Discussion: Rereading

Posted July 23, 2018 by Nicky in General / 14 Comments

I’ve probably written about rereading books here before, but it bears talking about again. I can’t understand the people who feel it’s a waste of time — it seems like hubris, to imagine that for every book you read, you get absolutely everything out of it on the first try and never need to read it again. I’m an English Literature grad, and I wouldn’t claim that — and in my Natural Sciences degree, I wouldn’t presume to think I understood most papers until a third or fourth reading, though granted they tend to be technical.

I mean, that’s the fancy excuse for rereading: I want to get everything I can out of it. (And for some books that’s definitely true: I’m still getting new stuff out of The Lord of the Rings and The Dark is Rising to chew over now, and I don’t know how many times I’ve read them.) It’s a good reason, but honestly, I don’t want it to eclipse the real reason I might reread a book: because I feel like it. Because I want to revisit that world. Because it was just that good the first time and I want to re-experience it. Because I need to refresh my mind before I read the sequel.

I mean, if you don’t enjoy rereading, then that’s one thing — but if it’s just because there’s so many books and so little time, well, that’s going to be true whether you reread or not. If you feel like rereading, why not? Again it comes down to the principle I keep reminding myself of: I read for fun. I don’t read to hold the record of the most unique books read in a single lifetime, or have an impressive list of all the classics checked off. What’s the point?

There is a flipside: you can read a book until it’s too predictable, too worn through in your mind. The best books can survive this, but even a good book can get a bit threadbare. (Good Omens, I’m looking at you.) But then it’s not so fun anymore, so the fun principle still holds.

So yeah. For my money, go reread books until your physical copies are floppy and faded with age and they fall open on your favourite bits. Talk about books you’ve reread until people are sick of hearing about it (I won’t get sick of hearing about it). Take any excuse if rereading is something you enjoy. You don’t owe those other books a thing.

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14 responses to “Discussion: Rereading

  1. I LOVE rereading. I don’t do it as often as I used to, but when I do! Wow!
    I’ve slowly been rereading the Realm of the Elderlings with the PlentyOfHobb readalong on instagram and loving it. I think a series that I’ll love read again is the Craft Sequence, they have such an amount of details and each stand perfectly with the others (does this even makes sense?)..
    This was a great post!! 🙂

  2. I love rereadings books I really enjoyed, knowing I’ll have a good time with it. I read, then decide which I want to read again and those I don’t go to charity shops for others to enjoy. I reread a first book when I plan a series binge just to get me back into the story. I reread to get myself out of a dreaded slump. But mostly I reread for fun! I actually need to fit some rereading into my schedule! Great post Nikki!

  3. Wonderful post! I re-read too. Not to get anything out of the book (except pleasure, of course), but because I want to visit that world and those characters again. They are like old friends, and I want to be with them for a while.

    • There are some books I think are worth reading because you miss stuff — clever, clever books — but yeah, mostly just for fun and to see old friends again!

  4. Would you believe I started tracking my reading because I was curious about what I reread the most often? Of course, tracking read to reviewing led to review copies led to less and less rereading, so arguably it’s all gone a bit wrong! Still, I’d wave my copy of Earthsea in evidence of my delight in rereading, except half the pages would fall out. This last reread destroyed what little cohesion it had left… I’ve definitely got very picky about what I reread now though. Lots of things I think ‘oh I’d like to reread this in future’ but the reality is if I reread it’s either one of my all-time favourites () or something I adored growing up. …I should buy a new reading copy of the first three Earthsea books. I mean, that’s a given.
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  5. I love rereading, though I confess I don’t reread as much as I would like. While the idea of reliving good memories has its appeal, always the temptation to try something new and different seems to win out. I guess I’m just too easily distracted by the new and shiny! I love seeing new sights and meeting new characters. I love trying different things. Regardless though, rereading books is never a “waste” of time if you care about it and it gives you joy. But I can also understand how some people wish they had more time to reread, because I’m in that boat.

    • Totally! I’m trying to make time to reread whatever I fancy. I did know a couple of people at one point who refused to ever reread, though!

  6. I also believe in rereading, and I often have intentions to do it…but more often I fall into that trap of “so many books and so little time”. I don’t personally feel that way (I don’t feel pressured to read ‘all the books’), yet I keep coming across newly published or new-to-me books, it’s easy for me to gravitate to those instead of turning to old favourites. I have been diligent about rereading The Hobbit and The LotR annually, at least 😛

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