A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Re-Reading: Those Beautiful Big Dipper Books

Recently I asked on Facebook if other readers had books they'd returned to over and over again. I'd been thinking, in fact, of nonfiction: especially books so dense in wisdom that a single reading is nowhere near enough. Our understanding of some books is too 'heady' and not in the blood or the bone. So we reread certain books to come a little closer to 'getting' what they teach, instead of a 'Yeah, okay' reaction. Or, another way of putting that:

My FB post attracted some interesting responses: from John Molloy's New Dress for Success to Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich, from a martial arts combat manual to a writing guide. Two readers voted for one book I know I've got to read: The Power of Now by Eckhart. With one exception we all agreed that some books be reading more than once...and some books can be revisited again and again through our lives.

But the one exception stunned me: This reader claimed that in his adult he has never re-read a book. He gets what he needs from a book, then moves on...and can recall influential passages from books he read fifteen years ago. The key phrases there would be getting all he needs from a book--and recalling influential passages.

Could anyone who's read The Prince, The Art of War or The Book of Five Rings--all tiny books on strategy--claim to really 'get them', in the most meaningful way, after just one reading? Limiting our sights to nonfiction, surely there's a huge difference between understanding something intellectually and having mastered the subject. I could write a detailed review or essay on Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich. Yet, after all these years, I still have miles to go toward mastery of its lessons.

I have a handful of life study books--and I find that when I return to them I bring something new to the table each time....and walk off with something new.

Expanding our sights now to fiction as well:

You know when you hear a piece of music once, you haven’t heard it properly, you want to hear it again. A well-made book will reward you in exactly the same way as music does, in that you will understand and love a piece. You’ll feel the cadence and depth of it and hear things in it all the time. If you pay it a little more attention, it will reward you, like all art. Like everything, actually.
--Ali Smith

A classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading.
--Italo Calvino

Thou shalt not let a day pass without rereading something great.
--Stephen Vizinczey