I read with interest a piece written by Stephen Marche and published in The Guardian this past week. In it Mr. Marche states that there are two books that he has read at least one hundred times.
The first is Shakespeare's Hamlet full of murder and madness. The second is P.G. Wodehouse's The Inimitable Jeeves full of merriment and mirth. The first he read for his dissertation and the second for his amusement.
He calls this centireading and writes about the process: By the time you read something more than a hundred times, you've passed well beyond "knowing how it turns out". The next sentence is known before the sentence you're reading is finished.
Here is the link to the original article if you would like to take a look.
Of course, this got me to thinking of books that I have read multiple times. There are not that many. And are there any - or even one - I might be willing to read one hundred times?
I went to my shelves.
The first one that I saw that I might consider was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It is so beautifully written and the characters are so dear and I have read it at least three times so I would be on my way.
Or what about 84, Charing Cross Road? That one by Helene Hanff I have read at least five times. Then there is On Writing Well by William Zinsser, a fine treatise on writing non-fiction that I have read four or five times at least.
But three or four or even five times is a far cry from one hundred. I must say that I feel a tiny tingle of excitement considering the prospect of choosing a book and reading it over and over. I think it would have to be a small book - 200 pages or so. Or perhaps I could find a book with a mere 100 pages and read it one hundred times.
84, Charing Cross Road fits that bill at 97 pages. My copy of To Kill a Mockingbird is 323 pages, and my third edition of On Writing Well runs to 238 pages.
Knowing my fondness for essays, perhaps I should consider the Essays of Elia, by Charles Lamb. I have a copy that contains the original twenty-eight essays first published in 1823. If I read an essay a day I could finish the book in that number of days which means I would have read the book thirteen times by the end of a year. I can't do any more math but I still would be a long way from one hundred.
How long before I grew weary of the words? Would I even live long enough to read a book that many times? If I read the same book once a month it would take me over eight years to reach my goal.
Would you care to chime in on this? Is this idea just too weird to even contemplate? If you would attempt to read one book one hundred times, what would it be?