by Steve Laube
What was the favorite book you read, cover to cover, in the last year or so? Why is it your favorite? (It can be fiction or non-fiction. Faith-based or not.) Feel free to tell us in the comments about yours.
Read it Again
Now that you’ve identified the book. Read it again. As Vladimir Nabakov wrote:
“Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.” – from Nabokov’s speech “Good Readers and Writers” (pdf link) delivered in his 1948 Lectures on Literature (Amazon link).
That may seem like an overstatement. After all we have only so much time in a day. Why am I suggesting this?
Learn From the Best
The first time you read a book, if you are able to turn off your editing instincts, you are caught up in the story, the characters, or the non-fiction point the teacher is trying to make. But this time, while you reread, look for the technique of the writer. Look at the structure and argument trail. Note how a character is described for the first time, and when that happens. Try to discover what made this a magical book for you.
The beauty of this is that you are no longer entranced by the “what-if” or the conclusion. You know where the book is going. So now you can use the book as a teacher of writing.
I even recommend reading with multi-colored pencils or pens at the ready. (A little harder to accomplish with an e-reader…) Use one color for emotion. Another for major points. Another for descriptions. Another for anecdotes. (I’m mixing fiction and non-fiction in my examples on purpose.) Let the great writers teach you.
In addition, the second or third time through a book you may find an idea you missed the first time. For example, I suspect you may have read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity a while ago. I can almost guarantee that if you reread it today it will speak to you again, but in a new way because you are likely in a different place spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally than you were the first time. (And if you’ve never read it? Please put it at the top of your list.)
Even a great novel can do the same. A few months ago I suggested that you bring your own story to each novel or non-fiction book you read (“The Story We Bring to the Story”). Therefore the next time you read a favorite novel it may take you down a different street or you might find a new idea or meet a new person. Recently I reread Dune by Frank Herbert, one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time. I was struck by the power of religion in the lives of each character, something I glossed over the first time because of the extraordinary saga that was told.
Enjoy your (re)reading experience. Tell us what you discovered!