Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

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Oh, there are so many books that could find their way onto this list!

For one thing, I could populate it in moments by just looking at the classics. Most of my reading of the classics (which in hindsight was a shockingly white, male and middle class canon!) took place at University and, let’s be honest, the classics were wasted on me at the age of 18 or 19. I mean, what experience of life or relationships or people did I have to truly understand Middlemarch? And yet those two characters, Dorothea Brooke and Mr Casaubon, have remained lodged in my mind for the decades since. What did I have to bring to the sprawling depth of Moby-Dick or to King Lear or to Pride and Prejudice.

And, can you imagine what it must have been like, not simply to read Dracula for the first time, but with none of the pop culture familiarity with the character and concept of the vampire? What must it have been like reading The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde, genuinely not knowing that they were the same character? And the same goes for all those iconic Gothic characters, to really feel the shock of those first readers…

So I will (at least try to) organise this list a little and try to avoid too many classics!

Characters I’d Love to Meet For the First Time Again

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

This is a novel that I think I have overthought over the years.

It is so iconic, yet so easy to criticise on a number of levels – I mean, it’s never going to be easy to accept Rochester’s treatment of Bertha, is it? – that that can get in the way.

To return to the novel for the first time, discovering Jane – as well as Charlotte Brontë’s wonderful prose – and getting to know these characters afresh would be so great.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

This novel sparkled with its beautiful historical – magical – fairytale setting of the night circus, populated by a wonderful and complex cast of supporting characters around the central pairing of Celia and Marco. Contortionists, acrobats, clairvoyants, engineers and businessmen.

Exquisite.

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson

Ursula Todd carries this novel – she is wonderful as she struggles with the challenges of life, of remaining alive and surviving the tribulations of umbilical cords, raging seas, the Spanish ‘flu, as well as the onslaughts of rapists, predators and Hitler.

The cyclical narrative, circling back to Ursula’s birth amid the “snow” of 11th February 1910 each time she dies, and her half-formed memories of those prior alternative lives was exquisite.

The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak

Liesel Meminger.

Death.

Do I need to offer any other reason to want to be able to re-read this one again? But if you did need other reasons, Hans Hubermann, Liesel’s adoptive father, is such a wonderful source of strength to her.

And Zusak’s prose which is luminous and lyrical and poetic and sumptuous.

Settings I’d Love To Explore For The First Time Again

A number of fantasy novels and series could fill in this category and I am (honestly) trying to keep to ten in this list, even if I am likely to fail miserably again!

Perdido Street Station, China Miéville

Miéville’s city of New Crobuzon – crouched beneath the ribs of some vast creature – is an urban fantasy world which is Dickensian and sensory and absurd and corrupt and wonderfully realised.

Perdido Street Station and Iron Council explore the slums and ganglands of the city, its nightmares and constructs, its extraordinary range of species and politics.

Salacus Fields, Bonetown and Dog Fenn, Brock Marsh… it is one of the most realised cities I have read and I would love to re-discover it.

The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson

So may Sanderson’s novels could have slipped into this list: Roshar in The Stormlight Archive was another obvious world. But I loved the narrower focus of The Last Empire and the Mistborn series on the city of Luthadel and the Lord Ruler’s dominion over Scadriel.

It was also my first Sanderson and I loved his world building and his magic system even if I am still coming to terms with the concept of the cosmere!

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

This was one of the novels that I loved when I first read it as a sixteen year-old school boy…

But having re-read the novel several times, and having found more and more to love in it each time, I would love the opportunity to explore Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange and the heathlands between them.

And whilst Heathcliff is monstrous, Lockwood an idiot, Cathy deranged – let’s be honest there is not much to redeem any of these characters – the novel invests them with something Gothic and muscular and somehow eternal.

The Discworld, Terry Pratchett

A series of sheer fun and exuberance in which the late lamented Sir Terry never puts a step wrong (The Colour of Magic, I shall skip over) and invests his novels with pathos and humour and wit – and above all such a deep deep sense of humanity whether it be the Watch of Ankh-Morpork, the witches of Lancre, the Death novels or Moist von Lipwick.

Plots I’d Love to Be Able to Take Me By Surprise Again

Broken Harbour, Tana French

I adore all of French’s Dublin Murder Squad series in which she follows a different detective each time, each novel making the reader re-evaluate the characters. Broken Harbour takes place in the middle of the series as French is at her most effective.

“Scorcher” Kennedy had been an irritating foil to Frank Mackay in Faithful Place, but becomes one of French’s more complex and rounded characters – and the murder of a family in an incomplete abandoned housing estate is wonderfully gothic and creepy.

And what beast was in the walls of that house?

And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

One of Christie’s more twisty novels, in which a range of shady characters are trapped on an island being picked off one by one…

This is a masterclass in suspense and paranoia and it is a great sadness that I will never have the chance to read it again without the knowledge of who the murderer is. Mind you, reading the novel again with that knowledge is also a pleasure.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This is, for me, the ultimate detective novel.

A sinister dark legend, an unexplained death, a bleak isolated setting on the moors and a mysterious hound and escaped convict both haunting the moors.

I think I first saw this as a film when I was perhaps ten years old – Basil Rathbone I think – and so I have never had the chance of reading it unspoiled.

Emotional Rollercoasters I’d Like to Ride Again

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

This was a strange experience: I thought I had read this, I was convinced I had, I remember having conversations about it… but when I downloaded it as an audiobook I realised that I had never read it before! And the “reveal” in the novel was so incredibly well done!

Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, the Hailsham school, the guardians, the donors, the carers are so wonderfully and delicately crafted that, even on a first reading, the resolution was both inevitable and heartbreaking.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

And speaking of heartbreak, this novel is one which I have read half a dozen times and still cannot avoid the tears and the catch in the throat at a number of places.

Ness’s prose is unpretentious, simplistic, but all the more powerful for that as Conor O’Malley struggles with his terminally ill mother and bullies at school and a grandmother he finds overbearing…

And the monster who turns up at midnight, as they do, in the shape of the yew tree from the graveyard.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Again, this is a novel that is wasted on teenagers on a school curriculum.

Did I really get the depth of the racial and class issues within this novel? Did I appreciate the wonder of Scout’s narrative voice? Did I understand Atticus Finch? Or Boo Radley?

I don’t think I did and it took me several years to get to re-reading it and those depths resonated with me so much more.

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

  • August 31: Fictional Crushes
  • September 7: Books Guaranteed to Put a Smile On Your Face
  • September 14: Books With Numbers In the Title
  • September 21: Books on My Fall 2021 To-read List
  • September 28: Freebie (Come up with your own topic or do a past TTT topic that you missed or would like to do again.)

18 comments

  1. Great list! I agree with your comments about the classics being lost on us as teens. Do we truly understand the social commentary in these books when we are mere children? Of course not! Even better is when we as children turn to our parents for help and they don’t understand the book either.

    When you get the chance, I hope you stop over at my blog and take a read: https://readbakecreate.com/10-books-i-would-love-to-see-as-a-movie/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a fascination list, and I love the way you broke it into specific aspects of the book. I’ve actually only read one of these (To Kill a Mockingbird), and that was in high school. A few of the others are already in my plans to read in the future, which I look forward to all the more when I see them mentioned on a list like this.

    My TTT

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this twist on the prompt! I’m planning on rereading Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights soon, and it’s been so long I’ll feel like I’m meeting the cast for the first time–one of the great things about a reread!

    Liked by 1 person

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