But the lapse of a year allows the ideas and themes of the novel to grow roots in your mind; and re-reading the novel allows new growth to experience of reading. . .And, that, I think is the key. The annual desire to reacquaint ourselves with books that changed how we viewed the world.
And my annual summer read?
It used to be The Lord of the Rings, but I have set that aside for a while. I'm looking for the next big, complex narrative, loaded with the frieight of ideas and new viewpoints that will be worth re-reading.
For those that are unaquainted with my reading habits, I read alot. Every year though I reread 4 books that shaped alot of my thought processes and are sheerly enjoyable on top of that. They are: To Kill A Mockingbird, Till We Have Faces, Fahrenheit 451, and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. A rather odd assortment of books, but then, I have a rather odd mind.
To Kill A Mockingbird is the best American novel ever written. There are many fine novels out there, many influential ones but TKAM does something wonderful: it preaches without being preachy. Racism, and especially racism typified by the Jim Crow American South, has become an epithet hurled into political arguement these days. I suggest that people who cry "racist" at the drop of a hat reread Mockingbird. Atticus is the embodiment of hope and the model Harper Lee sets up, not just for Scout and Jem, but for her readers and Americans as a whole. Atticus sets the standard but does not condemn his fellow townsfolk for not being as enlightened as he is. He treats everyone with unfailing courtesy and understands that change comes slowly. He does what he can, influences where he can and does not shirk from duty.
Till We Have Faces, by CS Lewis, is one of those novels that teaches something new each time it is read. The myth of Psyche and Eros it explores the nature of love, self-love, identity, forgiveness, and how all of those are affected by our relationship with God.
Fahrenheit 451 is a denunciation of the trivial. It is infatuation with the trivial which blinds Bradbury's society to the destruction of their heritage and their very existence. Books are only the medium Bradbury uses to convey the denunciation. Guy Montag thoughtless in trivial pursuits in the beginning becomes the steward of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the end.
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel seems, at first, to be an strange addition to this list. Bob Heinlein's perhaps fluffiest juvenilia it follows Kip and Peewee through space pirates and interstellar tribunals. It emphasises optimism, individualism, hard work and perserverance.