Sunday, February 15, 2009

Déjà lu

Not a gardening post, but something that came to me the other evening, as I started re-reading a book for the umpteenth time.

There are some books I return to time after time, despite having read them so often my eyes have nearly worn the print away. Winter nights are often the times when I do this, especially if I've had a hard day at work and my brain is still buzzing with all the problems of the day. Lazy summer afternoons sitting in shade in the garden may also see me reach for these favourites.

They are warm and comfortable, with the happy knowledge that there are no surprises to unsettle me during the read. It also doesn't matter when I near the end of these books. sometimes I'm enjoying a book so much that I don't want it to end. With these books, I don't mind reaching the end, as I know I'll pick the book up again in the future and enjoy it once more.

Books on this list vary in the frequency of re-reading - some may be read again after one or two years, others may not be revisited for three or four years. Top of the list is My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell - responsible for all magpies being referred to as Magenpies.

Another often revisited friend is Last Chance to See by the sadly missed Douglas Adams and also Mark Carwardine, looking at endangered animals around the world.

A book that I have read three or four times, and that is rather apt at the moment, with it being 200 years since his birth, is a biography of Charles Darwin. Fascinating insight into his life and times.

Finally, a book that will become of my déjà lu favourites, once I can bring myself to read it again, is The Time Travellers Wife. It is so sad that at the moment I can't face reading again yet, but it is such a good book that I know I will do at some point.


Gail said...

I feel this way about several books...they are comforting and delightful to read over and over. Gail

VP said...

My Family and Other Animals was the first book we read in English lessons at secondary school. In spite of being made to read it, it's been a firm favourite ever since - as has my 'O' Level book, To Kill A Mocking Bird.

Unfortunately I haven't got past page 70 of The Time Travellers Wife. I made the mistake of taking it with me when my husband had some very scary hospital tests and he couldn't drive home afterwards. My worry about him and the book's theme combined saw me in floods of tears in the hospital waiting room and I haven't been able to touch it since.

Anna said...

I have some books like this too which are really precious to me. I know what you mean about there being no surprises to unsettle you, but sometimes I do pick up on things that I missed out on during the first or even second read. You have spurred me on to have another go at 'The Time Traveller's Wife'. I am not sure now why I put it down without finishing it.

Victoria Summerley said...

My read-again books are almost too numerous to list. Pride and Prejudice is one, and so is Enchanted April, and Cranford. And for some reason, Anne Scott-James's book about Sissinghurst has the same soothing "are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin?" quality about it. It's comfort reading, isn't it? We call magpies magenpies too.

Lucy Corrander said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Esther Montgomery said...



* * * * *

I'm the opposite, I hardly ever re-read a book. In fact, I don't think I read books properly to start with - I'm too impatient to find out what happens and whisk along too fast to pay proper attention, then I forget most of the detail . . . sometimes the ending too.

The Time Travellers Wife - someone gave me a copy, the Christmas before last, but I didn't want to read it in case it put ideas in my head. (!) Having read VP's comment . . . I think I may give it a miss for a bit longer. (Problem there - the person who gave it to me asks, every so often, whether I'm ready to read it yet!)


P.S. Magpies are Muffins in our family.

Nutty Gnome said...

I too have got several favourite books that I return to again and again - including 'The Time Travellers Wife' and 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin'(FAR better than the film!. I also love 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime'. I'm currently reading 'The Return' about the Spanish Civil War and it's going to be a re-reader.
I still can't read the books I did for my English exams 30 years ago though!

Arabella Sock said...

'My Family and Other Animals' was ruined for me (after I had adored my first read of it) by having it set for an 'O' level text. I seem to remember the charm and vitality being sucked out of most of our set texts by bad teaching.

In general I would not read a book twice when there is a world of unread books out there waiting for me. Occasionally I revisit some that belong to certain times of my life - like Richard Brautigans novels - just to see if/how they still affect me. The only book I particularly remember reading twice was Lord of the Rings, once when I was supposed to be swatting for 'A' levels and once when I was 'sofa'ed' for a long time with an illness. It was just as turgid second time round as I had remembered.

My favourite book is Laurie Lee's 'As I walked out one midsummer's morning'. You have reminded me that I should read it again soon.

HappyMouffetard said...

I wish I'd have had 'My Family & Other Animals' for an O level text. It would have beaten 'A man for all seasons', 'Macbeth' and the prologue to the Canterbury Tales into a cocked hat. Still, none were as bad as reading Balzac for French A level. Watching paint dry was laugh a minute compared to that.

I shall have to try the Laurie Lee book - I've only read Cider with Rosie.

Arabella Sock said...

Ah yes - Chaucer's dear old prologue
"I trowe he were a gelding or a mare" the teacher never did explain what that meant about the Pardoner, which is no doubt why it has stuck in my mind! I don't envy you Macbeth!

Anonymous said...

Like Esther I read fast and forget details which is very useful as I'm a re-reader of books too. These are mostly crime fiction and although I usually remember who did it I still get lots of pleasure from noticing the bits I missed on the first time round!
School managed to put me off Shakespeare, Dickens and Thomas Hardy for life. My Family & Other Animals somehow escaped unscathed.

Esther Montgomery said...

It's me again . . . Easy Gardener has set me off for a second time . . .

I was given a copy of 'The Overloaded Ark' at Christmas and was finding it rather a grind (even though I enjoyed his books when I was younger)so when a detective story hoved into sight, that was the end of Gerald Durrell.

(Awful, isn't it! I remind myself of my mother!)

We did the Wife of Bath's Tale at school - which meant we had to read the Prologue as well. Cheating, I call it. Same with Henry lV Part Two. Part TWO . . . so we had to read ONE first.

Hardy - how to be depressed in one easy go. Later on, I came to his poetry and short stories which I like very much. Don't usually like short stories but like his.

Oh, let's abandon gardening and take up English Literature instead. (And detective novels!) (Ruth Rendell . . . )


Bill Pearson said...

The box I've read the most is "The inspector suggests...or, How not to inhibit the child" by Jane Hope. It's written about primary school teaching in the 1950's but it's still relevant (and funny) to anyone on the education system today.

Anonymous said...

Ah Happy, the comfort of the familiar! For me, Beverley Nichols Merry Hall is the one that is like a pair of old slippers, so comfy and warming. For more thought provoking stuff, Anne Dillard's The Living. I did love you dark hellebore in the bloom day post too. Now what I want to know is why you didn't get down and wallow in the mud for your photos like some did. :-)