On the inextricable relationship between reading and writing, essayist and activist Susan Sontag once said: “Reading usually precedes writing. And the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer.”
Sontag’s love of reading filled her otherwise sparse Manhattan apartment with as many as fifteen thousand books, of which she wrote in her journals, “My library is an archive of longings.” Not just a voracious reader, she was also enamored with the act of re-reading, and would regularly return to old favorites for new insights.
Viewing each reading as a unique exploration in self-discovery, Sontag writes: “I’m re-reading pieces of things that have always been important to me, and am amazed at my evaluations.” Listed below are her favorite re-reads.
Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad
The Journals of André Gide by André Gide
I finished reading this at 2:30 a.m. of the same day I acquired it —I should have read it much more slowly and I must re-read it many times — Gide and I have attained such perfect intellectual communion that I experience the appropriate labor pains for every thought he gives birth to! Thus I do not think: ‘How marvelously lucid this is!’ — but: ‘Stop! I cannot think this fast! Or rather I cannot grow this fast!’ For, I am not only reading this book, but creating it myself, and this unique and enormous experience has purged my mind of much of the confusion and sterility that has clogged it all these horrible months.
Faust by Goethe
The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
On the Nature of Things by Lucretius
The Summing Up by W. Somerset Maugham
Muirhead’s Guide to London by Findlay Muirhead
Three Lives: Stories of the Good Anna, Melanctha, and the Gentle Lena by Gertrude Stein
(via Brain Pickings)