360 Listener List: What to Reread & Rewatch

Blog: 10.13.11

Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 06:00 PM

A couple weeks ago, Kurt Andersen realized that he’d never read a book or seen a movie more than twice. The reasoning seemed clear: with so many great works (new and classic) to be discovered, life is just too short for revisiting old favorites. Right?

We wanted to test Kurt's theory, so we asked: Are you an avid rereader / rewatcher? And if so, which works are worth a second look?

The answer was a resounding yes! — 70% of the people who answered our survey say they delight in revisiting work they've enjoyed before. Your responses present an interesting case study in the best-loved works of our time:

1. The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien

2. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

3. Catcher in the Rye , J. D. Salinger
The Great Gatsby
, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

4. A Confederacy Of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

5. The Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

When it comes to rewatching movies, the results aren't so clear cut.  Tied for #1 are Blade Runner (1982), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and (you guessed it) the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03). But from there, your picks are as varied as you are, with votes for films ranging from the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup (1933) to Dr. Strangelove (1964), to Pulp Fiction (1998).

Many find comfort in revisiting the novels of their youth. "Childhood books take me away to simpler times," explains Marnie from Menoken, North Dakota, who rereads Little Women every year.  Others find "where there was once a girl who skipped ahead or missed the point, there is now a wiser woman who understands the nuances," writes Joanne from Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Her pick is To Kill a Mockingbird.)

Kevin from New Jersey writes, "I've re-read Catcher in the Rye about six times and each time have been amazed by how wrong I was the previous time about good old Holden. My opinion of him changed from inscrutable adolescent, to soul-mate, to wise man, to crazy person, and probably back. It provided a unique mirror for how I've changed or at least how my perspective has changed."

For Jonathan from Rockville, Maryland, the choice is clear: "It's better to commit Lear to memory than give Danielle Steele a try."

Thanks again to everyone who wrote in.



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Comments [3]

James K. Polk from Mecklenberg County, North Carolina

The only kinds of people who would reread Gatsby are cultural elitist snobs with their heads in their bums

Nov. 30 2011 09:39 AM
Jane from San Francisco, CA

Robertson Davies gave two lectures at Yale in 1990, "Reading" and "Writing", which are collected in a lovely slim volume the text of which is google-able.

Here is what he says in his unparalleled way about re-reading, which I have taken very much to heart:

The great sin, as I have said, is to assume that something that has been read once has been read forever, As a very simple example I mention Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. People are expected to read it during their university years. But you are mistaken if you think you read Thackeray’s book then; you read a lesser book
of your own. It should be read again when you are thirty-six, which is the age of Thackeray when he wrote it. It should be read for a third time when you are fifty-six, sixty-six, seventy-six, in order to see how Thackeray’s irony stands up to your own experience of life. Perhaps you will not read every page in these later years, but you really should take another look at a great book, in order to find out how great it is, or how great it has remained, to
you. You see, Thackeray was an artist, and artists deserve this kind of careful consideration. We must not gobble their work, like chocolates, or olives, or anchovies, and think we know it forever.

Nobody ever reads the same book twice.

Oct. 28 2011 06:08 PM
Suzanne Lindgren from Minneapolis, MN

I've been listening to this discussion play out on Studio 360, and it brought a revelation. When I was young, I re-read whenever the impulse struck me, which was often. I've probably read most of Roald Dahl's books at least 3 times, though I never kept track. Despite his being my favorite childhood author, there are a handful of his books I've never read — evidence that I read for pleasure, not the satisfaction of conquering a book.

As an adult, I've adopted the opposite attitude, reading as if from some list I must get to the bottom of. This list, unfortunately, gets longer each time I look at it. (I think university lit classes may have had something to do with this approach to reading ... anyone else relate?) Perhaps not surprisingly, reading has become more difficult to enjoy and to bring myself to do.

Since this realization, I've thrown out my mental reading list and allowed myself to (re)read whatever I wish. I'm re-reading Andrew Weil's "Eight Weeks to Optimum Health," because I felt empowered and filled with vitality when I first read it.

I've found my appetite for books is growing. I just cracked a book that had been on my list for over a decade, "The Story of B." As I write this, I almost can't wait to start in on the next chapter.

It's been a wonderful mental shift. I've rediscovered a forgotten passion, I've been reading more, and as for the list ... it's grown into a more spontaneous, fun reading companion.

Oct. 25 2011 04:52 PM

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