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24 July 2006

A Year of Rereading

To everyone who reads this blog (that's you, if you're reading this): I'd love to have your ideas on this post. Since you're reading this, please comment! We were talking in an earlier post about poetry and other works that bear frequent, even annual, rereading. I'd like to compile a list of works that you read, or wish you read, every year, especially at certain days or seasons. A liturgical calendar, as it were, of literature. Let's not include Scripture in this list, because there are excellent resources available (The Book of Common Prayer, one-year Bibles, etc.) that do just that. So drop us a little note to say what you love to reread, and when.

18 comments:

Iambic Admonit said...

And I'll begin. My family used to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens every year on or at close to Christmas Eve as possible. I knew a family who read the appropriate chapters of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe each Christmas and Easter.

matushkadonna said...

When my kids were growing up, we turned off the TV in Advent and instead on Sunday nights read favorite Christmas-themed works (and viewed certain selected videos, like the Alistair Sim Scrooge, Charlie Brown and the Grinch!) Like you, we read A Christmas Carol, as well as The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Johnson, and Madeleine L'Engle's The Twenty-Four Days before Christmas.

A personal favorite of mine for Lent is The Silver Chair. The trialsome journey, and Jill's attempt to follow the discipline of reciting the signs, seems to me very Lenten indeed.

And I like to read Lord of the Rings in the fall. The spiritual journey of the Orthodox Church Year begins in September, and all the preparing for and setting off from Hobbiton also begins with Bilbo's birthday in September.

Rosie Perera said...

We, too, read A Christmas Carol at least two Christmases. We also read A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas once or twice. I invited some friends over for an Advent party one year and read another Christmas story by Dickens, The Chimes (published by Penguin together with A Christmas Carol in The Christmas Books). A wonderful Children's Christmas story that I only discovered as an adult (it was read to us at Regent by a fellow student one year) is The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch. I bought a copy of it used over the Internet. I'd love to reread that every year.

For the past two years, I've begun a tradition of Lenten reading. I was introduced by a friend to a book called Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, published by Plough, and containing readings by a veritable Who's Who of great Christian writers: Augustine, Bonhoeffer, Chesterton, Donne, Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard, Lewis, Luther, Macdonald, Merton, Muggeridge, Henri Nouwen, Pascal, Christina Rosetti, Dorothy Sayers, Mother Teresa, Tolstoy, Walter Wangerin, etc. I also have two other beautiful books meant for Lenten reading which I intend to use as I keep up this tradition in the coming years. These are When True Simplicity is Gained: Finding Spiritual Clarity in a Complex World, and The Promise of Winter: Quickening the Spirit on Ordinary Days and in Fallow Seasons, both written by theologian Martin Marty, with striking meditative B&W photographs by his son Micah Marty.

Andrew Simone said...

Well, you already have my list but I would add that I have to reread Salinger's entire corpus at least every two years. It is generally done in one weeks time.

I wish I knew why I feel inexplicable drawn to his writing.

Andrew Simone said...

Oh, and Pascal's Pensees...how could I have forgotten him.

Iambic Admonit said...

Andrew, does that mean one week of doing nothing else, only reading Salinger? And why him? I'd be interested to hear more.

I try to reread all the Narnia Chronicles about every two to three years, and several other Lewis works with some of the other Inklings thrown in, more or less constantly.

Ariel said...

I've been meaning to get over here and respond to this question... I guess honesty compels me to say that I don't read any one book every year at this point. Maybe after I've successfully scanned most of the world's great literature I'll develop the luxury of re-reading.

Until that happens, certain authors appear every year, for sure. Lewis, Tolkien, John Piper, Eugene Peterson, Ravi Zacharias, Charles Dickens, P.D. James...great question.

I'm eagerly awaiting your post on the topic of C.S. Lewis's "romanticism" or, more aptly, "Joy."

Andrew Simone said...

I seldom have the luxury to have a full week to soley do anything. Besides, if all I did was read Salinger I would be finished in two days.

As for why I reread him that is a trickier question. I think, for one, he has a sense of things being amiss, particularly the unwitting self-consciousness and egotism that people have.

A. Simone's principle #1 about people: A person's greatest fascination, which is to say what one loves to talk about most, is oneself." Salinger sees this.

Second, he also has a great appreciation of children (cognitively, I do not know about personally) and childhood innocence. Most of his character's struggle, one way or another, with a loss of innocence at too early an age and that, for many reasons, also resonates with me.

Third, there is something endearing about his touch with language. The fellow is a legitimate wordsmith and a sort of spiritual jack-of-all-trades which I love as well.

Lastly, he has a deep suspect, if not hatred for, authority and yet seems to appreciate the great thinkers of the past, tradition and history. He is uncomfortable enough with "The Canon" (whatever it may be) to be justified in having one, however unorthodox.

Don't here what I am not saying, there are places he misses the mark. I don't think in Franny and Zooey, for instance, he really understands who the Christ is.

Eurydice said...

Great question!
I think I need to reread the Narnia Chronicles every year.
Yes, A Christmas Carol is a must. Also the lesser known Christmas Stories and Christmas Books such as The Holly Tree, The 7 Poor Travelers (I highly recommend), A Christmas Tree. Around Lent, I usually feel drawn towards St Augustine's Confessions. During the summer, I can reread any book of any length—everything flows beautifully. Usually Dickens novels, my favorite by far being ToTC. Jane Eyre is my other favorite book to reread.
And in the fall, trying to bear with Christian resignation the fading of voluptuous summer, I often turn to Pilgrim's Progress. Is that odd? :)

Ariel said...

Better late than never...

I guess honesty compels me to say that I don't read any one book every year at this point. Maybe after I've successfully ingested most of the world's great literature I'll develop the luxury of re-reading.

Until that happens, certain authors appear every year, for sure. Lewis, Tolkien, John Piper, Dostoevsky, Augustine, Eugene Peterson, Ravi Zacharias, Charles Dickens, P.D. James...books most likely to be re-read at this point probably reside in the Lewis canon.

I'm eagerly awaiting your post on the topic of C.S. Lewis's "romanticism" or, more aptly, "Joy."

Iambic Admonit said...

Thanks, Ariel! But don't hold your breath. This project on Joy is going to take a year. Look in this spot at this time next year and maybe you'll see something! :) But, seriously, I'll probably put bits and pieces of it on as I go along. Any ideas as to what aspect of Joy hasn't been talked about yet?

Saruman said...

I am twenty years old, and I there is so much I have not yet read that the only book I've ever re-read is "Passion and Purity" by Elisabeth Elliot (thoughts on practical romance).
I'm sure the day will come when I will re-read many classics that you can't absorb in one reading: Dickens, Hardy, George Eliot, other good Brit. Lit.! But, that day is not yet near.

Rosie Perera said...

Books I have reread in my [adult] life:
Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)
The Cost of Discipleship (Bonhoeffer)(3x)
The Screwtape Letters (Lewis)
A Grief Observed (Lewis)
Between Heaven and Hell (Peter Kreeft)
Orthodoxy (Chesterton)
Till We Have Faces (Lewis)
Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis)
Our Town (Thornton Wilder)
The Princess and the Goblin (Macdonald)
The Hobbit (Tolkien)
The Christian Mind (Harry Blamires)
The Great Divorce (Lewis)
A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle)
Confessions (Augustine)
Are Women Human? (Dorothy Sayers)
Reversed Thunder (Eugene Peterson)
Out of the Silent Planet (Lewis)
Perelandra (Lewis)
That Hideous Strength (Lewis)
Letters from Lake Como (Romano Guardini)
Technopoly (Neil Postman)
The Sabbath (Abraham Joshua Heschel)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce)
The Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien) [still haven't reread the rest of the Lord of the Rings, but plan to]
The Mind of the Maker (Sayers)

Most of those would be worth rereading yet again, especially Lewis, Chesterton, Macdonald, Tolkien, Bonhoeffer, and Augustine.

I don't think there's any particular time of year that is better for rereading classics than any other time, actually. I sometimes even break out of the liturgical calendar mold and read something that's obviously seasonal at another time of year, or sing Christmas carols in the summer. Speaking of which, my church gathers 15 minutes before the service each Sunday to "sing through the hymnal." We sing 3-4 hymns each time, and are gradually working our way through from 1 to the end, not skipping any. Which means we sometimes do things out of season, but it's OK. And it's wonderful to get to know every single hymn in our hymnal.

Greg Johnson said...

can't put my fingers on the exact quotation at the moment, but C.S. Lewis says something along the lines of: 'In the first read, one discovers the characters and events...it is in the *re-reading* that one gains wisdom and strength.' (I think that's from somewhere in 'Of This and Other Worlds')
kejj

Iambic Admonit said...

Anna, surely you have read and reread and rereread the books you've adapted as plays? Pride & Prejudice, A Christmas Carol, the Miracle Worker, and others I don't know about.

Ariel said...

"This project on Joy is going to take a year. Look in this spot at this time next year and maybe you'll see something! :)"

Oh no! I was hoping to see a thesis appearing here soon. This topic is fascinating.

"Any ideas as to what aspect of Joy hasn't been talked about yet?"

I'll keep thinking about this. My initial "thought" is that Lewis's joy suffuses his books so thoroughly that it's hard to picture it as something cut off at salvation. Even his "dialectic of desire" in Pilgrim's Regress seems like it would continue naturally enough in the Christian life, as our desires continue to lead us nearer and nearer to Christ...the honing of desire (Joy), so to speak.

Rosie Perera said...

I just discovered (and bought) a book at the Glen Workshop book table called Epiphanies: Stories for the Christian Year, edited by Eugene Peterson & Emilie Griffin. The writers are members of the Chrysostom Society (Harold Fickett, Emilie Griffin, William Griffin, Alice Slaikeu Lawhead, Stephen Lawhead, John Leax, Madeleine L'Engle, Karen Burton Mains, Calvin Miller, Shirley Nelson, Virginia Stem Owens, Eugene Peterson, Luci Shaw, Robert Siegel, Walter Wangerin, Greg Wolfe, and Philip Yancey). It contains stories to be read throughout the church calendar, and the chapter headings support this (e.g., Advent, Christmas, Stephen, Ephiphany, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Annunciation, Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Transfiguration, All Saints, All Souls, Christ the King).

Mother Crone's Homeschool said...

I try to read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "A Gift from the Sea" every summer on a beach holiday. Although not classic literature in sense of Dicken's and James, it is the examining of life and it's ever-changing relationships and stages. I find that with each reading, I am able to relate more as a woman, a mother, a wife.

BTW, I have been reading and enjoying your blog all summer. My son Tyler will be taking your writing class at SELAH this fall. I couldn't be more thrilled that you will be teaching him!