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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?  




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Comments

jongibbs
May. 10th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
I read LoTR every year or so from when I first picked it up in about 1973 to when the second movie came out (which I think would be about 2002). I've only read it once more since then, Peter Jackson did such a great job with the movies that he spoiled the book for me, though I wish he'd added the scouring of the Shire.

I'd say about a quarter of my annual book input is rereading my faves. I'm the same with music and movies, I like to enjoy stuff againa and again.
wendigomountain
May. 10th, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)
In a weird way, I kind of like that Jackson left out the Scouring of the Shire. When the hobbits get back home, in the movies, their lives have completely changed. Their friends and loved ones barely recognize them. They seem a little sad. Much like it must have been for the boys coming back home from the Somme and Ipres in Tolkien's day.

In the book, they get back, and though they have pretty much defeated the Dark Lord against great odds, they come home to find out that the folks of hobbiton chased off Sauruman with pitchforks and slingshots. So their accomplishments are not nearly as weighty in contrast. Heck, the Old Gaffer made it look easy fighting orcs.

Still, both are excellent. I'm glad they dropped that whole Tom Bombadil chapter in the movies, though I did miss the Barrow Wights. I read these books only once, when I was 14, and they are still fresh in my mind. That's the sign of a great book.
jongibbs
May. 10th, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC)
I loved how they used a lot of the dialogue from the book in the movies :)

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