6 Books I’ve Read 3 Times
I don’t often read books more than once.
There is only so much time, after all, and so many damn good books. So why keep going back to the same well?
That said I am guilty of reading six books three times – at different stages of my life. These are the books I consider extremely special. They speak to me at a different level.
They are my old friends, comfortable, yet unpredictable. Familiar, but still capable of surprising. They aren’t necessarily the best books I’ve ever read, although all of them are considerably impressive, but they are among my favorites.
Here they are – in no particular order:
Probably the most misunderstood Christmas tale ever written. A Christmas Carol is a terrifying, sad, lonely, grotesque portrait of a man consumed by self-loathing and greed. But it’s also what happens to us when we forget how monumental small gestures of kindness can be and that every person – no matter how insignificant by society’s standards – is a living, breathing human being worthy of being heard.
I read A Christmas Carol every few years and the story becomes more powerful and more emotionally charged the older I get.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Twain’s most important novel can be read at several different levels. When you first read it you usually revel in the adventure of it. The language and the plot. But on subsequent readings you begin to see and feel the novel at a deeper level. That’s when the story is no longer about Huckleberry Finn, but about Jim, the runaway slave. The story is really about Huckleberry Finn’s gradual recognition of Jim as a human being and the moral bankruptcy of slavery and a society that would embrace it.
I first read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in high school and later just after college. I read it for a third time about five years ago and was completely taken aback by its complexity. It is once again on my rather large stack of books to read.
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
Perhaps the greatest book ever written to explain Taoist philosophy. The book does the impossible – using the character of the stories of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh to explain the great wisdom of the Tao. It’s funny, brilliant and awe-inspiring.
I try to read it when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It reminds me that little things do matter, but not that little things we all get caught up in. It reminds me to slow down. To think and feel and to be grateful. What’s not to love about that?
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
I don’t even know if I like Catcher in the Rye, making it the exception of my six books. The first time I read it I was in high school and had to, but enjoyed it. The second time I read it was shortly after college and I thought it was magnificent. The third time I read it I was a new father and disliked it. Thought it was overrated – whatever that means. Catcher in the Rye is a difficult book to pin down – which is why is sticks around with such determination. It a lot of ways Holden Caulfield speaks to a very specific audience – disenfranchised youth. When you grow-up, you’re no longer on Holden’s side.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises is a great novel. Terse, blunt and course at the same time as being complicated, deep and elegant. Hemingway says more in a pause than many writers say in an entire novel. It’s the spoken and the unspoken. The gestures and the movements. Characters say one thing and mean another. The do one thing, but wish they did another.
I read The Sun Also Rises because I wish I wrote it. I wish I could write like that. It inspires me.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
It annoys me when people dismiss To Kill a Mockingbird as children’s book. Because it isn’t. When I think about the great American novel, I think about this book (and The Great Gatsby, which I’ve read twice). It is so American. So southern. It juxtaposes childhood and adulthood, good and evil, justice and injustice. In many ways it is a sequel to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – as it reminds us of the sins of American and those among us trying to right those wrongs.
Have you ever read a book three times? If so please share the book and the reason why.