Kevin Smokler is the author of Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven't Touched Since High School (Prometheus, February 2013). Smokler has been called "a publishing visionary" by the Huffington Post, and his writing on the arts and technology has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Fast Company and on NPR. Here he offers advice for rereading some classics.
You're a busy person, job, family, friends, a life. You have a reading queue that makes the DMV look speedy. Start then with a short book, briskly paced, easy to purchase or borrow. There's plenty of time in life for marathons. Limber up with a light jog.
If you're a reader who cannonballs instead of dog-paddles, start with Middlemarch. And gloat a lot. Middlemarch, while brilliant, is hefty enough to ward off a charging honey badger.
Everyone's got a friend who insists there's only one edition of Lolita that counts. Don't see that friend for a while. Rereading is very much about momentum. Getting uptight about editions and typesetting and whether your grandmother rescued your copy from a burning dance hall will only slow you down.
An edition with notes--yours or someone else's--complicates matters. You may get a kick out of seeing what 10th grade-you thought of a book. Or they may be like the book's last reader nattering on in your ear.
Like notes, a split decision. I like to reread in a radically different spot--a dark bar, say, rather than an unflatteringly lit study hall--because I like the feeling of time passing and growth. But there's nostalgia in this exercise, too, and if that's where you're at, enjoy "at."
Pair with a themed dessert.
Because why wouldn't you?
When rereading books from high school reminds you of acne and bad dates, stop and walk over to a mirror. Notice how grown up you are. Notice you are probably holding at least one item that would have been science fiction back in high school. Remember that time is always good to good books. And has been to you. And will be again.