Years ago, my friend Alex told me that every year since seminary he has started each summer by re-reading Dune. I completely understood. Dune is a novel that, if you are lucky, takes you in and transports you to a distant, not altogether nice, place. 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.
A former boss, Bill, told me that he started every summer re-reading The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever. I read through that series twice, both times carried by its story and repelled by its anti-hero. I cannot imagine doing that to myself again. But for Bill, summer didn't start until he had cracked open Lord Foul's Bane.
What triggers this rememberance is R. Andrew Newman's article on NRO about his summer ritual of re-reading Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine.
It’s not, I think, a bearing in life I seek. It’s an annual desire to reacquaint myself with the vistas of summer. Vistas wide and golden as the prairie itself. Times when school hallways darkened and three months of light beckoned. Days when the air seemed saturated with possibilities.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.