Do you really re-read?

Marie Kondo may have caused quite a stir with her cavalier attitude to books. Misguided people were angry at her ideas, as if art and books must never be given away. It is possible they haven’t read her book because the reactionaries are reacting to a perception of it, not what is written there. My husband is such a reactionary and said:

“Isn’t she the woman who makes you get rid of books? I don’t like her.”

Kondo has really made me think about what books I honestly re-read. It has been eye-opening to think how few I really revisit Books I have kept to re-read fall mainly into one of the following categories:

1. Books I studied

I didn’t keep my copy of Paradise Lost or Chaucer from university days but then I am not convinced I ever really read those the first time around. A few books I have kept I wrote a dissertation on. These books have significance because they represent a time when I had a brain. Post child and six years and counting of sleep deprivation, it’s good to have some proof. They also have my scribbles all over (I know, the horror!) And if I don’t understand what it means now, there is no-one out there who will appreciate my insightful single word or under-lining. Like below…

“I was a servent of Eros.” Well quite.

I’m sure the Eros was important, and I know this scene was important to my essay but is a new reader going to be bothered? I think they are more likely to be annoyed to get this copy. So, for now, Coetzee gets to stay.

2. Children’s Books

I don’t think it’s polite to mention how many times a person has re-read Harry Potter but like most book-lovers the full set adorns my shelves. Added to that Phillip Pullman, JRR Tolkien and a much-loved copy of Pollyanna. They are not there just for me to re-read but also with the hope that my son will want to read them some day. I also proudly own the Mr Men and Little Miss Library and the Thomas the Tank Library too. There may come a time when my son decides he doesn’t want these, but for now I don’t have to make these decisions. I am probably guaranteed to re-read the children’s books, not least because they are “comfort reading” for me. Which brings me to my next category…

3. Jane Austen

Though I own them electronically I count Jane Austen as my comfort reading essentials. If ever feel ill or low, going back to the well-worn paths of Elizabeth Bennett has always helped. So lyrical, so easy and enjoyable. There is even some science behind the novel cure, recently I listened to this great episode of The Allusionist  all about reading fiction during convalescence. Re-reading can be an incredible act of self-care and one that I prescribe myself quite frequently.

4. Signed books

Whether it is queuing for hours to get my tatty copy of The Satanic Verses signed or the lucky chance to spend time with E L Doctorow, there are certain books that I revisit with added excitement. That they have momentarily touched the author’s hands, means it is that very copy of The Book of Daniel that I want to keep. Exquisite writing aside, it is strangely more precious for the memory that it invokes. And I admit some of these items are as much sentimental as liable to be re-read by future me. But perhaps that it represents some moment in my life is part of why it still sparks joy for me.

So should there be other books on my book shelf? There are still plenty more that I haven’t decided yet but I did recently get rid of The Grapes of Wrath. A worthwhile endeavour to read it once but am I really going to slog through it again. It’s a wonderful book. Truly great literature. But I don’t feel the need to archive literature I have read..and I could always get it out the library.

How has been getting rid of books been for you? Do you honestly think you will re-read the ones you have kept?

One thought on “Do you really re-read?

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