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?
Belle not weird at all (I shouldn't speak for everyone!). Each May in anticipation of Bloomsday (June 16th) I read some of "Ulysses" by James Joyce, I have done this for more years than I wish to recount. The overall number of times I have read it cover to cover must be about 20 times I would estimate, 100 times that’s a lot! As it is a long book I always read the first 3 or 4 chapters to allow me to get into Joyce's head-space, then I jump around for to my favourite chapters (Laestrygonians, Cyclops, Nausicaa etc) always ending with Molly's breathless soliloquy. This occurs over about a month and I end it with a Bloomsday lunch. Now to answer your original question the only book that may come close to 100 readings in my life time, will probably be “The Wind in the Willows” as that’s where I am the happiest, apart from my claustrophobia in Mr. Badger’s den!ReplyDelete
What a lovely tradition, Tullik. What, pray tell, does a Bloomsday lunch consist of? I enjoy hearing of private celebrations that people have incorporated into their lives. So nice to have our own personal holidays! And you can't go wrong in the company of Mr. Badger, Rat, Mole, et. al. Reminds me that it might be time to reread WintheW/Delete
I was just reading about this on another blog. The only books I would consider reading 100 times are Alice in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass. I've read each several times since I discovered them as a child and I've re-read parts of them hundreds of times. They always make me laugh with their spot on deadly logic and goofy poems.ReplyDelete
Good choice, Joan. I was thinking of adding Winnie-the-Pooh to my list of prospects. One can't go wrong living in Wonderland or the 100-Acre Wood.Delete
I have read several books multiple times, but nowhere near 100 times--and I don't think I would even want to. It sounds boring to me, but to each his/her own. There are so many (many, many) books I want to read that I haven't picked up yet!ReplyDelete
Among my favorites for rereading: the Anne of Green Gables series (I reread the whole thing every few years), 84 Charing Cross Road (it makes me laugh out loud), and various Mary Stewart books that I pick up when I need a comfort read. Still, I know I won't be anywhere near reading these 100 times.
I know what you mean, Kathy, about the comfort reads. I have been more inclined lately to reach for the familiar books on my shelves than starting something new. I still haven't read Anne of Green Gables although I have a lovely Children's Classics edition that I picked up on one of my 'literary tours'.Delete
You laugh reading 84CCR and I weep through the entire book. I think it is because I have seen the movie multiple times and I have such vivid pictures in my mind (and heart) of the characters.
Thanks for chiming in!
So very, very interesting, Belle; both your post and Marche's commentary.ReplyDelete
I've just been up north to visit with the grands, so this idea of centireading brings to mind how young children love to be read to, and most often the same book over and over and over again. Children seem to naturally, instinctively engage in centireading, especially round about the age of 2 1/2 years old, when their minds are like sponges, soaking every word up. So, in that case, I've read The Little Engine that Could and The Snowy Day 100 times and then some. :)
I have read 84 Charing Cross Road many times, To Kill a Mockingbird more than a few, and Little Women often call to me, but, not 100 times. I am apt to read Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series, especially The Long, Hard Winter, during a snowstorm, which means most winters of my life.
A delightful, stimulating post for me to read today. Thank you for it.
Well, Penny, you can't read about the Little Engine too many times. And as we are in the middle of a snowstorm here (7 inches and counting) I might possibly be inspired to read The Long Hard Winter.Delete
I recently found and bought the Little House books but have not started on them. I may just have to jump ahead today to number six in the series.
Little Women. Cranford. Now that I have both on my Kindle, I can read them in the dark of night without getting up.ReplyDelete
Oh, Cranford. How lovely. I do need to have that one on my Kindle. I have a 'hard' copy of Little Women that was my mother's so unless the lights go out I am ready to reread that one! Thanks for the comment!Delete
I must have read Alice in Wonderland about 20 times because I read it twice a year while growing up. Then I reread it about a year ago and was mildly disappointed. It was not as engaging as I remembered although I understood the puns better than I did as a child. I liked the book better when I didn't realize the puns were puns.ReplyDelete
You will have to duke it out over "Alice" with Joan (above). I think I will stick with Winnie the Pooh. I was an adult before I read Alice and WtP and laughed out loud at both. Thanks for the comment. Sometimes we need to leave our fond childhood memories intact.Delete
Yeah I couldn't read the same book that many times. I dont think I'd get beyond 6 times. I think your book pics are good thoughReplyDelete
Perhaps this is just an idea to think about, not something to do! Thanks for you comments.Delete
I don't think I could read a book 100 times (or maybe I just haven't met the right book!) but I do think I could read a favourite poem that often.ReplyDelete
I do believe, Vicki, that I have read and reread Wordsworth's 'Intimations of Immortality' if not a hundred times, then close. What poem would you choose?Delete