With all such reading as was never read

When we were at the beach on Saturday, my friend nudged me and pointed out that a 30-ish guy in the next cluster over was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. My friend and I both love the Harry Potter books, so a little while later when the guy and his friends moved their chairs back, we asked him how he liked it and chatted about Harry Potter for a few minutes. He said he wasn’t a reader, but he’d read the first two in three days, and was enjoying the third one so far. “Welcome to the club!” we said. He said he’d resisted them for so long, and he couldn’t believe how much fun he’d been missing.

I kind of envy him, getting to read them for the first time. The twists and turns that the books take are a big part of why the series is so enjoyable and popular. That got me thinking – what books do I wish I could approach with a blank slate and read for the first time? Here are a few that came to mind (spoilers included for many of the books discussed!):

The Lord of the Rings. Every time I re-read LotR, I get more out of it than I did the previous time. And the movies have helped me a lot with understanding the geography of Middle Earth. But . . . I remember when Gandalf died, how shocked and sad I was as I sat in my high school media center, and how thrilling it was when he came back to life. I won’t have that moment again. I loved watching the first movie with Mike, because he couldn’t believe Gandalf’s passing, either, and it was fun to relive that moment with him. And, of course, the way the ring is destroyed at the end is another great moment in literature.

To Kill a Mockingbird. I recently re-read this and posted my thoughts on it at the Rumor Forum. Part of my “regret” here is that I read it at such a young age that parts of it went over my head. I have enjoyed returning to it over the years to see how I see things differently, but I’ll never have that “wow” moment again where I realize exactly who the man who saved Scout and Jem is.

Pride and Prejudice. I have already detailed my feelings about this book, so let me just say this. I did have a feeling that Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet would end up together, but I am really glad that I went into the book with a clean slate about how that would happen, because I consider my shock at the first proposal one of my all-time favorite reading moments, and one that I wish I could experience again.

Jane Eyre. I don’t love Jane Eyre (or the Bronte sisters), but I do love the way that the story of Mr. Rochester’s mad wife unfolds. In an English class I took my freshman year of college, we read Jane Eyre. I had read it before, but I remember one of the upperclassman guys coming in, shocked about the discovery of the mad wife. I still smile to remember how excited he was. I don’t remember my own feelings upon discovering Mr Rochester’s secret, which leads me to believe that I read it at too young an age. I wish I could read it now without knowing what I know.

The Scarlet Letter. This is another one that I had read before we read it as a class. We studied The Scarlet Letter in 10th or 11th grade, but I read it sometime in middle school. I remember watching my classmates move from indifference to actual anger as they discovered Reverend Dimmesdale’s secret, and as fun as it was to be “in the know,” I would have liked to have discovered it with them.

Of course, if I hadn’t already read these books, I would have missed thousands upon thousands of allusions to them over the years. And, there are plenty of books I haven’t read that can still surprise me. But . . . sometimes, I wish I could again be surprised by some of my favorites.

What are some books you wish you could read again for the first time?

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