Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

What’s On Your Re-Read Shelf?

July 29th, 2014 by G.

book warren

FoJG T. Greer has a great post at the Scholar’s Stage on the works on his re-read shelves. You’ll want to check it out, especially his LDS material. He has several conference talks listed that I’m glad he brought to my attention.

Greer suggests that there are three kinds of books on the re-read shelves.

three categories:

those read again for the sake of “intellectual learning,” as you say it, or perhaps poetically, the books that enlighten;

books reread for purely for amusement or escape, the books that entertain;

and last of all, books that gives us snap shots of the beautiful or sublime, that increase our capacity to feel sorrow for the sorrowful or inspire us to the greater deeds of greater men – or in short, the books that edify.

I think he’s right. The object of this exercise is to share with our friends here or over at Greer’s place the books you re-read,the movies you rewatch, etc., that enlighten or edify.

Only include the books that you actually re-read. I’d like to list a number of Shakespeare plays, but the truth is most all of them I’ve read only once, and some of them not at all. Same with Moby Dick, Democracy in America, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and some of Conrad’s works, or George Herbert’s poetry.

And please do make a point to include religious material (excepting the scriptures, unless there is some lesser known passage or section that you keep coming back too).

Also, feel free to comment and critique on other’s lists, starting with mine.

Here is mine:

Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, by Austen.

The Aubrey-Maturin books, Golden Ocean, and Richard Temple, by O’Brian. They skew a little bit more in the entertainment direction, but I find myself suppressing the urge to write essays about the truth of the human condition while I’m reading them, so they count. Reading the Golden Ocean was literally a revelatory experience for me.

The Lord of the Rings – besides the beauty, there is considerable intellectual depth there that I am now discovering. Maybe also the Hobbit. I’m not sure,but I do reread it.

The First Circle, by Solzhenitsyn. The Gulag Archipelago too, but especially the First Circle. I’m starting the Red Wheel now. I think it will probably go on the list.

The Last of All Suns and City Beyond Time, by John C. Wright.

The Face of Battle, by Keegan

For Cause and Comrades, McPherson

The classic Civil War epics. Take your pick: McPherson, Foote, Catton

Of Plagues and Peoples

War before Civilization

C.S. Lewis tout court. Yes, including the kid’s stuff. But especially the Great Divorce, Perelandra, and Till We Have Faces. A Grief Observed should be on here, but it’s too hard to reread.

Reflections on the Revolution in France

Miracle of Forgiveness

Tuchman’s the Distant Mirror, the Churchill bio the Last Lion, and Reilly’s the Perfection of the West may belong. Certainly I re-read them.

Knight and Wizard, by Gene Wolfe

Boswell’s Johnson

Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream

Chandler’s Marlowe books

Herodotus’ Histories. These are good for browsing.

The Odyssey

Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

Huck Finn

Aesop’s Fables

The Wind in the Willows

Adventures of Robin Hood (the Green version)

A Canticle for Liebowitz

Revelation, Flannery O’Connor

Maybe Laura Ingall’s books and James Herriot’s—I’m not sure. Certainly I reread them.

Essays and Speeches and Short Stories

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

Lincoln’s House Divided Speech

Washington’s Farewell Address

The Gettysburg Address

The Neil Maxwell Quote Book – you don’t re-read it cover to cover, but it’s a book for taking down off the shelf, flipping it open, and thinking for a while

Spengler’s Future, by John C. Reilly

The Devil and Daniel Webster

Speaking of Webster, his Union speech on the Compromise of 1850, and his Second Reply to Hayne.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

“Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death”

Chief Joseph’s Capitulation

Elder McConkie’s farewell sermon

Cicero’s Catiline Speech (the first one)


Master and Commander

Branagh’s Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing

It’s a Wonderful Life


Pride and Prejudice, the six-hour BBC marathon

Emma, the one with Paltrow

Brideshead Revisited, the Irons one.

Unusually, these versions of Emma and Brideshead Revisited are better than the books they come from, in my opinion.

I don’t know if they really belong on this list, but I keep rewatching Dare to Stand Alone and Earthly Father, Heavenly Father

Joseph Smith’s Last Dream, though possibly apocryphal


Gerard Manley Hopkins




Benet’s American Names

Lewis’ Cliché Came Out of Its Cage

Arnold’s the Sea of Faith

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

Where are the Snows of Yesteryear


The temple endowment

What are yours?

Comments (15)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: , , ,
July 29th, 2014 09:39:26

July 29, 2014

I tend to read then move on. But there are exceptions.

For enlightenment:

I’ve read Cottingham and Greenwood’s An Introduction to the Standard Model of Particle Physics several times.

For edification:

The Silmarillion I keep coming back to, more even than the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I’ve read Nibley’s The World and the Prophets more than once.

There’s others I’ve re-read in the past, but doubt I would find time to re-read now. And there are ones I read again for entertainment, but you’re not asking about those.

July 29, 2014

I wouldn’t mind hearing about the entertainment ones, personally.

July 29, 2014

I regularly re-read Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. And Kafka.

T. Greer
July 30, 2014

I didn’t include entertainment types in my original list because I feared the list would be lengthier than reasonable. But I also would not mind hearing about other’s choices for the category.

P.S. Bruce C. has left an interesting list in the comment thread over at my place. Figured some of you might be interested.

July 30, 2014

I find myself re-reading “Red Storm Rising” frequently for pure entertainment. Even though, really, it’s awful stuff.

July 30, 2014

“Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream” sounds terrific (based on the description on Amazon), I’m going to put it on my list.

Works that are either enlightening or edifying, but not merely entertaining, and which I’ve actually re-read (going by memory since I’m not near my bookshelves):

Cardinal Newman’s sermons; Apologia Pro Vita Sua; Callista (novel); The Dream of Gerontius (poem)

O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series

C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, various essays

G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, Orthodoxy, The Catholic Church and Conversion, The Thing: Why I am a Catholic; essays

Hilaire Belloc’s The Path to Rome, The Crisis of Our Civilization, How the Reformation Happened

Dickens’ novels: all (well, most, but too numerous to remember which)

Louis de Wohl’s novels The Quiet Light, The Last Crusader

St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life

Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility

George MacDonald’s The Gifts of the Child Christ (short story); novels: David Elginbrod, Robert Falconer, The Marquis of Lossie, Phantastes

Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism

Transformation in Christ by Dietrich von Hildebrand

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis


A Man For All Seasons
Babette’s Feast
Scrooge (Alastair Sim, 1951)
It’s A Wonderful Life
The Mission
The Reluctant Saint
Going My Way
The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima
The Song of Bernadette
The Ten Commandments (sort of edifying but also a bit silly in parts; still, a classic that we watch every year around Easter)

For mere entertainment:

Ross MacDonald’s series of Lew Archer detective novels

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Hilaire Belloc’s novels The Postmaster General and The Man Who Made Gold

Chesterton’s books of short stories Tales of the Long Bow and The Club of Queer Trades

Movies for mere entertainment:

Raising Arizona
The Big Lebowski
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Merrily We Live
Bringing Up Baby
The Thin Man
The Philadelphia Story
It Happened One Night
The Pink Panther series
The Shop Around the Corner

July 30, 2014

If I include things I’ve read more than once, whether or not I’m likely to read them again; and if I include movies and entertainment, the list becomes substantial.

Books for enlightenment:
Bergerud, Fire in the Sky
Bergerud, Touched By Fire
Bork, The Tempting of America
Burnham’s Celestial Handbook
Catton, The Civil War
Costello, The Pacific War 1941-1945
Churchill, History of the Second World War
Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon
Nibley, The World and the Prophets
Prange, Miracle at Midway
Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed
Spector, Eagle Against the Sun
Almost everything in the Time-Life Nature and Science Library series

Books for edification:
Hugo, Les Miserables
LeGuin, Earthsea Trilogy
McKillip, Riddle of Stars
Tolkien, The Silmarillion
Tolkien, Unfinished Tales
Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

Books for entertainment:
Ambrose, Band of Brothers
Asimov, The Foundation Trilogy
Brickhill, The Great Escape
Clancy, The Hunt for Red October
Clancy, Red Storm Rising
Heinlein, Farmer in the Sky
Heinlein, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel
Heinlein, Starship Troopers
O’Rourke, Eat the Rich
Tolkien, The Hobbit
White, The Once and Future King

Movies for entertainment:
Star Wars
Soylent Green
2001: A Space Odyssey
Forbidden Planet
The Time Machine

Movies for edification:
Les Miserables
Lord of the Rings

Movies for enlightenment:
The Longest Day
Tora! Tora! Tora!

I’ll probably update this comment as I think of more.

Bruce Charlton
July 30, 2014

@Agellius – The surprise was “Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” because most people (including myself and my son) were disappointed with these. There was an amusing three part BBC TV series based on them – but unfortunately further episodes were not made. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5FLwkNX264

@Lord Vader – Were you being entirely honest in classifying Star Wars as (mere) entertainment?

I firmly believe that when we re-read/ re-watch/ re-listen multiple times – it is not merely or mostly for entertainment; but for something more important to us that we are perhaps rather embarrassed about – e.g. some wish-fulfilment fantasy that seems a bit childish or naive (or shameful).

For example, a few years ago I read the Fairacre books by ‘Miss Read’ which are mostly favourites among old ladies (borrowed from public libraries in large print editions). The author (Dora Saint) was a deft and witty writer (she wrote for Punch originally), but what I really (secretly) liked was the escapism of getting inside the cozy and insulated world of English village life – very Shire-like.

July 31, 2014


I classified Star Wars as entertainment because it’s too fictionalized to be enlightening and too cheesy to be edifying.

Well, except that there is the ring of truth in your observation that mere entertainment cannot bring someone back repeatedly to a book or movie, that it must meet some deep need. Perhaps it is significant that I haven’t actually come back to Star Wars in some time; it no longer fulfills any deep need. (Or maybe it’s just that I can’t get the taste of the prequels out of my mouth.)

But at one time the series did indeed fill some deep need.

I need to add Star Trek to the list. But only the original series. I’m still trying to get the taste of Star Trek: Voyager out of my mouth.

Most of the movies I watch multiple times, I watch multiple times because I happen to have a copy and watching movies is good for keeping me distracted while I’m working out on the treadmill. There’s probably no deeper significance to that list.

But the books: It is perhaps significant that The Silmarillion is about the only fiction that I have read repeatedly in the past and am likely to read again in the future. There are plenty of good works of fiction I liked and continue to be glad I have read, but I find myself wanting to move on rather than revisit. And most of what I want to move on to is nonfiction nowadays.

Except for The Silmarillion. I have no explanation.

July 31, 2014

Bruce writes, “@Agellius – The surprise was “Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” because most people (including myself and my son) were disappointed with these.”

I assume what you mean is that most people, including you, think that the Hitchhiker series was better. I’m quite surprised to hear this.

Unlike most people, I suppose, I first discovered Adams when I read Long Dark Teatime. I had never heard of the Hitchhiker series. Long Dark Teatime immediately hooked me and reeled me in. It was just so different and quirky and funny to me. I enjoyed Dirk Gently almost as much.

After having read those, I went looking for more Adams and only then discovered the Hitchhiker series. I thought it was OK, better than no Adams at all, but I thought it wasn’t nearly as clever and funny as the first two books of his that I had read.

It’s really amazing how people can see things so differently.

Bruce Charlton
July 31, 2014

Not exactly.

I don’t *much* like Douglas Adams’s books, although I read them all on publication; but I thought the original *radio* series of Hitch. was a classic work of comic genius (and I do re-listen to that fairly often).

The two Dirk Gently books just left me mildly indifferent – I read them through, but remembered very little.

August 1, 2014

Can I just point out that on a blog called Junior Ganymede, no one has yet mentioned Wodehouse on this thread? What gives?

The only “entertainment” re-read any of us really need is The Code of the Woosters. Anything more is just gravy.

August 1, 2014

Huston, touché.

August 2, 2014

I think I mentioned in the beginning that holy writ was to be taken as given.

[…] just read these two great posts about rereading favorite books.  I very rarely do that–I’m one of those who have […]

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