I’ve had this old copy of Watership Down, by Richard Adams, on my shelf for the last six or seven years. It was in a stack of mass market paperbacks, and in a recent bout of motivation, I cleared out a bunch of books, giving up on the hope that I’d get to them before they disintegrated from old age. I kept Watership Down in part because it says boldly on its cover that it’s a “TIMELESS CLASSIC NOVEL OF EXILE, COURAGE, AND SURVIVAL.” Beneath that is a picture of a rabbit.

“I’ll just see for MYSELF,” I thought, so I picked it up when it came time for a new novel.

And I was not impressed…at least, not at first.

Have you ever picked up a book and soldiered on, sure that it’s going to get better, hoping to find the amazement it inspired in the masses, only to find yourself sputtering?

I’ve learned, over the years, that there are seasons for certain books, and that before I give up altogether on a book, I can sometimes just put it down for a while. I did this with Watership Down, about halfway in. It sat on the table by the window for about six weeks, and when I found myself, one evening, finished with a different book and longing for a bit of fiction, I picked it back up.

In half the time that it took me to slog through the first half of the book, I was putting it down finished, a satisfied sigh on my lips. “So THAT’s why the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is quoted on the cover as saying ‘everyone who can read English should read it’!” I exclaimed. “So THAT’s why a friend told me she’s read it three times this year!”

Watership Down is an adventure story, of the sort that captures my heart and makes me think of large topics without flinching. I’d put it in a class with other books I can’t wait to read aloud – or read with – the kids in my life.

It’s a book with big themes, but even better, it’s a fabulous story. It might be about rabbits, but before the end, I realized it was about something more important. And isn’t that part of what makes a book a classic?

I’m going to have to reread it, of course. The beginning wasn’t bad or hard to read – it was just not the story that captured my mind in the midst of summer craziness. It took putting this book down and coming back to it in a different frame of mind before I could enjoy it and appreciate it fully. (This is where I pause a moment to wish for the days of the book club I used to be in…)

All in all, Watership Down is a “timeless classic novel” (in all caps, though I’m sparing you that a second time!). If you haven’t read it, go give it a try.