"One time I made for myself a formidable list of classics which I proposed to read during the year. Papa looked it over and approved, but he gave me good advice.
"'Start each one, but if it doesn't hold your attention, either you don't understand the style, or it is beyond you in some other way. It won't do you any good to read anything that doesn't interest you, because you won't remember it. Set it aside. But continue to try to read it, and one day it will rush in and fill a great void.'"
--Elizabeth Borton de Treviño, in The Hearthstone of My Heart.
The author goes on to tell how thirty-five years later, after many false starts, something finally clicked. At last it was the right moment to read War and Peace, and it did indeed fill a great void.
I can think of many books which suffer from being read at the wrong time. I was made to read Moby Dick when I was in junior high. Boooooring! The only bits that held my interest were the ones detailing how whales were cut up. I've never given it another chance, though I daresay I'd get more out of it now that I'm 55 than I did when I was 13.
My husband used to say that there were some books that could not be fully appreciated until one had reached middle age. He identified Brideshead Revisited as one of these and warned all of our children against reading it until they were at least 40. (Naturally, this only incited them to read it as soon as possible.)
Some books which I blithely enjoyed in my youth strike me with greater force now. A few months ago I reread A Lantern in her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich, a novel about a pioneer woman which I'd read countless times when I was a girl. But now I could not read it without weeping because I've actually experienced the same things which the protagonist did: motherhood, widowhood, the death of a child, etc. (She'd also had artistic and musical talent, but it was a potential that she'd never got around to developing -- though she'd been able to pass these gifts on to her children. That also struck a chord!)
And though Dickens was one of my favorite authors when I was young, I couldn't bear to read him for many after I became mother. So many dreadful things seem to happen to the young, orphaned children in his novels, and my sympathies were too quick and too tender.
I wish now that I had not discarded the copy of Pamela which was required reading my freshman year of college. I think I'd be ready for it now.