Many decades ago I remember reading a particular novel as a student and loving it. I think it was Bernard Malamud’s The Assistant, but I could be wrong. Some years after this experience, I picked up a copy of that book on a whim, deciding to reread it. It did not stand up to this reread at all and I remember being sorely disappointed. Until now, this experience has clouded my feelings around rereading, an activity that other Rioters have covered in some depth and from various angles.
However, there are a few titles I’ve read in recent years that I think could stand up to a reread. In case you’re looking for newer titles to try or to read again, here are some I have gathered and set aside as ones that might stand up to my heightened expectations of a reread.
Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon
According to my notes (yes, I keep notes), I read Paul Yoon’s Snow Hunters in 2015. That means that six years have already passed since I last picked up this book and I still find myself thinking of the main character on occasion. What I remember most from this book is Yoon’s haunting and beautiful writing, and the loneliness of Yohan, the central character who defects from North Korea to begin a new life in Brazil. After reading this, I felt immediately that I had to read whatever Yoon wrote, but I notice — again from my notes — that I have yet to read his latest book. I think it is time for a reread of Snow Hunters and for the first read of Run Me to Earth.
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
I read this book in 2015 and still think about it from time to time. It is the story of a group of “picture brides,” brought over from Japan to marry men they have never met in late 1880s San Francisco. I remember the way she wrote about these girls and women as one group with many voices and experiences, using ‘we’ as her starting point. It was so good that I think I will have to reread it. It is also what pushed me to go back and read Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine, and I think this could use a reread as well.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
I read this in 2017, after having enjoyed Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. While I thought his previous novels were good, Exit West was by far superior. It centers around the relationship between two young people, Saeed and Nadia, as their city spirals down into civil war and they are forced to live with the increasing difficulties and privations. Eventually, they hear of magical doors that open in different places in the world and must decide whether to stay or flee.
Mem by Bethany C. Morrow
This book was recommended to me by Book Riot’s fantastic Tailored Book Recommendations in 2018. Yes, I think you should join this service and have personalized recommendations sent to you on a regular basis because it is incredible. No, I do not benefit in any way from this other than in the form of good karma. You can thank me later.
Now, back to my title: Mem is built around the fascinating premise that scientists have discovered a way to extract memories from people. The extracted memories are living beings of a sort, destined to live out their existence in a special vault, until one such living memory begins to make memories of her own. I have not reread this yet, but it seems I will have to do so soon. It was that good. And because of it, I had to add A Song Below Water to my personal TBR.
While there are many other titles I remember reading in the last few years, these in particular strike me as ones that deserve a reread.