Stephen Marche, a columnist with The Guardian, advocates what he calls "centireading"--the practice of reading one book 100 times. He has done this with two texts: William Shakespeare's Hamlet and P.G. Wodehouse's The Inimitable Jeeves. The former he did for his doctorate and the latter just for fun. The practice has had an effect on him:
The main effect of reading Hamlet a 100 times was, counter-intuitively, that it lost its sense of cliche. “To be or not to be” is the Stairway to Heaven of theatre; it settles over the crowd like a slightly funky blanket knitted by a favorite aunt. Eventually, if you read Hamlet often enough, every soliloquy takes on that same familiarity. And so “To be or not to be” resumes its natural place in the play, as just another speech. Which renders its power and its beauty of a piece with the rest of the work. […]
The psychology of my love for The Inimitable Jeeves isn’t exactly hard to understand. As we rolled through that strange country, laughing at the English with the English, the family was both inside and outside. My associations with The Inimitable Jeeves are as powerful as they could possibly be, a fused sense of family unity and childhood adventure. The book is so much more than just a happy childhood memory. In such ways, books pick us, rather than the other way around.
I have never read one book a hundred times, but I've read Richard Adams's Shardik about a dozen times. It is not truly great literature like Hamlet, but with each re-reading, I saw elements of the text that I had not noticed before. Reading the author's biography contributed to this deeper understanding. And absorbing the text has added phrases, expressions, and symbols (e.g. fire, water, the bear) to my own internal language. The story has become part of me.
On Thursday, Ria Misra of io9 asked her readers a great question: Which book have you read the most number of times? And furthermore: what impact has reading and re-reading that book had on you?
-via Marginal Revolution