Thursday, September 29, 2011

Books I Can't Wait to Read Again

I know that I shouldn’t do it.  I am well aware that I cannot possibly read all the new books that deserve my attention - books that I would enjoy, books that I would remember forever, books that might actually change my life or the way I view the world.  And there are more of them published every day.

So why do I want to go back and re-read a bunch of books that I read years, or even decades, ago?  Easy.  I loved the first experience, or they changed my life, or they changed the way I look at the world. 

All I have to do is stand in front of my bookshelves and I see books that call out to me for another chance to have their pages turned and appreciated:

1.     Black Boy – Richard Wright – This 1945 memoir (which I discovered during the sixties) made me think about what it was like for Blacks to grow up and live in the Jim Crow South.  I remember what it was like to grow up in the South before the Civil Rights era – and this book should have been required reading in those days.  I am a different person than when I read this all those decades ago, and maybe, just maybe, this book is part of the reason why.

2.     Andersonville – MacKinlay Kantor – This 760-page novel about the infamous Civil War prison camp located just a short drive from Plains, Georgia, humanized that war for me like no other book I’ve read on the subject (and I’ve read dozens and dozens of them).  I think it is sad that so many people think of the Civil War as ancient history.  Just think about this for a moment: the book was published in 1955, only 90 years after the war ended.  Yes, those 1950s.

3.     The Prince of Tides – Pat Conroy – I loved this 1986 book so much that I bought paperback copies the next year as Christmas gifts for every person who worked in my department (almost 25 copies, from what I recall).  The book turned me into a lifelong Pat Conroy fan.

4.     Black Cherry Blues – James Lee Burke – This 1989 Burke novel served as my introduction to Cajun detective, and ex-New Orleans cop, Dave Robicheaux.  Finally, someone was writing about the Cajun culture without resulting to cartoonish stereotypes – and Dave Robicheaux was actually a hero, not someone to laugh at…what a concept.  I’ve been hooked on the series (this was the third book) ever since, and I greatly admire Mr. Burke.

5.     The Longest Walk – George Meegan – This one, from 1988, describes Meegan’s walk of almost seven years, a walk that totaled over 19,000 miles and took him from the southern tip of South America all the way to the northernmost point in Alaska.  Meegan’s walk was a great adventure that tested him in every way.  It made me into a confirmed hiker for a while and might be exactly what I need to get myself seriously walking again.

This is why I keep my favorites where I can see them and put my hands on them quickly.  The few minutes I spent handling them this evening brought back some great memories, both about the books and about who I was when I first read them.  I promise myself tonight that I will read them again sometime soon.


  1. I know what you mean. I re-read The Year of Magical Thinking yesterday and got so much from reading it again.

  2. I want to get a proper copy of Black Boy and read it. I've had failure twice recently: an abridged audiobook (beautifully read by Brock Peters, though, but hopelessly chopped) and a book full of Richard Wright snippets at my university library.

    Andersonville -- I know exactly what you mean. That book resonates with me so strongly. I'd read it again in a heartbeat if someone would drum up a Civil War Challenge.

    I haven't read The Longest Walk, but your description sounds great. I'm putting it on my wishlist.

  3. That's a good one, Ted. I always have that little fear in the back of my mind that a re-reading might ruin the book for me. Sot far, that has not really happened,but I've had a close call or two.

  4. Susan, this copy of Black Boy has been restored to its original length - at the point that Wright let the Book of the Month Club editors do their thing on it. I've just started reading it again and haven't spotted anything "new" to me in the first 50 pages.

    I remember talking with you before about Andersonville and that you admire it as much as I do.

    The Longest Walk is just a cool adventure. The author's Japanese wife joins him for part of the walk, gets pregnant, and has to return to Japan. I can't imagine being the author's age and having the time to do something like this. I envy him that.