In this wondrous age of the internet, we’re never more than a couple of clicks away from some form of ‘Best 100 books ever’ list (here’s a link to one produced by Time Magazine, back in January this year).
These lists are usually chocked full of ‘classic’ literature like To Kill a Mockingbird, War and Peace or 1984. Many of the novels listed are required reading in English classes, and (from a ‘classic’ literature point of view) rightly so, but I sometimes wonder whether there’s another test books should have to pass before they can truly be hailed as one of the best, and that’s the number of times folks come back to read them again.
Call me an uncultured numpty, but over the years I’ve read quite a lot of the books on those ‘Best 100…’ lists, and while I don’t doubt their (and their authors’) contribution to the world of literature, a major factor in deciding whether something went on my ‘best book’ list would be how many times I came back to read it again.
With the exception of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, (both of which I’ve read at least twenty times), and the handful which I’ve read a couple of times in the last thirty years or so, I don’t think I’ve seen any book mentioned in a top 100 list poll which I’ve wanted to read more than once.
On the other hand, novels like Terry Pratchett's Night Watch (along with many of his other Discworld books) have a permanent place in my tbr pile.
Of course, that’s just me. It’s possible everyone else has read most of those top 100s over and over. In any case, I’m not saying that makes them ‘bad’, I just don’t see how a book can be considered one of the best 100 books ever if folks don’t reread it time and time again. If multi-reading were a factor, I suspect those lists would look dramatically different.
I’m sure Jane Austen fans re-read all her novels on a regular basis, but I do wonder how many other folks are like me and have only read most of these ‘best books ever’ once, and if they’d have read them at all if they hadn’t been required reading at some point in their academic lives.
How about you?
If you were compiling a 'Best ever' list, would you take into account the number of times folks reread the same book?