I don't always reread the entire book along with my students. I've no problem letting them correct me when I get a plot element wrong, but I prefer to have the story fresh in my mind when we discuss it. Since I teach middle school, the most difficult text we're usually talking about is The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, so rereading along with the class is no great time sacrifice on my part.
However, I do end up rereading books more than I would otherwise, sometimes many more times than the book deserves.
Jack London's The Call of the Wild is the current case in point. I'm rereading it again this year for at least the eighth time, maybe the tenth or eleventh, I lose track. I've decided to use it with by my high and low level classes this year, so I'm actually re-reading it twice, sometimes three times a day when schedules overlap. I may end up knowing the book by heart like one of the strange villagers at the end of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.
I'm surprised to say this, but The Call of the Wild is a darn good little book. I've no illusions about it's literary quality. It's a book meant to be read by a camp fire, clenched in both fists, furiously racing through the fight scenes in a voice meant to frighten my little brother, but it's also darn well written.
For example, two of the three classes reading it have just completed chapter five when Buck is rescued from the ill-fated trio of humans Charles, Hal and Mercedes who end up dying along with what's left of their dogs when the ice breaks along the river they are crossing. (One class broke out in applause when this happened.) In the closing line of chapter five, Buck sits quietly by John Thornton who has saved his life, licking the man's hand.
This little lick probably goes un-noticed by most readers, but it's a significant gesture. Earlier in the book, when Buck suffered under the hands of the man in the red sweater, he saw many other dogs beaten into submission--some, like him, stood up to the man while others submitted right away even licking the man's hand to show their willingness to please. Buck looked upon them with disgust. He would never do such a thing.
Here, at the close of chapter five, Jack London shows so much about his characters in this simple gesture, clearly establishing that this man will be different from all the others Buck has met since leaving his home in Santa Clara, California.
I was impressed.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about The Call of the Wild--a second tier classic, lots of action, a little too much philosophizing, bits about Nietzschean supermen here and there, admittedly a problem or two with race and women but not too bad considering it was written in 1903. I didn't expect to find myself so impressed with Jack London's writing. He's really very good.
The Call of the Wild is my new favorite book.