Rereading Like the Dickens?

Steve has a whole shelf
of Dickens, and a whole
bookcase of classics.
I... don't
Every December Steve rereads A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.* He started doing it long before we met ("Since the late 80s, early 90s, I guess", he says). Whenever I comment on his commitment to this seasonal reread with amazement, he says something like "It's not a long book," and leaves it at that.

The thing is, I rarely reread anything. Even many of the books on my favourites list are ones I've read only once, or twice at best. The biggest exceptions are the books I kept returning to as a kid, like The Velveteen Rabbit and Where the Red Fern Grows, but aside from Charlotte's Web even most of my childhood favourites haven't been reread in adult-hood.


As illustrated by the talented Walt Sturrock.
This past December I read A Christmas Carol too. Of course I knew the story from many adaptations but I thought I was reading Dickens' actual prose for the first time. Yet passage after passage caught in my memory in a way that made it clear that I actually had read it before. At first I suspected it was when I originally learned of Steve's Dickens habit that I borrowed his copy, a decade or so ago. And that likely did happen. But then I realized that the illustrated copy of A Christmas Carol which was published in the late 80's and has moved around with me through the years is not, in fact, adapted for children as I assumed, but appears to be the complete text, with all the Dickensian turns of phrase and social commentary and general despondency that I'm not sure would have registered with eleven-year-old me.**

This all got me thinking about an article I once read*** which pointed out that before libraries were common, people could only read books they owned, and many families were lucky to own even a small handful. People would read and re-read those few books so often that the words would become part of the fabric of an individual's life. Now, it argued, we're so busy trying to get through our longer-than-a-lifetime to-read lists and generally trumpeting all the new! and unique! experiences we have, few people are rereading at all, or rereading more than a select one or two books. The main idea being that few people today read deeply enough; that in our quest to read moremoremore we're actually getting less, because the words never become a part of us.

Turning Over a New (Book) Leaf?

My personal Goodreads Challenge.
The orange bar is coming along nicely!
I'm not much for specific New Year's resolutions, but I do use early January as a time for review and general course correction. One of my course corrections for 2016 was a decision to spend less time online and instead read more actual books this year, and so far so good. But I also want to divide that reading time between new reads and rereads, which hasn't happened yet.

So in an effort to make myself publicly accountable, here, in no particular order, are just some of the books I want to reread before the year is out:

  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Feather and Bone: The Crow Chronicles by Clem Martini
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  • And J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, though I'll be surprised if I do all seven this year.
Many of them won't take long - it's just a matter of making the decision to pick one off my shelf rather than turning to my un-read pile of new books. (This is also in a year where I want to read some of the classics I've never gotten to, but that's for another post).

How Do You Read?

So are you a re-reader? What are the books you keep returning to, or the ones you'd like to re-read? Or are you one of those people who reads it once and never looks back? Comment or share a link to your own thoughts on rereading below or on Facebook.


* And yes, I know the phrase "like the dickens" has nothing to do with the author and everything to do with the devil, but it was a good post title nonetheless.

**It was around this age that I was the narrator in our school's production of A Christmas Carol and I suspect this book was a gift to commemorate that. I don't remember what words I said on that stage, but I'm going to assume that particular school-production script left out a lot of the nuances.

*** I tried to find it with Google, but I can't remember enough specifics. Here, though, are some other interesting articles I found: