If a book is worth reading once…

…It is worth reading again and again. Also known as part two of the 26-Week Book Challenge, and this week I’m discussing A book I’ve read more than three times.

Now, the simple truth is that this could be almost any book on my bookshelves, because I’m an avid re-reader (if I were to have a life quote, then it is the one with which I started this post), but I’m going to pick The Lord of the Rings because it was probably the first book I remember re-reading many, many times.

As a fantasy fan, it’s impossible to get around this epic tome which probably (possibly?) kickstarted the entire genre, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it. First as the Dutch translation (In de Ban van de Ring), probably when I was around twelve or thirteen, but as soon as my English got good enough to cope with the English version I switched to that. My own copy is the beautifully illustrated hardback version shown here, and I must admit I was thrilled to bits when I heard that Alan Lee was going to be involved in the overall design of Peter Jackson’s films.

The thing is, for all that it’s an absolute classic, and I probably know more factoids about hobbits and Middle-Earth than I do about my own history, I cannot get around one tiny fact these days. Whisper it: it’s not actually written very well.

Of course, this is only my opinion, but the last time I read it I found the prose inconsistent. It’s all skippy-happy-go-lucky when he’s talking about hobbits, and when I get to the Council of Elrond I’m bored to tears. I’ve always hated the section with Frodo and Sam in the Dead Marshes because that’s also really boring, and although I liked them in the beginning, the poems just break things up so badly that I always skip them. In fact, I’ve not actually read this book ever since the first of Peter Jackson’s films was released.

More on that a few weeks down the line, but the generic theme of this post still stands: as far as I’m concerned, if a book is worth reading once, it’s worth reading again and again. I know there are many, many people who don’t re-read books, often citing a combination of lack of time and too many other books to read. I can certainly understand this reasoning, but I’m just the kind of person who cannot let go of a book I loved, so re-reading it is a compulsion. There are certainly plenty of books which give additional revelations upon a second reading – little bits of info which the author has seeded in which didn’t make sense or didn’t register on the first reading, but give a whole new insight to what’s going on when you already know what happens next.

Now, two years ago I would have said that my motto meant that if you finished a book, it was worth reading (and therefore reading again). That part at least I no longer agree with. Just because I finished a book doesn’t necessarily mean it was worth reading; it is more likely the result of a certain stubborn optimism on my part that there had to be a point at which the book got good. In the case of the Fifty Shades trilogy, that ridiculous, unfounded optimism carried me all the way to the end of book three. More on that a few weeks down the line too.

I’m a bit more impatient these days, I think. I have started a number of books this year, only to abandon them halfway through. At the moment I have two I started a while ago and might get back to, but I’ve also got a number which will stay forever abandoned. Some after one chapter, some after half the book. In the latter case it was shortly after I encountered the line ‘He walks towards me, displaying manly thigh action’. Actually, that rather made me laugh, but I don’t believe that was the author’s intention at that point.

Strangely enough, that one single abandoned novel has proven to give me the most fuel for conversation in the past few months, mostly because I try to make my friends imagine, then describe ‘manly thigh action’. Personally I’ve not yet managed to get a clear mental image of it; I keep getting stuck on a cross between some sort of bow-legged cowboy walk and exaggerated hip-swinging.

Let’s leave it on that thought, and if anyone can describe ‘manly thigh action’ to me, I would love to see you do so in the comments.


7 thoughts on “If a book is worth reading once…

  1. H. Anthe Davis

    You know I don’t reread books, really. I do sometimes skim old favorites for my favorite parts, but that’s very uncommon. Yes, it means I forget everything that happened pretty quickly but…oh well!

    And I have to agree on LotR. I tried to read it for the first time when I was about fifteen, and got past the Siege of Helm’s Deep and put it down because Legolas and Gimli had quit bantering so it had returned to being boring. I did eventually read the whole trilogy (in my twenties? not sure), but it took some work. Just because something is a classic doesn’t mean it’s good by modern standards.

  2. deborahjay12

    I am so in accord with your thoughts that I could have written this post. In fact I’m wondering why I haven’t! Could you be my long lost twin???
    I’m really trying to picture ‘manly thigh action’ – perhaps someone could post a video?

  3. cnmill

    I re-read books, though not anywhere NEAR every book that I’ve finished. I generally only do it if I particularly LOVED a book, or if it’s a series and a new one came out and I find myself forgetting things that happened before (my memory is horrible).
    You really can pick up on SO much when going through them multiple times that you miss in the singular run-through.

    Also, I’ve found myself becoming more stubborn about finishing books as well. I used to soldier through them if I wasn’t enjoying them, hoping – naively – that they would improve (I’ve never found one that did). Or if I’d reached The Point of No Return. I don’t waste my time anymore.

    And seriously, if you ever figure out what ‘manly thigh action’ is . . . PLEASE POST IT HERE.

    I was rolling!


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