My favourite books to reread
With all the brilliant new releases coming out every month, rereading books is a bit of a luxury for booksellers. Sometimes, you just want to lose yourself in a book for a very specific reason, and in those situations nothing beats rereading an old favourite. It’s like catching up with an old friend, or eating a favourite home-made meal – both comforting and comfortable.
Here are the books that I find myself returning to, time and time again.
Reread for a cathartic cry
The first time I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness I did it in one gulp and then spent the next half an hour ugly-crying on the couch. This powerful YA book about a boy whose mum is dying of cancer is a total gut-punch of a novel, especially when you consider that while it has Ness’s name on the front cover it was originally based on a manuscript by Siobhan Dowd, who lost her own battle with cancer before completing it. It’s a story about life, and how it’s not always fair, and how sometimes bad things happen to good people, and absolutely no-one is guaranteed a happy ending. It’s an extraordinary, moving, oddly life-affirming read, and it never fails to make me cry. Get the copy with illustrations by Jim Kay if you can.
Reread in the bath
You don’t want to get too absorbed in a bath read, or you’ll end up pruney and waterlogged. I usually use it as an opportunity to read essays or short stories, because I can resurface after each chapter and take stock of my surroundings. Recently I’ve been rereading Lindy West’s brilliant collection of essays, Shrill. They’re absorbing, witty and engaging little parcels of wisdom about everything from comedy to feminism to body image. Shrill is clever enough to make you think, but also laugh-out-loud funny, and the chapters are self-contained but the book itself flows beautifully, meaning you don’t lose momentum if you want to read one after another.
Reread on holiday
I’m a little embarrassed by how many times I’ve revisited Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game in the last year. It’s a delicious enemies-to-lovers romance read about two people working in a publishing house whose mutual loathing masks a secret attraction to one another and it’s just so much fun. Thorne is a first-time writer (and bookseller!) from Canberra, and her book is an absolute delight. She’s got a second book on the way, and I’m 110% sure I’m going to be rereading that one multiple times, too.
Reread as a guilty pleasure
Look, I don’t really believe in book shaming, so guilty pleasure is kind of a loaded term, but if there’s one book I’ve read a couple of times and felt just a little bit dirty about it’s probably A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Described as Twilight for the tweedy set it’s about Diana – an Oxford scholar, and descendant of witches – who comes into possession of a manuscript that’s sacred to the three races of supernatural creatures: daemons, witches, and vampires. It’s a bit sexy, and a bit problematic for a feminist reader, but very enjoyable if you want to switch your brain off for a little bit. They’re making it into a TV series right now, so I can’t be the only person who enjoyed it.
Reread to make the world disappear
No one does fantasy world-building better than Patrick Rothfuss, and his Kingkiller series have become modern-day classics in the genre. A coming-of-age story that follows the adventures of a young man named (annoyingly) Kvothe, The Name of the Wind is oddly engrossing considering I couldn’t actually tell you anything that happens in it. Rothfuss’ meandering narrative follows Kvothe (seriously, that name) from his childhood spent with a troupe of travelling performers, to life begging on the streets of the city, and finally to The University where he studies magic and tries to uncover the truth of Chandrian – the monsters who may, or may not, have been responsible for the slaughter of his family. The Kingkiller Chronicles is being turned into a TV series, a feature film and a video game, so it seems safe to say that it’s the next Game of Thrones.
Reread when I need a good laugh
I have such a soft spot for Stella Gibbons’ classic novel Cold Comfort Farm, and it’s one of those books that I get something different out of on each rereading. Flora Poste is a Sensible Young Woman who, after her parents’ untimely death, sends herself to live with her distant relatives, the Starkadders of the titular Cold Comfort Farm. From the fey half-wild Elfine, to the randy sex-god Seth, the occupants of the farm seem to have been wrenched from the heaving, overwrought, pages of Wuthering Heights, and Flora’s having none of it. Over the course of this wonderful, wonderful book she manages them all into submission before granting herself her own happy ending. If you haven’t read Cold Comfort Farm, please do. It’s absolutely charming.
Reread when I need some brain food
Sometimes you want to read the literary equivalent of a cupcake, and sometimes you want to read the literary equivalent of a piece of dense wholegrain sourdough. When I want to reread something with a lot of substance I’ll often reach for my copies of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels. These gripping books about the rise and fall of Cromwell are beautifully rendered, and packed full of fascinating pieces of Tudor history. They’ve been impeccably researched, and I often find myself reading them with one computer tab open to Wikipedia so that I can cross-reference the events that Mantel describes. They’re a little too forgiving of Cromwell, who I’m sure wasn’t nearly as benevolent as he’s described, but if you can divorce Mantel-Cromwell with real-life-Cromwell in your mind they’re a definite must-read.