Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Returning to Concord via American Bloomsbury


In 2006 I read and reviewed American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever. Here is a link to that review.

My posting earlier today has me wondering about what I missed (and, more to the point, what I've forgotten) in the book, so I'm rereading American Bloomsbury with an eye to understanding better the community of Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, Alcott, Hawthorne et al in mid-19th century Concord, Massachusetts.

However, as I embark upon my return to Concord via Cheever's book, I realize how often I reread books rather than move on to new books. In fact, someone once called me an "intensive" rather than "extensive" reader. At first I was uncomfortable about that label -- as it underscored the fact that I've missed out on reading a lot of books that perhaps I might enjoy -- but I've accepted my reality. Yes, I do repeat myself quite a bit in my reading choices.

And all of that leads me to ask you something:

What about you? What books have you read several times and might read yet again? Are you an "intensive" or "extensive" reader? 




13 comments:

  1. Now, that's a really interesting question, Tim. I'd say I'm more of an extensive reader. But there are still books I might return to.The historical fiction of James Michener and Edward Rutherfurd, for instance, is always appealing, although I've read their work more than once.

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    1. Margot, your knowledge of crime fiction is, of course, extensive and amazing. If you go for Michener and Rutherford, you must also like really long books!

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    2. Only certain authors, Tim. Usually, for me, brevity is a big plus.

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  2. In high school, most of my reading was re-reading. After I left college and began working, though, I had constant access to new-to-me-books. Even so, there are a few that I continue to visit. Jim Kunstler's "Geography of Nowhere", Jane Jacobs' "Death and Life of Great American Cities", and CS Lewis' "Surprised by Joy" are three I've read repeatedly. Novels are a special case, I think -- I've read Jayber Crow, The Rainmaker, and The Last Juror so many times that I can begin reading any page at random and know instantly where I am.

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    1. Oh, and there's Asimov -- I always enjoy his Black Widower or Foundation stories when I want a short bit of fiction.

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    2. Stephen, I guess I'm surprised that high school reading for you was mostly rereading. As for rereading, in general, I wonder why so many of us return to familiar books rather than seek out unfamiliar books; I think many (most) people only read books that are new to them, but I could be quite wrong.

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    3. Back then it was a matter of money...I bought books new, with cash, and so didn't buy many. Also, my terrific hunger for reading nonfiction didn't start until a gap between my community college (ending in 2005) and my return to university (2007) erupted. Back then I was mostly reading Complete Idiot's Guide histories, Star Trek novels, and a few YA series. The books I had I read constantly, so those from that period are very abused.

      Was it a Greek or a Chinese philsopher who said we can't step into the same river twice? Either way, I suspect books are the same. We change ourselves from reading to reading, and every pass elicits fresh observations from things we missed before, or -- sparks with something we've read since, and makes a new connection.

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    4. Stephen, that is such a great point about stepping into the river. For example, when I read parts of the Bible when I was a teenager, it was an important experience; however, when I read the same parts of the Bible now, it is a different experience because I am a different person.

      As a reader with a "terrific hunger," you seem to have the perfect job: library. Wow! It's like taking the kid to the candy shop every day!

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  3. i reread a lot when young, but now, not at all... the search for a good book has me totally enthralled... i think it has something to do with "so little time, so many books", but also, i start many more books than i finish, now... more picky, i guess...

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    1. Mudpuddle, lately I also have been starting without finishing, and that would have never happened to me in the past when I would finish even the worst books. Perhaps I now have a better appreciation for using time wisely.

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  4. R.T.--I just checked my reading list and of the last 50 books I've read, 30 were new reads and 20 were rereads.

    I don't know whether this is typical or an anomalous figure. I do try to read an equal number of first reads and rereads, but I don't keep track as I'm reading.

    I've read Jane Austen's works several times now, and I will probably reread her again. The same holds true for Dostoyevsky, Thomas Mann, Joseph Conrad, PD James, Gregory Benford, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ursula LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness. . .

    I belong to a number of book discussion groups who select new works as well as the classics in SF, mystery, and LitFic.

    This month, so far, I've read 2 new books and reread 2 books.

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    1. Fred, I'm impressed by your record-keeping. I should be so disciplined. These days I am lucky to keep track of my meal times and Rx schedule.

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    2. R.T.--it's that obsessive/compulsive trait that's hardwired into the Germanic peoples.

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