Off the Shelf – The Great Summer Re-Read

Listen here.

So, summer offers a great long stretch of free time for a lot of people. I do teach summer school, generally, but that still leaves me with lots of sunny afternoons at the beach and rainy days on my couch. Last time I was on Information Morning,  I offered some suggestions of great books to while away your summer afternoons, but here’s another option: re-reading. I never have time for this and I always wish I did because there have been some books in my reading life that deserve another look.

Some people say that life is too short to re-read books, but I disagree. It’s like watching your favourite movie a million times. That never gets old, right? It’s your favourite movie for a reason. It would be embarrassing to tell you how many times I saw Grease in the theatre the summer it came out. (A lot. In the double digits.)

There are lots of benefits to reading a book for the second or even fifth time.

Researchers have suggested that re-reading can benefit your mental health, reigniting emotions and benefitting knowledge. If you’ve ever had the experience of falling in love with a character, then re-reading is one way to re-connect with that character. Books themselves often have the ability to transport us back to a special time. I have very specific memories of some of the books I have purchased

Another benefit of re-reading is that the pressure is essentially off; you already know how it’s going to turn out. The flip side of that is that because you know how the plot will unfold you can concentrate on other aspects of the book, characterization on even just the beauty of the writing.

I purchase a lot of books from bookoutlet.ca and I always stumble upon books I never expected to see again. One of those books was The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier.  I LOVED that book when I was twelve; I read it when I was a student at Forest Glen school in Moncton. So – 40 years later I re-read it and I have to say that it did not in any way live up to my memories. Still, I’m so glad to have it on my bookshelf.

For me, re-reading is a real luxury because I have so many tbr books, but as I am reading The Goldfinch this summer, I think re-reading might be a nice companion to that experience.

So here are some books I think I might revisit this summer:

brooklynA Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

I probably read this book when I was eleven or twelve and it’s a book that I often recommend to my students. It’s one of those classics that I have really fond memories of because it’s evocative of a time a place that was, when I was a kid, so beyond my experience. It’s the story of Francie who grows up in Brooklyn with her younger brother Neely and her parents. They are really poor and I can remember as a kid being fascinated with how they made do with so little. I loved Francie and I would love another chance to spend time with her.

jane eyreJane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

This was, looking back, my first “adult” read. I might have been twelve or thirteen when I read it. I absolutely adored Jane who, despite not being beautiful, was smart and self-reliant. Even at my young age I admired her feisty nature and her determination to be self-sufficient. Plus, she lands the handsome but tortured Mr. Rochester. Jane Eyre was ahead of its time, although I probably didn’t appreciate it for those reasons when I read it as a kid. It would be interesting to re-read it now.

velocityVelocity – Kristin McCloy

Okay this book is really special to me for a variety of reasons. I bought it at The Strand in NYC in 1988 or 89. I don’t remember why I even knew about it except that it was kind of a superstar novel when it came out. I have reread this novel numerous times, but not recently. I actually posted a one line review of the book on Goodreads – more as a place holder than anything else, and recently Ms. McCloy herself thanked me for my “review” – which of course it wasn’t. She also provided her email address and we exchanged a few emails back and forth. I am sure I was totally inarticulate about the book. Being able to chat with the author of a book you love is sort of the literary equivalent of meeting Ryan Gosling who is my celebrity boyfriend.

Velocity is the story of 25 year old Ellie who returns to her home in the southern States after the death of her mother. Her dad is a local cop and he’s mostly silent in his grief, but Ellie’s grief manifests itself very differently. She pursues Jesse, the biker dude who lives down the road. He’s totally wrong for her and she totally can’t stay away from him. I was, at the time I read this book, of a similar age in a similar relationship and there wasn’t anything about Ellie I couldn’t relate to – except the dead mom. On top of that, the writing is just so beautiful. Never mind spending good money on E.L. James’ Grey (I mean, seriously, do we actually need to hear that story from another p.o.v.?) track down a copy of Velocity. It’s steamy, yes, but it’s also poignant and just so, so damn good. Since this segment aired, I have finished Velocity and I’ll post a proper review asap.

One thought on “Off the Shelf – The Great Summer Re-Read

  1. I am famous! I’ve now been quoted in a blog AND on CBC Radio 1! LOL
    Caught your spot on the radio this morning…I had totally forgotten that you got me to read Velocity. Great book, full of pretty intense emotion. I’m looking forward to your review. And hold out for Ryan, life is full of surprises…

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