Why Rereading is Totally Worth It + What I’m Rereading (FYI -It’s the All-Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness)

I read a lot.

Just in case you didn’t catch it in the title or haven’t read my blog, reading’s my jam. I love it.

And if there is anything I’ve learned in my reading life is that for every book I read there are at least 50 that I won’t read for a variety of reasons (no time being the biggest). It makes me sad to think that there are authors out there who put there hearts and souls into creating something that I can’t or won’t read, and I hope every book finds its reader. But often I’m not that reader.

So, with all these books out there that I won’t have time to read, why do I take time to reread a book? That’s a question with only one real answer: Because I want to.

But let me dive into that a little deeper. There are a myriad of reasons as to why I would  read a book a second time, to let an already read work take a much coveted space on my currently reading pile.

Or virtual pile.

To be clear, my favorite way to reread a book is to listen to it – usually at bedtime or while I work. I put the book on my Echo and listen away. If it’s at bedtime, I set a sleep timer and let the words lull me to sleep. If I think I missed something, I might rewind a little the next time I listen – but, since I’ve read it before, I don’t feel like I’m missing too much.

And, even though it’s a listen rather than a physical read, it’s still part of my reading list, and those spots are special. As much as I would like to, I have work and family, so I can’t spend my whole day reading or even listening to a book. So the books I decide reread need a good reason. So, in case you’re wondering what a good reason might be, let me enlighten you:

Reading Memories

This is the first and foremost reason I reread a book is the memories associated with that book.  It may have struck a chord during a particular moment in my life, making it special in an emotional way. A passage remembered, a character who understood, or lived, my pain.

It could be that a book made me smile, and I need some happy in my life. Or maybe I suddenly remember a setting or a family and I feel the need to revisit them.

Whatever the reason, I return because of the good memories.

I Hated It, but Others Have Raved About It

We all know reading is very subjective and personal, so this is a tough one. There are times, though, I’ll give a book another try. If someone with whom I usually agree loves a book I hated, I consider a reread.

I might not make it all the way through, but I’ve been known to reconsider my dislike.

I have been known to change my mind on a dislike — usually it’s a classic I read in high school and appreciate in a totally different light as an adult.

It’s a Seasonal Thing

Certain books call to me in certain seasons. Like now. I’m rereading (through Audible) the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. I just finished A Discovery of Witches, the first of the trilogy, and I’m onto Shadow of Night.

Although the series isn’t necessarily seasonal, A Discovery of Witches is, at least for me. It takes place in the early fall, September and October, mostly in Oxford, England and upstate New York (although the short time spent in France is memorable). And, it’s about witches and other creatures (vampires and daemons), so pretty perfect for Halloween.

(FYI, it’s an incredibly smart magical series, well researched and very engaging. And Jennifer Ikeda is wonderful, and the voice I associate with Diana Bishop, the protagonist and main narrator of the books).  I talked about the books earlier: Finding Balance and The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness.

I haven’t reread the All Souls Trilogy before, but this fall it called to me. I’ve been known to reread The Shining during a snowstorm, or Jane Austen in the spring. It just fits.

It’s a classic

There’s always a good time to reread a classic. I’ll read an article about the book that makes me think of it in a new, deeper way.  Or I may find just want to find something new, or look at it from a different perspective.

And may have been canon I disliked or even HATED and I’ve decided to give another chance. In THAT instance, it falls under two of my rereading categories 🙂

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It’s Stephen King

I will pretty much always ALWAYS reread Stephen King. Not everyone of his books, but I have a few that I come back to again and again. It’s usually because I feel a need to revisit his characters. This last summer, it was because I finished The Dark Tower Series at realized how many of his books related to the worlds in this wonderful opus of books.

But there are many other times when I’ll circle back to one or more of his books just because I want to.

For me, Stephen King is always justified as a reread (relisten). And BONUS!, he usually has great narrators.


 

Now you have it — for me, these are the reasons for rereads.

What are your thoughts on rereading? What’s your favorite reread? Let me know — I might add it to my list!

 

 

 

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CRM Review: Jennifer Egan’s “Manhattan Beach”

Manhattan Beach

Jennifer Egan

October 3, 2017 | Scribner

Literary fiction | Historical fiction

Brooklyn in the 1930’s had to have been a tough place. And it was for Eddie Kerrigan as well. Having lost all his luxuries, Eddie has gone to work for his childhood friend, a union boss and a piece in the organized crime puzzle. Playing the go-between, Eddie delivers packages and envelops to legitimate businessmen and gangsters alike.

Often he takes his elder daughter on these errands, allowing them some father-daughter time. When Manhattan Beach opens, Eddie and his 12 year-old daughter Anna are on their way to visit a very important man, one who may hold the key to their survival. Anna’s eyes are opened up to a world of servants, unlimited toys, and private beaches. As she is emboldened to put her bare feet in the winter ocean water, their host sees something in Anna, a steely resoluteness that he envies.

When they leave, Anna understands without being told that her father and Dexter Styles, have made some kind of secret deal, a secret she agrees to keep.

Years later America is at war and Eddie has disappeared. Anna works at the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, doing work women are allowed to do because of that war. Using that steely resolve, Anna becomes the first female diver, welding and repairing the ships in the yard. She has become the main breadwinner for her remaining family: her mother, a ex Ziegfield Folly dancer, and her severely disabled sister.

Out on the town with a friend one night, she meets Dexter Styles, the man who may hold the secrets to her father’s life and disappearance, the underworld connections for both mean that may have lead to her father’s murder. Through Dexter, Anna comes to understand a little of her father’s life, understanding the difficulty in sliding between the legitimate and illegitimate worlds.


I seem to say this about every novel I read lately, but I was very excited for this book. Jennifer Egan is imaginative and inventive, and I couldn’t wait to see what she would do with an historical novel.

Egan immerses readers in detail. Her research into naval divers during World War II as well as the layers of organized crime in Brooklyn and New York must have consumed her: there is so much detail and reality that you know it’s pretty close to true. She talks about so many things in such offhanded specificity, from the way girls dressed to go out to caring for her invalid sister, making readers never doubt the realism in these particulars.

The protagonist of this story is Anna, and her’s is the main storyline. But, with grace and agility, Egan weaves in the stories of Eddie Kerrigan and Dexter Styles, two men more similar than they realize, and two men who helped form the adult Anna. Although Anna’s story is the anchor, Eddie and Dexter’s full life stories are told as more than background, giving readers an understanding of their motivations.

There is so much reality and realness in Manhattan BeachHave you ever read a novel and cringed at the dialogue? Egan’s dialogues just fit. Her characters are interesting, and she realizes their conversations would be engaging as well. She doesn’t have them talk down to us, but neither does she make them overly wordy. They talk and discuss and gossip, sounding like real people having everyday (or not so everyday) conversations.

Manhattan Beach reads like the best of novels, interweaving stories and storylines deftly. But there is an element of mystery and suspense. Readers are pulled into the periphery of organized crime, understanding that while there were those that jumped into that life with both feet and never looked back, there were others trying to balance between two worlds, wishing they could live life solidly on legitimate ground.

But Anna is the star of the show, as I said. And her reality seems to hit closest to the bone. She’s tossed into the world as a woman of her times, not fighting for equality for all women, not even really herself. She just wants a chance to do what she knows she’ll be good at, and fights for the chance to dive. Thanks to the war, she gets to choose her own life, something that would not have been possible without WWII.

As I read this, I thought about how difficult it must have been at that time to have a loved one with a disability. As the mother of a child with a disability, this is naturally where my mind heads. But I also realized there’s one reality that seeps through, not matter what year you live in. You do what you must for those you love. In other words, it is what it is.

And it’s the same with Anna. Egan presents her with such authenticity. Anna’s just doing what she needs to do to be who she wants to be. There’s no preachiness in the way Egan gives us Anna, no talk of her seizing liberation and equality, although she gets both through her resourcefulness and skill.

I read this in another review (I think it was in the New York Times), and I agree: the only problem I have with Manhattan Beach is that it didn’t challenge me as a reader. I kind of expected that from Jennifer Egan.

But Manhattan Beach is wonderful storytelling, taking historical fiction to an entirely new level. Although rife with detail, Egan keeps everything moving beautifully, making it hard to put down. She’s an agile and dexterous writer, telling a good story without losing authenticity and detail.

So yes, yes, and yes to Manhattan BeachIt’s what all historical fiction should strive to become.

****Thank you to Scribner for giving me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!