7 Books That Deserve A Second Chance
I have to admit, I’m not a big rereader of books. Not of books I’ve liked, or even loved, or books that deserve a second chance even though they weren’t exactly my favorite (it’s the eighth deadly sin to say you hated a book, in case you didn’t know.) I mean, sure, there are a couple books I’ve read time and time again: To Kill a Mockingbird, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Wild. But for the most part, once a completed book is tucked away on my shelves, it usually stays there.
Most of the time I think this is just fine — after all, there are so many new and wonderful titles printed every day, why reread books you’ve already spent time with? But lately, my tendency to shun rereading has been bothering me, and for two reasons: One, the number of books I’ve accumulated over the years now vastly exceeds the number of shelves my apartment is able to accommodate; and Two, I’ve started to suspect I’m missing out on a lot by only reading books once. Especially books I may not have, shall was say, adored in the first go.
Here are seven books that deserve a second chance. So give ‘em one.
1. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Naturally this list caps off with the novel that infamously sent readers everywhere into tailspins of despair last summer. And sure, Go Set a Watchman is no To Kill a Mockingbird — I’ll give you that. But now that all the buzz has quieted down, and you’ve had time to make peace with the fact that some of literature’s most beloved characters aren’t quite as pure as you preferred they remain, consider giving Go Set A Watchman another read. Will it suddenly become your new favorite novel? Probably not. But it’s worth reading at least once more, this time for what it is, instead of what you’d wanted it to be.
2. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
At 1,088 pages, Infinite Jest is the Iron Man of literary marathons. Yes, it is long and heavy. Yes, David Foster Wallace made up several of his own words — a privilege that I’m still inclined to believe should only be extended to the likes of Shakespeare. And yes, sometimes the prose is so meandering and awkward that you’ll find yourself rereading the same sentences over again for clarification — a writing style that should perhaps be relegated to books that aren’t already 1,088 pages long. But with that said, Infinite Jest is not only a pretty compelling — albeit seemingly never-ending — narrative, it’s also a Serious Reader Rite of Passage. So throw on your big girl reading glasses and give this one a second chance.
3. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
The reason A Visit from the Goon Squad totally deserves a second chance is quite simple. Namely: the first go-around you were so distracted by all the weird formatting, and that ridiculous PowerPoint presentation in the middle, and whatever the hell else was going on with Jennifer Egan’s innovative/gimmicky (it could go either way) prose style that you weren’t actually paying attention to anything that was going on in the actual plot. So now that you’ve made your peace with the utterly bizarre structure, read this one again for story.
4. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Some people are just not into experimental prose — I get it. Here’s the thing about Cloud Atlas that earns it a second shot on your shelves: I’m fairly certain you’ll be able to read this novel chronologically, backwards, inside-out, shuffled, and shredded, and get a completely cohesive — and different, and compelling — story each time. It’s just cool.
5. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Lord of the Flies is a hard sell, I know. Asking you to give this one a second chance is kind of like asking you to try having your wisdom teeth removed a second time — no thank you. With that said, if Lord of the Flies was the first dystopian novel you ever read (and probably read for school, back in the days when dystopian YA novels were not, in fact, all the rage) you’ve just got to give this novel one last shot. Think of it like dystopian lit’s Hatchet . And you know you loved Hatchet.
6. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
Read them as two separate stories (as they were originally written) or read them together (as they are published today) either way Franny and Zooey is probably relegated to the high-school-imposed-tedium section of your bookshelves — aka those books you couldn’t ever get rid of because they’re filled with 10th grade scribbles that only sometimes have anything to do with the text and more frequently refer to lunch plans and prom. Fair enough. But through adult-reader eyes, Franny and Zooey is actually filled with some really funny imagery — all Zooey wants to do is take a bath in peace, and all his mother wants to do is have her living room painted, and Franny’s crisis of faith could simply not have come at a worse time for either of these characters’ endeavors. Ten bucks says it'll remind you of your own family.
7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
A quick Google scan of some of the most unloved books published in recent history reveals that The Lovely Bones has assembled a surprising number of haters over the years — surprising to me, anyway, but probably not to anyone who considers themselves among the book's disappointed readers. Sure, the novel is brutal and violent and devastating from pretty much page one, but then again, so are a lot of other books. If you just can’t get behind this one, on a second read try reading it for the coming-of-age story of Lindsey Salmon, instead of only for everything Susie Salmon lost. I promise it's beautiful.
Image: Bustle/Cora Foxx