In winter I am drawn to the cozy and familiar. I have a lot of reading to do of new and forthcoming books, but eventually I will cheat. I will pick up something old and beloved, and I will spend hours rereading it, and I will not feel guilty.
And you will likely do this, too. A few weeks ago, I asked about rereading books, and readers responded in great numbers. You reread all kinds of books (“The Great Gatsby” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” are particular favorites) for all kinds of reasons.
This summer, Karen Herreid read — for the third time — Vilhelm Moberg’s series of four books about Swedish immigration. She first read his books at 17, then in her 30s, and now at age 65, and each time found a different focus. “This time the stories seemed so rich,” she writes. “What I’ve learned is that the more effort I put into reading a book, the more I get out of it.”
Mary Feeney of Prior Lake attached a photo of a battered-looking “Jane Eyre” to her message. “I think I first read ‘Jane Eyre’ when I was about 15; this is my 1961 Signet edition. This is the book that showed me novels are more than just narrative. They have soul. They’re like guidebooks for life.”
Jan Burke of Minneapolis has read “This Perfect Day” by Ira Levin 24 times, and the survival story “Alive” by Piers Paul Read many times. The last time, “I was just going to read until I fell asleep but I found it such a page-turner that it was 3 a.m. when I finally closed the cover on my 14th read. It is that well-written.”
Steve Schulz rereads “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach and “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway each year. “In late August, I take a picnic and sit along the banks of Lake of the Isles in early evening and reread [‘Seagull’]. It’s a book about freedom, self-discovery and the thrill of trying new things.” He rereads the Hemingway every January. “It’s about courage, about working to the best of your ability, about never giving up.”
Mark Storry of Monticello, Minn., rereads for several reasons. “One is that I know that my time won’t be wasted on a book I don’t like. I’m 68 and finding my time more and more precious. Another is that there is some beautiful prose that I look forward to reading again and again. And rereading tells me things about myself — how I’ve changed or remained the same, how I see the world and the people in it.”
Bart Berlin is on his fifth reading of James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” “The emotional connection becomes closer with each reread. I got halfway this time and had to stop at Davy Byrne’s bar with the clock five minutes fast. My first reading 10 years ago changed everything about how I looked at art and the world. Each reread makes even more of a change.”
Barbara Manning of Grant rereads two books regularly — “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse and “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. “In both of them, I believe, I am looking for myself. I am seeking a place in the world (‘Siddhartha’) and recognizing the absolute absurdity of it (‘Catcher’). My feelings about ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ have evolved over the decades, but ‘Siddhartha’ has remained a constant.”
Elizabeth Hermeier writes: “I have read ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ by Virginia Woolf every year since I first read it in graduate school in 1983. I love the characters and the fact that the entire plot takes place in half a day (with numerous flashback references). I love the movement of interior monologue from character to character. It’s almost dreamlike. I love the stream-of-consciousness narrative style. But most of all I love the poetry in the prose. I think it’s the most beautiful novel ever written.”
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks.