Five Classic Books Worth Re-reading

Only Five?

There are easily 500 more, but a long list loses impact, and lessens the opportunity for future follow-up posts.

Classics, by definition, are worth re-reading, especially if you read them for the first time in your youth. Time will give you a different perspective, and it’s likely you’ve forgotten enough of the story to make it fresh.

So here are five, in no particular order, I recommend for summer reading — or any other season.

To Kill A Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

To_Kill_a_MockingbirdRace continues to divide this nation, and the quiet example of Atticus Finch in this Pulitzer-Prize winning novel is worth remembering. I know, the prequel creates a different picture of the man, but there was a reason Harper Lee told us she’d “said all she had to say” with To Kill a Mockingbird. In addition to Atticus, it’s uplifting to remember Boo Radley, and the straightforward point-of-view of young Scout paints an honest and at times innocent picture of the world. Don’t miss the 1962 film, either.

The Portable Dorothy Parker

by Dorothy Parker

D ParkerThe perfect book if you’re too busy for a novel. Short stories, articles and poetry abound in this volume. Parker took a sardonic look at just about every aspect of life, and it’s intriguing to note the change in her writing (particularly the short stories) over the years. Her tales are as timeless as human nature, however, no matter what changes may have taken place in her style of writing, and capture the subtleties of such things as young love and racism.

Rebecca

by Daphne Du Maurier

REbeccaAh, romance, true love and all that. The fairy tale comes crashing down, and you’re left wondering if the bliss of it all can be recaptured. Was Rebecca the better woman, the better lover, the better wife? We agonize with our unnamed heroine as she struggles to gain her foothold in a trepidatious situation and overcome her insecurities as the second wife. Who was Rebecca, and why does she still haunt all whom she left behind? A darn good movie, too (the 1940 Hitchcock version, starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier).

A Prayer for Owen Meany

by John Irving

PrayerForOwenMeanyI hesitated to call this one a classic since it’s not even 30 years old, but it’s on high school reading lists, so there you go. Written with Irving’s customary nod to the outlandish, but a bit of a departure from his usual style, it captures the intense feelings of fate, faith, friendship and the follies of youth and creates a clear visual of both main characters as they grow up and enter the world. Owen Meany believes in destiny, and lives his life with the knowledge he is “God’s instrument” and must fulfill a pre-ordained plan.

The Wind in the Willows

by Kenneth Grahame 

Wind_in_the_Willows_(1913)_-_Piper_at_the_Gates_of_Dawn
Art by Paul Branson, 1913 edition

If you can, get a copy with illustrations by Tasha Tudor.  Okay, it’s been illustrated by several phenomenal artists (see left). The adventures of Toad, Rat, Mole, Badger and the rest of the gang are just as engaging for adults as they are for children, the alleged intended audience. wind-in-the-willows-1These are well-defined characters, and their stories have a rhythm that is almost poetic (consider the title of one tale, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”). There’s a reason I still have my childhood copy.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Finding Peace

At times I feel as though I’m spinning a bit too fast.

Not out of control, per se. Haven’t gotten there lately. But I need to step back and slow down, stop spinning. It’s not a new problem. The decades change how we spend our time, but not the impact of overload.

I need balance. While I couldn’t find statistics on how adults spent their time decades back, there was plenty about teens. So I’m taking my cue from the younger generation, then and now, to help me find peace of mind in my time today.

Listening to Records
Be Real. Only in Peggy Sue’s dreams was she playing records with the hunk from algebra class.

Back in 1960, the average teenage girl spent 2-1/2 hours a day listening to the radio, and another two hours playing records. She spent less than an hour a day watching TV, a statistic that is a little misleading, since not all American homes, or homes anywhere in the world, had television sets. And remember, for the vast majority of homes that did have TV, there was one set for the whole family. No computers, no smart phones, just the one screen for all to share.

I’m betting the average teenage girl spent a fair amount of time on the phone, as well, until her parents told her she had to hang up because Aunt Patty might be calling about Sylvia’s baby. One phone in most homes, and no voice mail.

Today’s teenager averages more than nine hours a day in screen time, and he or she is beat out in that statistic by the adults. Of course, that includes school, homework or work time on the computer, as well as productive time spent in creative pursuits (like writing a blog). There are few statistics on the breakdown of that screen time, in other words, what can be considered productive and what is not.

Lady Playing Tennis
Never one for sports, not I…

Interestingly, a study done in 2004 showed that teens in 1981 spent less time in school, studying, helping around the house and socializing (structured events) than their peers at the start of the 21st century. They did spend far more time out of doors and playing sports. They also had more down time (how that was spent is not well accounted for in this study).

Friends of mine have two bright, active teenage girls, and those young ladies are going at top speed from dawn to dusk and many hours beyond. Their dad told me once that statistically, girls who are involved in sports are less likely to get pregnant (well, yeah, their periods tend to stop, but I didn’t say that to him). So they never stop running, and I darn near mean that literally.

I wonder, sometimes, if that kind of busyness has a dark side. I know I desperately need my alone time, and as I recall, it was crucial to my adolescent development that I find time to process whatever was going on in my life and my mind.

Down time is different these days.  I get nostalgic for some things. There’s something about playing records, with the discs steadily going ’round and ’round, the music that speaks to you playing as many times as you need it, that seems comforting to me. I know, there are a multitude of ways to wallow in music these days. But the record player had a soothing quality to it, and actively having to change records seems somehow a fair exchange of labor and reward.

I’m not criticizing computers, smart phones, televisions and the like. I depend on them. But reflecting on how teens spent their time in decades past gives me some insight into what might help me relax and regroup today. There are moments when I have to close the computer; I cannot look at one more message, perform one more search, post one more anything. What do I do then?

How do I regain my sanity, my ability to face what’s coming at me next?

Lady readingI didn’t find my answer in all those statistics, but the search led me to what I needed to know in a different way. I started to think of things I could do that were timeless, that sort of activity my parents, grandparents and ancestors decades back perhaps took part in.

I need to step out of the present. I need to return to what brings me peace.

Pondering the eternal, reflecting on the past.

Escaping to what never was and never will be.

Finding the strength to go forward with the present.

Reading.


Image Credits: © RetroClipArt — Fotolia, except Magic Book City — © Bigstock