality. But Wharton's world is, to me, so clear, so compelling, and built with such a perfect combination of authorial sympathy and pitilessness, that I wanted to go back into it immediately.

On reading the first chapter again, I recognized how perfect her craftsmanship had been. Almost every element of the story was introduced in one way or another in the first half-dozen pages. At that point, I stopped the re-reading. I had found out what I wanted to know, which was how this world of expatriates differed from her New York or rustic settings. Seeing her craftsmanship working at such a high level was instructive, and one of its messages was that Moon was a triumph of craft over inspiration. I no longer needed to be back into its particular world.

I think my next book was one of the Wharton biographies, though.... : )

Skippy Tisdale said...

Only once. The book was How to Please Women by Hugh Jorgan.

MadisonMan said...

My father read the Bible multiple times. He did it every year during Lent.

wholelottasplainin' said...

I guess the opposite of this thread's challenge would be Mark Twain's review of a tedious Henry James novel:

"Once you put it down, you can't pick it up."

John henry said...

Cryptonomicon once.

I've read it at least 20 times overall.

Probably some other books over the years.

John Henry

mockturtle said...

I guess the opposite of this thread's challenge would be Mark Twain's review of a tedious Henry James novel:

"Once you put it down, you can't pick it up."


Right along with Dorothy Parker's, "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

Robert Cook said...

"The Joan Jett version maintains the mood with more power."

I flew to Houston from NYC a little over a week ago; Joan Jett was on the flight. I saw her as she exited the lavatory. She's looking old now. The last time I saw her in person was in 1978, when she played with her first band, The Runaways, as openers for the Ramones in Orlando, FL. I was 22 and she was 19.

William said...

Whatever it is that causes children to watch Frozen or The Lion King over and over used to cause me, when younger, to read certain novels over and over. There's something reassuring in a familiar narrative with a happy ending. I can't remember any novel that I finished and immediately reread however.......I don't seem to re-read books anymore. Maybe The Great Gatsby, but that's more like re-reading a favorite poem.......I like to watch back to back different productions of the same Shakespeare play. The problem with great poetry is that you don't quite get it completely on first hearing.

rcocean said...

"I've never read this book. I have started reading it numerous times. I always get hung up!"

I've never been able to read Catch-22 all the way through. I enjoy it, get 100-150 pages in, then get tired, and never get back to it. Tried to listen to it, but found it intolerable in audio. Too much repetition. That's Ok, when you're reading along at 400 words/minute or whatever but hearing the same phrase 5 times every 5 minutes is fucking annoying.

Robert Cook said...

"I've never been able to read Catch-22 all the way through. I enjoy it, get 100-150 pages in, then get tired, and never get back to it. Tried to listen to it, but found it intolerable in audio. Too much repetition. That's Ok, when you're reading along at 400 words/minute or whatever but hearing the same phrase 5 times every 5 minutes is fucking annoying."

The repetition is part of the point. The book really pays off in the end, too, as throughout, it is an absurdist black comedy, then the penultimate penultimate chapter, "The Eternal City," turns into black horror (which always underlay the black comedy). It's the payoff for all that came before.

Tank said...

I think I read Ball Four twice in a row, and then some. I was exactly the right age for it’s anti-establishment theme and often gross humor. Also the behind-the-scene look at my Yankee heroes. Also the drugs (reading about them).

SDaly said...

Are "black horror" and "black comedy" acceptable terms now when not discussing works by black authors?

Ron said...

I read Thus Spoke Zarathustra, front to back, every day for over a year.

AKDeup said...

I did that with Thomas Sowell's Knowledge and Decisions. It was the first of his works I had read and it still remains a "permanent experience" - a book that changes one's point of view.

prairie wind said...

When I finished Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, I resisted the impulse to re-read it immediately. I was afraid that a second reading would expose reasons to dislike it. When I finally did re-read it, I realized how wrong I was.

DavidD said...

Once upon a time I could read the same book over and over.

Then I took a course where we reviewed several of my favorite books and I had to read them for content.

It ruined me.

I read Catch-22 several times. Once I kept notes on the chronology shifts and then re-read it in chronological order.

Years later, I read it again and couldn’t believe I’d ever been confused by the chronology shifts.

Unknown said...

Infinite Jest. The first chapter takes place after the end of the last chapter, so you kind of have to.

DavidD said...

One time I wanted to read the next book in a series even though I’d already started to find them boring.

I held the book upside down and read the whole thing from right to left and bottom to top.

DavidD said...

Another time, I read a whole book before I realized that it was the first in a series.

I turned the last page and it said something like “to be continued”. It was a real cliff-hanger; I had to wait a year for part two.

rcocean said...

"War and Peace. Read it twice in a row. I was bowled over by it--as I was by Don Quixote (which I read twice, but not without a break between)."

I loved War and Peace. Its the greatest novel ever. But I was exhausted by the time I got to the end. No way, I was going on that journey again - right away. Its like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro going back to the bottom and starting back up. Sorry, I need a break.

rcocean said...

It's the payoff for all that came before.

Thanks. I may try reading it again.

Ann Althouse said...

"This post gets my tag, "Althouse Needs to go to Japan""

I would like to if I could figure out how. I don't want to go to all the trouble of going there and then finding out I can't really get there at all. I don't speak the language, and I don't know anyone, and I am afraid of being stuck in limited places just barely getting into them at all. I don't want to waste my effort trying and failing. I don't believe that just technically being physically present in the territory is worth doing. It's worse than nothing. It must be better than nothing, and for me, that's a high standard.

Really, any advice on how I could do a trip to Japan? I have the time and the money. I just require a good experience and a very real sense of actual experience.

SDaly said...

In this crazy world we live in, someone must have a business selling the "Japan for Murakami Fans" experience. You would need a big block of time, though, because you spend several nights alone at the bottom of a well.

George said...

Escherian books

mockturtle said...

As I haven't been in Japan since the 1980's, I wouldn't presume to offer advice. Though I am considering another trip there, now that I don't have a dog, part of me fears it might have changed too much and might disappoint. Rest assured that Japan is a very safe and comfortable place for a woman to travel alone. And groups of students are everywhere and will surely want to speak English with you. The first time there it was with my husband and he was there on business so I was free to explore. At the hotel, I would ask the clerk to write my chosen destination in Japanese and would hand it to the taxi driver. [The other two times I was there on business and didn't get to explore].

Cheryl said...

Wow, there are a lot of really good books on this thread.

I went right back to the beginning of "A Gentleman in Moscow" and re-listened to the audiobook right away. I loved everything about that book, including the excellent narration. I recently listened a third time and loved it just as much.

I almost restarted Brothers Karamazov right away, as soon as I finished it, because I had the feeling I had missed so much. But then I thought I might like to try a different translation, so that's on my list for this year. I loved War and Peace, which someone listed above, but needed to leave Pierre and Natasha where they were for a while.

readering said...

I visited Japan in 2002. One of the few times as an adult we went on a tour based in Tokyo. Figured more economical for a country neither of us knew and with reputation for high cost of living. Went very well, and we included a few days after the tour at the end when we figured we would feel more at ease in the country.

gilbar said...

back in 1992, i was re-reading The Return of The King, and after i finished with the appendixes;
i was walking over to the bookshelf to pick up the Fellowship Of The Ring, when i thought:
If i just reread this When Ever i want, a day might come that i might start getting tired off it.
And so, i made My Rule: Only ONE reading Of The Lord Of The Rings a year. No matter HOW MUCH i want to re-read it, if I've read it that year: NO MORE UNTIL NEXT YEAR. I quickly decided that it would be prudent to put it off in the year until Bilbo's Birthday; 'cause if i reread it in February, it'd be a LONG wait until the next year.
So, now it's 2019, and i'm impatiently awaiting September, so i can read it again.
{i don't know how many times i'd read it before 1992 (10?) but i haven't missed a year yet}

mockturtle said...

Cheryl writes: I almost restarted Brothers Karamazov right away, as soon as I finished it, because I had the feeling I had missed so much. But then I thought I might like to try a different translation

Don't know which translation you read but Pevear is the best.

Cheryl said...

mockturtle--Thanks! I checked and it was the McDuff translation that I read. I found some of it to be very stilted. I have since read War and Peace (both in 2018), and didn't have any trouble at all with stilted language, so I'm assuming it's due to the translation. But I loved the story. I will try Pevear next time.

Bilwick said...

Haven't done that. There are books I initially felt I wanted to reread immediately (Oakley Hall's WARLOCK comes to mind) but the lure of new (as in "unread") books has always tempted me away.

mockturtle said...

Cheryl, maybe you can recommend a version of War and Peace. With the book I had, every other chapter was in French and my French is mediocre at best so I struggled through those chapters. Is there a good translation that's all in English? Thx.

jwl said...

I immediately reread Dickens' David Copperfield and Irvings' Prayer for Owen Meany.

The novel Prof Althouse describes in this post would make me crazy and I would be unlikely to read a second time because I enjoy straight forward tale with no ambiguity.

David said...

Time and Again by Jack Finny. Amazing time travel book from 1971. Brilliant and imaginative in it's creating a credible means of returning to the 1880's

Amexpat said...

Really, any advice on how I could do a trip to Japan? I have the time and the money. I just require a good experience and a very real sense of actual experience.

I've done 3 trips to Japan in the last 10 years, all to different parts. Language isn't an issue, enough people speak English to help you out. Almost without fail, someone will come up to assist you if you stop to look at a map on a public street.

Getting around is fairly easy by rail. You can buy a Japan Rail Pass that's sold to foreigners before arrival for 1-3 weeks. You activate when needed after arrival. They're good for both the Shinkasen and the local rural trains, which often are very scenic. Most train stations have a special booth to help foreigners. You can make reservations for train journeys or just get on any train and sit in non reserved seat.

Booking hotels or traditional Ryokans are fairly easy online. You can look at Tripadvisor or guide books for suggestions.

As for a good experience, it depends on your interest and what you're comfortable with. I like to get off the beaten track and stay at places where there are few tourists. On my last trip I went to a hiking lodge Rebun Island, in northern Hokkaido - I didn't see any foreigners on the island.

A good way to structure a trip is to plan to see a few things you'd like like to see, such as a museum or garden and leave time for random travel. I think your first time there you can have an experience by just being in the country and observing what's happening around you.

John Holland said...

Dune, by Frank Herbert. Back in the '70s. I was 14, and stuck at home recovering from chicken pox (and a car accident. Bad week, good book.)

Michael said...

I finished the 12 volumes of Dance to the Music of Time and began again at the first novel. But that is not the same thing.

Michael said...

Althouse
I highly recommend a trip to Japan. You can go non stop Chicago to Narita. To ease your way in I would recommend having a driver meet you to take you in to the city versus taking the train although that is easy enough if a bit disconcerting since you are then in a culture where you can’t understand a word or read a sign. Tokyo cannot be safer. The citizens obey traffic laws, all laws ( not many years ago there were 5 handgun murders in the entire country in a year). Spend a night or two in the Imperial Hotel hard by Hibiya park and the Imperial Palace. Great spot to walk from on day of arrival. Kyoto and a ryokan should be on the list and a pilgrimage to the top of MT Fuji. There are no nicer people. Go to Itoya in the Ginza and marvel at the scores of notebook styles the Japanese love. Good fountain pen selection, extraordinary papers, calligraphy pens, the lot.
Pay up for first or business class that have lay flat seats. Your little cocoon for the long flight.

Michael said...

BTW, I would say it is impossible to have anything other than an authentic experience in Japan. Hop on a subway and ride a few stops. Go up and walk around. Get lost. Watch a baseball game in any park on any nice day. Watch Sumo. I can’t think of a single inauthentic thing there. Oh, Tokyo Disney.

DavidD said...

David said...
Time and Again by Jack Finny. Amazing time travel book from 1971. Brilliant and imaginative in it's creating a credible means of returning to the 1880's

As a segue, for a while I used to watch Somewhere in Time every chance I got.

I love time paradoxes; I’ll have to read Time and Again. Unless I’ve read it before.

RobinGoodfellow said...

I started to read James Joyce’s Ulysses no fewer than five times, but stopped peretty close to the beginning each time after I reconfirmed that it was totally craptacular.

Marc said...

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, fifty years ago. David Jones's Anathemata thirty years ago, if we can count a long poem as a book.

DavidD said...

“Also completed the first volume of Rick Atkinson's ‘Liberation Trilogy’, about the US Army in the ETO in WWII.”

I read a lot of WWII history. I loved his first volume and eagerly awaited the others.

The first one was the best of the three.

Highly recommended (by me, anyway) is Implacable Foes: War in the Pacific, 1944-1945.

Maillard Reactionary said...

Yes! It was "Under the Volcano" by Malcolm Lowry.

The great craft of the book, its agonizing, slow-motion tragedy--and moments of brilliance-- completely sucked me in.

It is quite a challenging book, long sentences, multiple recurring metaphors, an unreliable (though reliably very drunk) narrator in parts, it requires concentration. And rewards it.

It is a book I will read again.

Maillard Reactionary said...

wholelottasplainin' quoted "Once you put it down, you can't pick it up."

Ah yes. Mark Twain on Henry James. It's hard to match him, but as Dorothy Parker said of another tiresome effort, "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

Twain's takedown of James Fenimore Cooper, who some of my cohort suffered through reading during the summer before their freshman year in our RC high school, is also very funny. (Personally I took my chances and didn't read "The Spy". They never tested us on it, so I won. Lesson learned there!)

Molly said...

(eaglebeak)

Meep: I think you're right--Pierre was this lovely, loving person wandering through the strangest landscape of war and hard-hearted people, although Rostov was a kind man and Princess Maria Bolkonskaya was sweet.

The rest of them were pretty rough.

Leora said...

I've never had the impulse but I was impressed by my college roommate who re-read Thomas Pynchon's "V" like that.

Anga2010 said...

I always open up the book to somewhere in the middle to see if it's interesting enough to read. If it's not immediately interesting, I'll open to another a chapter or two later and/or earlier until I find something I would like to read (mostly dialogue, I'll often skip through the descriptions of rooms or landscape) and then continue.
I often skip back and forth through the middle and then read to the end, then start from the beginning and then almost always read all the way through.
That's just me.

paulgo said...

I recall doing this not with a book but with a series: when I finished Gene Wolfe's The Citadel of the Autarch, I went back to the first book in the series, Shadow of the Torturer, and started all over again.

William said...

When I was young, I read and re-read a lot of books. Television wasn't much good back then. Books were the primary source of entertainment.. I can even remember lending libraries at the drug store. That's where you went for the best sellers. There was a huge wait at the library for best sellers, and they didn't come out in paperback until a year or so after hardcover publication.

wholelottasplainin' said...

Althouse: as a five-year Kyoto resident some time ago, I heartily recommend visiting Japan.

Others have pointed out that language is really not a problem any more, as hotels and restaurants offer service and menus in English, and the Japanese always go out of their way to assist foreigners. GPS will certainly help you get around.

Visiting Tokyo is itself a great experience---a dizzying mix of traditional, ultra-modern and (sometimes) crazy. You can spend days exploring it. But Kyoto is a must for anyone who wants to see Japan as it once was--and before it's too late.

So hop on a Shinkansen bullet train and enjoy the sights as you hurtle southwestwards past the still-agricultural countryside and Mount Fuji to the Kansai area.

I would recommend staying at least for a night at one of Kyoto's premier traditional "ryokan" inns, called "Hiiragiya". It's very pricey, but a wonderful experience of pre-war Japan.

https://www.hiiragiya.co.jp/en/

I took my then-young wife there once, when there was a prospect that I might be transferred there. (didn't happen).

Kyoto's a bustling city, but once you get past the inn's the front door you're whisked back to a much earlier time, with elegant furnishings, exquisite decorations and an ambience of a hundred years ago.

Not a trace of "Hello Kitty".

My spoken Japanese was then was pretty good, so instead of having the attendants speak English, I acted as interpreter. The Wife was gob-smacked, never having heard me use the language. We have a pic of her dressed in a yukata robe, kneeling in front of an elegantly-presented meal, her expression one of bedazzlement and amazement.

It was a very memorable evening.

Go for it!!



Sarah from VA said...

The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner. It's a Young Adult book, but extremely good. Several of my friends have read it and they all have the same reaction -- go right back and read it again, knowing what you know at the end.

I just finished reading Kafka on the Shore, and have the feeling I need to educate myself more to get it. I'll do some research -- listen to Beethoven, watch one of the movies referenced, etc. -- and then maybe do a reread a little ways down the line. (My main reaction, I must admit, is that it is a profoundly weird book. But I did enjoy it.)

Clark said...

I read all of the books Agatha Christie wrote under her own name; and then I started in and did it again. It's become quite a habit: reading a few chapters before going to sleep. I started doing it while working on my Ph.D. dissertation. She reliably eased me down from thinking about being and time so I could sleep.

Maillard Reactionary said...

Amexpat's advice on traveling to Japan is very good. Japan is very foreigner-friendly.

I traveled to Japan on business dozens of times, usually in the Osaka region. I have also been to Kyoto several times--a must see place--also Nara, and Iyo-Saijo in Ehime.

In the cities, the majority of the people speak at least a little English (eigo). Several times, I tried out my basic textbook nihongo and got a reply in my native tongue (which kind of spoiled the fun a little, for me). Just the same, a few words and phrases from a business travelers' handbook will get you a long way, although hardly necessary.

Japanese people really appreciate it when foreigners understand even a little bit of their language and customs, and show great delight when you do so, even imperfectly.

One of the many charming aspects of the culture is how people doing even the humblest jobs take them so seriously, and do them so well. Every morning as I had my coffee in Moriguchi-shi, the shopkeepers would be hosing off and sweeping the sidewalk in front of their places to make them clean and inviting for the customers.

If you arrive at opening time (9 AM) at one of the major department stores, and stand in the queue of Japanese ladies getting ready to spend their husbands' paychecks, you will have the the experience of the clerk-ladies bowing and saying "Irasshaimase" (very polite "welcome") to you as you walk in.

Even the wooden box that you bring your vase home in is beautifully dovetailed all around, and too nicely done to throw away as mere packing material.

I should also mention that all of the signs in the subway, in the city (Osaka in my experience, but certainly also Tokyo) are in English as well as Japanese.

Another experience not to be missed is the food court--actually food-seller-mall--in the underground story of all of the major department stores. Especially if you get there when the fishmonger is auctioning off a nice one to all the ladies present. It's all sharp looks and pointy elbows then. Gaijin are well advised to keep a safe distance during the proceedings.

Gretchen said...

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren is, on so many levels, a great read. The story structure, the lyrical prose, the gritty relevance, worth a re read if it’s been a while.

betty said...

Anne - I have lived in Tokyo for the last 30 years. If you are thinking of visiting and would like support from someone who's here, I'd be happy to help.

mockturtle said...

Gretchen comments: All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren is, on so many levels, a great read. The story structure, the lyrical prose, the gritty relevance, worth a re read if it’s been a while.

Every other chapter was great--the ones about 'Willie Stark' were superb. Those about the narrator's love affair were lame, IMO. Great take on the career of Huey Long, although, having read several biographies and an autobiography of same, I'm inclined to think Long was both smart and skillful and not quite as corrupt as he's made out to be. Like Trump, he was fighting the Powers that Be. Long published his own newspaper because he thought the press was unfairly biased against him. And it was.

mockturtle said...

Amen to all of Phidippus' comments. So many things I loved about Japan! And in speaking Japanese the staccato pronunciation is important in having it understood, I found.

mockturtle said...

And, at least when I was there, Japan was by far the cleanest place I've ever visited.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Strange one for this crowd, but totally in-character for me -- 'The History of Interest Rates' (Homer & Sylla, 730 pp)

Essentially it examines the fluctuations of interest rates in assorted economies for the last 4,000 years. Not only was it quite dense, but truly fascinating and informative. My training and professional work is all in the sciences [Geology and Agronomy], but economic history has long been my palate-cleansing passion, and I read anywhere between 500 and 1500 pages of a month.

About the only fiction works I ever read are government economic projections and left-wing policy proposals, most notably in regard to climate.

Big Mike said...

Have you reached the end of a book and started over? Not me, but I know devout Christians who reach the end of Revelations and start over at "In the beginning."

Cheryl said...

mockturtle: I just looked at W&P--I read the Pevear/Volokhonsky version! It was quite good. But here is the secret...I read it on Kindle. The long French passages can be translated with the touch of an asterisk. The extensive historical footnotes are also very easily accessed.

Backstory: I read BK over a couple of months, a period in which I traveled to Spain twice. That stupid novel took up SO MUCH room in my backpack that I complained to my husband that if I were going to keep reading Russian authors I needed to get a Kindle. So that was my Mother's Day gift last year. Downloaded W&P later in the year and found the reading experience on a novel like that so far superior to the regular book experience that I was sold. (That and I regularly peruse the $1.99 deals for books on my "To be read" list.) So I would highly recommend Kindle just for the superior reading experience.

Big Mike: I just remembered that I've done that every year for the last seven or eight. It's part of the rhythm of my morning now, but I still hear new things all the time. (I do this on audio, so I do actually HEAR it.)

mockturtle said...

Thank you, Cheryl! I'll order it for my kindle--the Pevear version.

mockturtle said...

And, yes, I have read the Bible from start to finish and back to start at least a dozen times. Part of my daily routine.

dustbunny said...

Mockturtle-yes Japan is the cleanest place I’ve ever been. It was hard to find a garbage can, we were told it’s because people take their garbage with them, it’s impolite to have others dispose it for you. We also saw school children in Kyoto on walks with garbage bags but there was so little trash to pick up the bags were mainly filled with leaves. No wonder David Sedaris loves visiting.

clint said...

I've done this several times, usually with books that have a big twist at the end.

I may skim a bit on the reread, but it's fun to see all the clues I missed that make the "surprising yet inevitable" twist not a cheat, to be in on the joke, as it were.

I think the most recent book that made me do this was Skin Game, by Jim Butcher. It's a heist book, a heroes-and-villains-team-up-for-one-job story, in which (spoiler alert!) the main character was in cahoots with a member of the opposition the whole time, coordinating right in plain sight by using code-words in their dialogue. (end spoiler) Of course I had to go back and read all of their scenes again, to see how they pulled it off.

Hilda Wagner said...

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.
The last paragraph is the same as the first paragraph.
And the second time you read it, it is a different book. You HAVE to read it like that to understand that it is not a "ghost story" but a finely crafted work of art.

narayanan said...

Robert Cook said... "I have done it with all of Ayn Rand novels."

Ah! A masochist!

I find it interesting that you associate pain with reading Ayn Rand novels."
You must have found it too mentally challenging -

Roger Sweeny said...

Robertson Davies, BTW, said that you should read a work when you're at least the same age as the author was when he wrote it.

I wish someone had told that to my high school English teachers.