This week, the Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie. We each get to decide which theme we want to write about. I’ve decided to make a Top Ten list of books that I want to reread – mostly books that are so complex that they need to be read more than once to get the most out of them. As usual, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and here are my list for this week.
- Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace. Come on – does anyone really expect that you can grasp everything that is War and Peace by reading it just once? Not going to happen! I loved it when I read it – and I know I want to research a bit more about Napoleon’s France and his wars before reading it again. But it is an amazing book – which has the huge amount of sidestories in common with the next book on my list.
- Victor Hugo: Les Misérables. I’m reading Les Misérables right now and even though I still have about 400 pages to go, I can say with complete conviction that this book deserves – and needs – to be read more than once. The main story of Jean Valjean and Colette is easy enough to follow and really draws you in and keeps your attention, but the book is so much more and this more is what demands more readings because you sometimes have a tendency to read rather quickly to get back to Colette and Jean Valjean and find out what happens with them.
- Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses. I so didn’t get this book the first time I read it. I read it through, I googled stuff and understood more – but I didn’t get this book. I think it was a combination of not having read a lot of magical realism, not having read anything else by Rushdie and not knowing enough about Islam. I have read more magical realism now, I have read Rushdie and plan on reading more and I do know more about Islam now and will probably brush up on my knowledge before attempting to read this book again. It’s a book I really want to understand and like because of the consequences it had.
- Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov. Another Russian novel. I think I just need to come to terms with the fact that these classic Russian novels need to be read more than once. This is also a really great novel – and I thoroughly enjoyed it while reading it – and I need to read it again…!
- Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights. The reason for adding this to my list is mainly that I was underwhelmed by it. Before reading it I had heard so much good about it – and maybe that’s what somewhat ruined my experience of it. However, after reading it, I’ve again heard and read so much about it that I’m pretty sure that I will like it better if I give it another chance. So that’s what I’m going to do.
- Harry Mulisch: The Discovery of Heaven. This is another of those books that just has much in it on top of a brilliant story so you just have to read it again. It’s by a Dutch author and it talks about friendship, religion, art, philosophy, WWII and so much more – and it’s amazing! Definitely worth a reread!
- George Elliot: Middlemarch. Big and wonderful, I really loved this novel when I read it. But I can’t quite articulate why I loved it so
- Georges Perec: Life – a User’s Manual. I recommend this book every chance I get – even though I strongly believe it’s not for everyone. Perec was a very experimenting author and this novel is no exception. Set in a block in Paris, we follow the lives and deaths of the people living here – there’s no real forward moving story, except maybe for this one guy who paints pictures, get them made into puzzles, put them together and then has them destroyed… It sounds weird, but it’s fascinating and wonderful.
- Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. A huge and impressive first novel filled with lots and lots of footnotes – and fairies! So another book about Napoleon warfare among other things. From the British point of view, though. I think it would be hugely beneficial to sit down and study up on Napoleon and his France and then read War and Peace, Les Misérables and this book – even though this as a alternate history/fantasy novel is hugely different from the other two. I love how the English use magicians to help them fight their wars and how you can see the same historical fact from very different ways, depending on whether you are Victor Hugo or Susanna Clarke!
- John Irving: The World According to Garp. Yes, I know. This falls somewhat outside the scope of my list but it’s my favorite novel and I’ve read it over and over and I still love it and enjoy each reread. So just go read it 🙂
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I’ve only read Wuthering Heights, so most of these are on my “read for the first time” list!
I didn’t particularly like Wuthering Heights either. And to be honest, I can’t remember a single thing about it except that I didn’t like it.
No, it didn’t leave a huge impression on me either. But I do feel like I should give it another go… I do feel like I was missing out on something…
Oh, you’re making me feel so poorly-read! I haven’t read a single one of the books on this list even once, let along for a second time. Funnily enough, on my last Friday Faves post my guest RAVED about Wuthering Heights…http://annabelsmith.tumblr.com/post/34806644345/friday-faves-wuthering-heights-by-emily-bronte
The books I have re-read most often are Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, Hemingway’s Garden of Eden and Don DeLillo’s White Noise. One book that I really want to re-read is John Steinbeck’s East of Eden but I haven’t got round to it yet.
I don’t think I’ll ever call it Wuthers…! And don’t feel poorly-read. I haven’t read Bel Canto, Garden of Eden or White Noise… I don’t get DeLillo at all… I’m going to try reading Underworld soon after giving up the first time around and I’m just not sure that I understand him… I really want to reread East of Eden too. I actually considered adding it to my list…
If you feel that you don’t ‘get’ DeLillo, White Noise is a great place to begin. I think it’s very accessible and relatable. Whereas I couldn’t get into Underworld.
Annabel, I’ve read Mao II and Falling Man and some of Underworld and I don’t quite get him. Some parts of it are brilliant – and others are just meh. I feel like I should be getting it, that it’s worth spending time on but I just don’t understand the appeal of his writing. But yeah, maybe I should try White Noise then.
Well, you’ve certainly given him a fair crack! I haven’t read Mao II or Falling Man. I read The Body Artist and felt I had somehow missed the point of it, and abandoned Cosmopolis halfway through. So we seem to have had similar experiences so far. I’d be interested to know if you found White Noise different.
Oh yikes, do I have to read it now?!?! 😉 Maybe we should do a read along because it really does seem like we have similar experiences…
Of course you don’t have to read it! Life is much too short to read books you dread. But if you’re serious about a readalong, I’d take part in that, if others were interested. Let me know. I’ve never done a read-along and I’m curious.
I am serious about a read along. I think it could be fun to try and explore DeLillo since he’s an important current author – and I just don’t get him. So we could cohost it and hope that someone would sign up who gets him and can help us to understand what it is we’re missing… What do you think?
I like the idea. Do you want to do White Noise? Or tackle Underworld?
I’m not sure. I’m thinking either we choose one novel or we do an entire DeLillo month and let people read whatever they feel like?
Since the books are so big we might get more out of choosing one and really delving into it.
Yeah, you’re probably right. Let’s choose one book then. I still want to do Underworld since I already have it and have tried and failed once. How do you feel about that? DeLillo in December or?
I’d like to give Underworld another go too. Exciting! Can we make it January? December is such a crazy month it might be hard to engage with something challenging.
Yeah, sure thing. It was just the two Ds but January is probably better – we also need a bit of time to communicate it out so we can get someone who can teach us! 😉 Should we move the actual planning to email?
I’ve read The Satanic Verses twice and Wuthering Height probably four times now. Both are books that get better every time! Great post, thanks! 🙂
Okay. Then I’ll look forward to giving them another go since I had issues with both these books the first time around.
Three cheers for Garp! I love that book–it is my favorite Irving novel.
It’s an amazing book! Definitely three cheers!!!
I love to see that there is a Dutch author on your list 😀 Yeah.
Harry Mulisch is so great – at least judging by The Discovery of Heaven. I also own The Assault by him. Both recommended by a woman working in a bookstore in Amsterdam…
Bah, I feel terrible not reading these classics, I will fix that ^^
Most of these are really amazing books! So yeah, go fix that 😉
Great list. I love the idea of reading War and Peace, Les Miserables, and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell as a set. That’s a pretty daunting number of pages though!
Yeah… I’m not even going to try and figure out how many pages exactly… But it could be fun!
Love that you included John Irving. He is one of my favorites. Half of these need to be reread just to fully grasp their implications and fully digest the story :)!
Exactly! Irving is amazing and these books deserves a second read!
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell!!! Loved that book, and definitely going to reread it one day 🙂
It is such a good book. So many details, so fascinating!