The Guardian has a couple of features on rereading novels – a piece discussing it here, and some contemporary authors’ favourite novels to re-read here. This isn’t something I do very often with novels. I did when younger but now I don’t read novels enough as it is, and though I’ve tried to read more the last couple of years (I kept a log last year here and here), there is always so much more to read. In 1995 I had a summer in France, in Chamonix, and took with me several cheap classics thinking that it wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t get them all home at the end. In that time, read a load of things I’d never read in full before – Don Quixote, War and Peace, all the Sherlock Holmes books, Candide, Vanity Fair, lots of Dickens, most of Dostoyevsky, Wilkie Collins… Looking back I guess that meant I read some things in bad translations, and surprisingly I didn’t read much by French novelists – I’ve still read little or nothing of Stendhal, Balzac, Zola, or Proust. I have read most or much of Camus, Gide, Sartre and Genet though. It was that summer I also worked through a pile of Heidegger texts and drafted a long paper that was the basis for the chapters on him in Mapping the Present.
I’ve been trying to think of novels I have revisited in recent years, and the two that came to mind are Moby Dick and The Name of the Rose. The latter I’ve read probably four times; Foucault’s Pendulum twice; but Eco’s others only once each, and The Prague Cemetery is still on the ‘to read’ pile (it’s a hardback, so it never ends up in luggage on trips). Many of the contemporary authors I like – Rushdie, Pynchon, Fowles, Sebald, Faulks – I’ve read most or much of, but usually only once each. Just recently – partly as a result of the Kindle app on the iPad – I’ve reread Heart of Darkness and Frankenstein. Academic books are another matter – I’ve read books like Being and Time, Discipline and Punish, and The Production of Space multiple times. Literary works I’ve written about – Antigone, Beowulf, and plays by Shakespeare – I’ve read several times, though I only read Gargantua and Pantagruel the once (the emphasis was squarely on Lefebvre’s reading, not mine).
So what am I missing? What books should I reread or should I have read?