With so many great books piling up on my TBR list, who has time to re-read things? Am I right? But somehow, I sometimes find myself perusing through one of the books I enjoyed a lot, and by the time I close it, I’ve read 100 pages. Might as well finish it, then.
When I was a kid, re-reading was a big part of my bookish routine. Whenever I found a book I liked, I showed it a good time – which translates into reading it so many times I knew entire paragraphs by heart. Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo and Karl May’s Winnetou are two titles that immediately come to my mind when I think about those years. I read both those books so many times, that at some point they started to lose pages.
Since I’ve become an adult, I don’t re-read as much, but I sometimes lapse and find myself emersed again in a book that was already marked as finished. I also like to revisit some of the books that had an impact on me, but I read them 15 years ago, so I want to see how they sound in the present. Here are 10 of the books I read more than once in the past years (as an adult, that is.)
1. Michael Cunningham – The Hours
I first read The Hours in 2003 and then twice after that. The last time was in 2014 and I already feel the urge to revisit it again. This is, of course, one of my favorite books of all time, and I don’t know what I like more about it – its magnificent construction or the actual impeccable story. The Hours is one of the most profound books I have ever encountered, and Laura Brown is still one of my favorite (and relatable) characters ever. Oh, and the movie adaptation was terrific – what more could I possibly ask for?
2. Kazuo Ishiguro – The Remains of the Day
Another book with a movie adaptation that truly did it justice, The Remains of the Day will forever have a special place in my heart, mostly because it was one of the great reads that helped me get over a very difficult period in my life. But also because it’s awesome 🙂 It’s a story that’s immersing and deep in a way that few other books are. To say that Stevens is an unforgettable character is to state the obvious. When Ishiguro got his Nobel prize this year, I was thrilled, because let’s face it, how many times did your favorite author get the prize?
3. Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar
I first read The Bell Jar when I was 17, and it was a bit of a shock to me to see that it is actually possible to write about mental breakdown and spiraling into insanity with such force and frankness. At the time, I became a bit obsessed with Plath and her life, which led me to read everything she wrote plus a couple of biographies. This is a haunting book that I read again with the eyes of an adult at 32 and I found it just as mesmerizing as I did the first time.
4. Elfriede Jelinek – The Piano Teacher
The Piano Teacher is a book that hurts when you read, in a rather physical way. Whenever I think about this book, I remember the feelings I experienced when I read it for the first time in 2005. I felt punched and abused, almost in a torturous way. The novel is shocking, and the character of Erica is developed masterfully as she is caught between her darkest desires and social conventions. I read the book again in 2016 and I found it even more disturbing and touched by genius.
5. Simone de Beauvoir – The Second Sex
Simone de Beauvoir is the woman who taught me that I’m not less than because I lack a penis. Before reading The Second Sex for the first time at about 15, I had this idea that my gender is somehow the sole decisive factor of my destiny, which caused me years of dark depressions. De Beauvoir kindly let me know that’s not the case, even though most of the people around me thought that being a feminist equals being a frigid child-hating lesbian. Thank you, Simone! I promise to revisit this book again, and if I ever have a child (girl or not), put it on their mandatory reading list.
6. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love in the Time of Cholera
Whenever I think about Love in the Time of Cholera, I get that warm-inside feeling that accompanies a good story that is written so very beautifully. With this book, I experienced something unique – taking a break from the story every couple of pages just to admire just how marvelous the writing is. I somehow feel that I miss a lot by reading the English translation, and if I ever learn to read an entire book in Spanish, Marquez will have had something to do with it.
7. Henryk Sienkiewicz – Quo Vadis
There was a time in my life when I was smitten with this book. Since then, I read it a couple more times, last time in 2009, and the story still seemed perfect to me. It may have something to do with the fact that I read Classics in school and I’m fascinated by ancient cultures, but anyhow, Quo Vadis and I had some pretty good times together.
8. Irving Stone – The Agony and the Ecstasy
The Agony and the Ecstasy is responsible for the development of my love for art and later obsession with museums. I read this book for the second time in 2016 while living in Florence for a month (no, not a coincidence, it was deliberate) and couldn’t believe just how much the story shaped my admiration for all things Renaissance. It’s also one of the very, very few books that made me cry at the end (actual tears).
9. Tracy Chevalier – Girl with a Pearl Earring
Another book about art, Girl with a Pearl Earring is a page-turner that’s memorable and so well-written it deserved a second read. With this book, you can actually visualise the colors and smells of medieval Delft and picture yourself in Vermeer’s studio. The painting that inspired the book is the number one reason I want to travel to the Hague.
10. Caitlin Moran – How to Be a Woman
A very modern approach to feminism, How to Be a Woman tackles all the major themes that make a woman what she is, from the society’s obsession with breasts to the expectation that every woman should have children, even if she doesn’t have the desire to be a mother. I love Moran’s witty writing, and I also enjoyed How to Build a Girl tremendously.