Thursday, January 2, 2014

Re-reading The Hobbit out loud

I'm really struck by how different the experience of reading a book can seem depending on your life circumstances when you read and re-read it.  I'm reading The Hobbit right now to my youngest son, who is 10; this is my third time through it.  I read it when I was a teen, and then I read it to my oldest son when he was 7 or 8.  I loved the book when I first read it, but really struggled through it with my oldest son.  We finished it, but I remember thinking that the book was not nearly as interesting as I had remembered it from my first reading.  I was really disappointed and surprised by the experience.

This time around, I love the book again.  We have read half of it, and it feels exciting and interesting throughout.  Several times we have gotten to a logical stopping place, looked at each other, and decided kept reading.  That was not my experience when I read it to my oldest.  I couldn't wait to get to a stopping place.

So what's different?  One thing is the age of my children.  When I read it to my oldest, my other children were 4 and 1.  Not lots of sleep or time to read on my own.  I was, I think, a dulled reader at the time.  Another difference is that we have seen the first Hobbit movie, and this has helped me visualize some of the scenes that I couldn't before.  I'm not one to watch a movie before reading a book--and often I don't want to see the movie after I've read a book because I don't want to spoil my experience of it--but seeing the movie this time has increased our enjoyment of the book.

It's no great insight to say that we are different readers every time we read a book we've read before, and as a result the book seems (or is?) different.  But when I've thought of that idea before, I always understood it as variations on enjoying a book, or seeing things that weren't apparent in earlier readings.  With The Hobbit, I've gone from loving the novel as a teen, to disliking it in my thirties, to loving it again in my forties.  Perhaps the most fulfilling reading challenge for 2014 would be a re-reading challenge.

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