The whole Keeping Up With The Penguins project began because I was stuck in a loop of re-reading my favourite books over and over again. For the past few years, I’ve been committed to expanding my reading horizons and challenging myself with the new and unfamiliar. Even so, having looked at it from both sides now, I can still see the benefit in re-reading books. It’s beneficial for any number of reasons: taking comfort, nostalgic reminisces, reinforcing memory and recall, learning and thinking about a book in a different way… As soon as I finished reading Me Talk Pretty One Day earlier this week, I knew I’d want to re-read it purely for the sake of enjoying it all over again. At some point, here on the blog, I’ll do a little series of re-read reviews. For now, here are the books on my to re-read list.
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Just as the #MeToo movement had me itching to revisit classics of feminism and gender studies, the surge in global support for the Black Lives Matter movement has me wanting to re-read those books that taught me about white privilege and anti-racism. Citizen is one of those books. Through multi-media poetry (yes, you read that right – Rankine integrates photography, design, even video and sound into her verse) this book taught me more about race and culture than any I’d read beforehand. I want to re-read it to refamiliarise myself with its message, its representation of lived experience, and examine how I can use it to inform my participation in dismantling systemic oppression.
1984 by George Orwell
I used to make a point of re-reading 1984 once every year or so. I still have the same copy my father gave me when I was a teenager, and I’ve returned to it faithfully each time. It’s one of the markers of a great book, I think, that you can get something new out of it every time you re-read it. 1984 is a political critique, a psychological thriller, a love story, a vision of a bleak future… It’s been a few years since I last picked it up, and given – y’know – everything I think it’s high time I did. I’m sure, being a little older and uglier, I’ll find something new in it once again.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Wuthering Heights was actually on my original Keeping Up With The Penguins reading list. I gave it a go in the early days of this project… and it was a complete disaster. I had a lot on my mind, a lot going on personally, and I just couldn’t focus on this dark and twisted story. As a result, I really didn’t enjoy it, and I didn’t get much out of it at all. I was sick of the pack of them, with their histrionics and melodrama, by the end. Even at the time, though, I knew if I re-read Emily Brontë’s only novel when I had the brain space and emotional resources to properly attend to it, I’d read it completely differently. So, that’s what I plan to do! Read my original review of Wuthering Heights in full here.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
When I first read My Year Of Rest And Relaxation, I didn’t really have much of a chance to enjoy it. See, it was required reading for one of the courses of my Masters, and I spent the whole time looking for things I could say and questions I could ask about it to look clever in class. There’s a lot of value in reading the way that post-grad study requires you to, it opens your mind and makes you think more critically about the books (or “texts”, as I got used to calling them), but it does kind of take the fun out of it sometimes. That’s why I’m eager to re-read this one (and Moshfegh’s other books), with no essays or discussion groups hanging over my head. I feel like it’s a book I could get a lot out of recreationally, given the chance!
Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen
Look, it’s not just Pride And Prejudice: I think every Jane Austen novel would benefit from being re-read, over time (well, from the ones I’ve read so far, that seems to be the trend, anyway). They are subtle and nuanced and masterful, and it’s impossible to absorb all that they have to say on a single pass. Pride And Prejudice in particular, however, has saturated our popular consciousness to the point where – if you’ll excuse me – it prejudices us to read it as a simple marriage plot, when there’s so much more to it. Re-reading it will give me an opportunity to examine the other aspects more closely: Austen’s use of free indirect discourse, her commentary on class and power through parent-child relationships, her comedic timing… Read my original review of Pride And Prejudice in full here.
Throat by Ellen Van Neerven
Throat was only released earlier this year, and UQP was kind enough to send me a copy for review; I read it as soon as I’d pulled it out of the packaging. It is sharp and stunning collection of poetry, and Van Neerven is very deserving of all of the acclaim and accolades that are coming their way as a result. But having devoured Throat once – in a single sitting, no less! – I want to return to it and savour it again, more slowly this time. Some of the poems are timely, some are timeless: I’m interested to see which ones become snapshots of bygone political moments and which ones endure as resonant and poignant reflections of our evolving reality. The whole collection deserves the attention of many careful and considered re-reads.
In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
I said, after reading it for the first time, that In The Dream House is a Rubik’s cube of a book. I stand by that. It’s just that I need to re-read it to figure out just how Carmen Maria Machado did it. Reading this memoir is like watching one of those Rubik’s cube masters who can solve the whole damn thing in eight seconds or whatever. You need to slow it down, re-play each moment, in order to even come close to understanding. Plus, it’s just a beautifully written book, and its subject (abuse in queer relationships) is one that has been unfairly under-represented in literature. I’ll read every word that Machado writes for the rest of her career, and re-read them, too.
So, what do you think? Which book should I re-read first? Are there any deserving of a re-read that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!