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Written by Kirsten on October 22nd, 2009

The saying goes that one can never step into the same river twice. I believe the same to be true of reading. Memorable books from my childhood are particularly worthwhile re-reads, because if they were good enough then for me to recall them now (I don’t own many of my original volumes due to numerous purges and moves), chances are, I’ll find something that resonates in my adulthood. Books that deal with personal identity are always fascinating to revisit, to see if – and hopefully how – I’ve grown since the last reading. And of course, there are some classics that can show us how very simple it can be to escape any number of frustrations, distractions, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. An example from each group, if I may…

Anastasia’s Chosen Career, Lois Lowry. I adored Anastasia as a child, and now I see that she and I are truly one and the same in many ways, even if I didn’t see that at the time. I’ve since discovered The Giver, which I absolutely loved, and which made Lowry even more of a literary hero of mine. I’ve purchased, but have not yet read, Gathering Blue and Messenger.

Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg. Each time I read this book, some new aspect of the community gets my attention. The first time through, I was obsessed with the femmes – I existed on some level, in print! There’s even a word for women like me! – and was enamored of Jess/e. The second time, I paid closer attention to the relationships the butches had, with the femmes, and with each other. The ways they connected, and, more importantly, the ways they couldn’t. The most recent read was for school, and I saw the book through straight people’s eyes for the first time. I’m actually getting really emotional just thinking about the comments that were presented in the class discussion; I felt so… “Other,” and alienated, and despairing, even though this should have been my night, dammit. I’ll never forget that session, though I wish I could… Except that it serves as a reminder of how far we have yet to go. I’ll be reading it again for class this semester, and honestly don’t know what to expect. I don’t want to put up walls… But some things are just too fragile.

The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I’ve owned this book in French since my freshman year of high school. I was never fluent enough to read it, and so it wasn’t until I picked up a used copy at Modern Times earlier this year that I finally experienced this amazing little story. The first read was simply an engrossed and awed solid hour of page-turning. I was sobbing far before the end, and went back to several parts once I’d finished to read them again for the simple beauty of the premises set forth. The second read was the night before I flew home to Maine, and I was bringing this now-treasured volume with me to share with someone. It had been a very trying few days leading up to my departure, and I was feeling more anxious than excited about my trip. It served to calm me in a way… Not solving any of what was gnawing at me, but permitting me to release it to the universe. I’m looking forward to reading it regularly to see how the decisions I’ve made in my life influence my perception of the story.

So, enough out of me – do you re-read? If so, what? Is it simply for the fun of revisiting a favorite story (which I also do, alllll the time!)? Is it to recover a lost bit of childhood? To see how far you’ve come since last you read the particular book?


11 Comments so far ↓

  1. Well, I most definitely reread. I have two series that I reread *every* year, Harry Potter and Twilight (keep an eye on my blog, I’m working on something about this that should be up this weekend).

    Mostly when I reread, it’s to prepare for a new book in a series these days. I have a lot of books that I fully intend to reread someday, but then I end up feeling guilty for spending time on something I’ve already read at the expense of something new.

  2. Kirsten says:

    That’s been my history for re-reading books just for the love of the story too, bib – series tend to make up a good portion of my all-time favorites, and I wonder how much of that is because of how well I get to know them inside and out with the re-reads that precede each release.

  3. Amanda says:

    Kirsten – I saw your comment on Trish (from Trish’s Reading Nook)’s review of Fingersmith. I hope this is the right place to go! The GLBT Challenge is hosted here:

    We started July 1 and are going to Dec 31, trying to read 6 books, and you’re free to jump in any time, even if you don’t finish. I’m always looking for goo GlBT read suggestions! I do plan to host this on an annual basis. I’ll probably start the next challenge late spring or early summer 2010, and have it run 6 months again.

  4. Kirsten says:

    This is indeed the right place; welcome, and thanks for the link! I’ve got several queer novels from my lit survey this semester that I intend to review a bit more fully; they’ve all been ready since the challenge started, so I hope retroactive inclusion is okay with you ;)

  5. I’ve had a copy of Le Petit Prince and The Little Prince since 10th grade French. That was my 3rd year and we read the original French in class. I try to re-read first the English then the French every year or so in order to keep up some French language skills, however minuscule.

  6. Jax says:

    I love Lois Lowry. I do enjoy Anastasia Atcher Service the best. I think she’s an early butch influence for me. And on the Lowry trip, A Summer to Die is really good as well.

    I re-read all the time. All. The. Time.

  7. Kirsten says:

    Jen, I keep wanting to read them side-by-side, but I know that without structured lessons, I’ll never get to any kind of fluency. I miss high school and the opportunity to take 3 languages!

  8. Kirsten says:

    Jax, so glad to see you over here! :)

    I think you and I actually discussed Anastasia when I picked up a few of these over the summer. Also, M recommended Autumn Street in addition to A Summer to Die, will have to look into both :)

  9. Amanda says:

    Retroactive is fine, I’m not too picky. We (sadly) don’t have a lot of participants. When you get a chance, leave a link for us to your blog or post! :)

  10. foggidawn says:

    Oh, I love rereading. A funny thing that I’ve noticed is that, as I reread, I usually get flashes of where I was when I last read the book — sitting at my parents’ kitchen table, or on my couch at my old apartment, or wherever.

    I often reread, as Bib said, to prepare for a new book in a series. Also, most of my rereads are comfort reads, books like The Blue Castle, or the Harry Potter series, or almost anything by Robin McKinley. If I need something sweet and familiar for one reason or another, I’ll reach for an old favorite.

  11. Kirsten says:

    I often have the same visceral reaction, foggi – particularly with Stone Butch Blues, I’m always transported to the place and time when I first read the preface… My (at the time) lover’s bed, stretched out in front of the fan, reading to pass the time while she was at work (she worked banker’s hours; I was a bartender)… It always strikes me as a bit ironic that, of all my girlfriends, she is probably the one who is the least “readerly,” but she inadvertently introduced me to one of the most influential books I’ll ever read.

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