Do you re-read?

Posted August 19, 2018 by Lory in discussions / 55 Comments



There are two kinds of readers: those who re-read, and those who don’t. The latter group, represented in the extreme by Marie Kondo of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up fame, feels there is no reason to read a book again once it’s entered your brain. You’ve gotten what there is to glean from it, and why waste time going through all that again? You can safely get rid of all previously perused material and keep your shelves nice and tidy, while your mind collects another lot of information from the next volume.

If that method works for you, I’ve nothing against it, but my experience says otherwise. To me, each time I read a book it’s different, because I’ve changed in the meantime. Re-reading creates a conversation between me and the book that is much more than a mere culling of information. There are new epiphanies and expanded awareness, with connections to other books I’ve read in the meantime, or to my life experience. A good book is a whole world in itself, and one visit is not enough to get to know all it contains.

When I was a child, I had a big shelf of books in my bedroom and I went through it over and over again. Of course I got lots of other books from the library and school, but these were the treasures that entered my soul through repeated experience. The Oz books, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Curdie books, Little Women and Little Men, Doctor Dolittle, the Maida books, Betsy-Tacy, the Shoes books, A Wrinkle in Time, the Earthsea books (lots of series!) — these and many others became real touchstones for me. I know passages by heart, and unless you have a photographic memory, that’s something you’re unlikely to gain from a single reading. Certain phrases still pop up in my mind at relevant events in my life.

Lately I’ve been doing more re-reading than usual in my adult life. This is partly because I’ve had little mental and emotional energy, so familiar books go easier on my tired brain. But I’m also looking for confirmation of certain truths I found in books in the past. Such truths, I find, only become stronger and richer over time, and that is very reassuring in an uncertain world.

When I do have a chance to come back to a beloved book, its meaning unfolds even more, and goes deeper into my soul. Sometimes I find the magic has gone and I’m disappointed, but this is rare. Usually there’s the joy of meeting a friend, and having another conversation, with the endless possibilities of discovery that provides.

Do you re-read? If so, what do you get out of it?

Linked in the Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight!

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55 responses to “Do you re-read?

    • Thank goodness for our bookish friends (both human and literary) who support us through tough times.

  1. I can’t disagree with anything you say here, Lory, and I second what Jean said above: familiar, favourite books are old friends, and you wouldn’t want to go discarding them after just one meeting would you? I’ve just read the Earthsea series (the so-called original Quartet) for the third time and am continuing my second read of the final two published just this century, and it’s like seeing the landscape and the people and the life-forces in that world with new eyes.

    They say you can never step in the same river twice and that’s so often true of the very best books — the text, like the riverbanks, remain much the same, but the flow of thoughts, ideas, lessons to be learned changes constantly, like the river itself.

    • A book you can fully absorb after only one reading would be a pretty one-dimensional book, just as a person you could understand after one meeting would be pretty shallow. I suppose there are books (and people) like that, but I’m glad that’s not all there is to life.

  2. Love this post! I adore rereading books, especially ones from when I was younger. I think I’ve reread Lord of the Rings four or five times… there’s nothing better than returning to an old favorite <3

  3. I asked my parents, and apparently, I wasn’t even the little kid, who asked for them to re-read the picture book we just finished (my daughter was that kid). I only remember one book, an illustrated collection of Hans Christian Andersen fairytales, which I loved to shreds. So, I am not surprised I am not a re-reader as an adult. I don’t really re-watch movies or TV shows either.

    • I think it probably is a habit that gets ingrained in childhood … although some say they stopped rereading as an adult.

  4. I might go so far as to suggest that anyone who doesn’t reread is not much of a reader in the first place. I reread all the time, which is why I buy some of my books instead of checking them out from a library.

    • If a book has any substance I usually feel I need at least two reads to get it…so rereading definitely has an important place in my reading process.

  5. I’ve always loved re-reading and used to read my favourite books over and over again. I don’t do it as often now, but that’s mainly because the size of my TBR has increased so much since I started blogging and following other book blogs! I definitely disagree with Marie Kondo – I usually find that when I re-read a book I pick up on all sorts of details I missed the first time.

    • It’s hard to think of the new books I’m not getting to, due to time spent rereading. However, I still wouldn’t give up the pleasure!

  6. I did a lot of re-reading through high school and almost none at all since, but it’s something I’d like to do more of. I like your description of the process as ‘creating a conversation’ between you and the book. I do think I can engage more with a book by re-reading it, so I’m going to make a point of doing this occasionally 🙂

    • If a fair amount of time goes by between two readings, the effect is stronger. There are books I haven’t read for 20 years that now appear very different to me with all I’ve gone through in the meantime.

      • I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about re-reading books I read a long time ago and loved! I’d hate to find them disappointing compared to how I remembered them. I’m finding it easier to start with books I read recently and loved, since I feel more certain I’ll still enjoy them on a second read 🙂

  7. Lizzie Ross

    I spent 2016 trying NOT to re-read favorite books, because there are so many I haven’t read even once. Turns out, that was the wrong year for that challenge, and eventually I needed something familiar, so I pulled out Arthur Ransome’s Swallows & Amazons series and entered bliss. Favorite books offer not just characters-as-familiar-friends, but worlds that I want to escape to.

  8. I like to reread books…ones I loved as a kid, ones with favorite characters, and even ones that maybe I didn’t quite understand the first time around, but want to understand better. Some books never change, and others read almost like a new book the second time around because I’ve changed as a reader. But I could never live without all my favorite books lining my shelves like old friends, patiently waiting for when I might want, or need, to read them again. 😀

  9. I’m the lone “I don’t re-read” reader here so far 🙂 I don’t re-read and I don’t watch movies more than once, unless I’ve completely forgotten it.

  10. I rarely re-read. I feel guilty about taking the time away from other books that are new to me that are on that never-ending list. But when I do, it is almost always a rewarding experience.

    If I can, I like to try a book a second time on audio. Then I feel better about the time thing since I am already “multi-tasking” and I also get to experience the book in a new way.

    • That is an interesting idea. I find audiobooks difficult because I have a hard time focusing. To go through it the second time on audio could be a help with that.

    • Jerri Chase

      I do much prefer to listen to audio books of books that I have already read and enjoyed, compared to audios of new to me books. IF the reader does a good job. A bad reader can really get on your nerves.

  11. I was exactly the same as a kid, and would mostly just reread the same few favourites over and over again (my particular favourites were the Harry Potter books, Watership Down, Black Beauty, the Inkheart books, Jacqueline Wilson’s books and the Series of Unfortunate Events books), but by the time I was an adult I had stopped rereading completely (until I started rereading the Harry Potter books a couple of days ago, which I’m so far really enjoying!).
    I completely agree that books are definitely worth rereading if you get the chance. I think you do notice new things, but also have the same old truths you loved the first time reinforced. And as you say, we all change, so every time you read a book you may take something different from it, which I think is amazing.
    I’m glad you’ve been enjoying some old favourites! Great post! 🙂

    • I think the experience of rereading proves that the book is not just what’s on the page – it’s in the reader too.

  12. I haven’t re-read many books. There are books that I would like to revisit, but it’s just so hard for me to do when there are so many books left to be read and I don’t have enough time to read as it is these days! I have re-read a couple series books leading up to the publishing of a sequel, but other than that I haven’t re-read. Like I said, I want to…but I also want to read ALL THE BOOKS and have so little time…

  13. I don’t reread either, not any more. I am not getting younger and there are far too many books out there that I haven’t yet had the thrill of reading. Many of them are on my TBR pile… so I simply don’t have the time. Or the inclination… Though I’m more than happy to accept that subsequent readings can provide a deeper, different understanding. Ironically, I go to great lengths to ensure the books I write are sufficiently layered to provide more content for those who do reread…

    • Oh ugh, don’t remind me about not getting younger. I do want to make good use of the time I have left, though….including some judicious rereading.

  14. I think this is the most thoughtful take on rereading I’ve ever seen and I agree 100%. New shiny releases are usually my thing because of I’m always like ‘NEED TO READ THEM ALL’. But there are some books I’m dying to reread. Big ones that will take me more time are usually postponed, but I’m always going back to a few ebooks I have that are comfort reads for me.

    • Longer books are harder to squeeze into the schedule. Some shorter favorites give a quick fix and can be very refreshing that way.

  15. I’m a big re-reader. I love re-reading favorite novels because, as others have said, it’s like visiting with old friends. For me the first reading is about seeing the story unfold, maybe admiring how the writer puts things together — from the plot to characters to a nicely turned phrased. But subsequent readings deepen all that for me. I know what’s going to happen and so can focus on all the nuances. And like you said, I’ve changed over the years and so that changes what I see in a novel. I also sometimes re-read books when on vacation. That way I don’t get so absorbed in a new story that I’m resentful if I’m traveling with others and its time to go and do something.

    • Interesting, I seldom re-read while on vacation. That’s when I’m more likely to try something new actually. The association of “favorite books” and “home” is so strong, I tend not to take them out of their context, I suppose.

  16. Lory, I definitely re-read! In fact, I just finished a re-read of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I love reacquainting myself with a beloved story and characters that feel like old friends. And a re-read can be particularly comforting when you are going through a bad patch and/or a great way to get you out of a reading slump. I really don’t agree with Marie Kondo! You definitely spot different things and react differently each time you read a book. I wonder does she only watch a film once too?!

  17. Yep, I’m a huge rereader, and I don’t truly feel that a book belongs to me until I’ve reread it at least once. Because sometimes the magic IS gone, and in those cases, I feel like what me and the book had the first time wasn’t true love. Just a fling! And the big thing I want from my reading is always to find my next bookish true love.

  18. Ah, the eternal question for booklovers!! Historically, I’ve been a *chronic* re-reader; most of my reading life was re-reading the same dozen or so favourites again and again. Now with my book reading/reviewing catch-up project, I haven’t re-read a single book in over a year and I won’t until I finish my TBR, and it feels GREAT. I guess I can see it from both sides, and I definitely think there’s merit to both re-reading and consistently seeking out things that are new and different. Kondo’s advice horrifies me – I could NEVER get rid of a book if there’s even the SLIGHTEST chance that I MIGHT ONE DAY want to pick it up again (soooooo I end up hoarding a lot of books hahaha). Great topic, thank you for sharing your thoughts!!

    • I tend to go in waves … there are phases where I only read new-to-me books, and then I have a spate of re-reading. One thing usually leads to another, in both cases.

  19. As a child I reread a lot, I think children tend to do that more than adults. I then went through a stage of not rereading, and now I do it again. Now I like to have the space of a few years before I reread, when I was younger I didn’t really have that luxury but now I certainly do ho ho. I enjoy rereading some books because, as you and others have pointed out, each reading yields something new, and others because they are comforting. The trouble is, of course, it’s hard to know what I might want to reread so I end up hoarding…

    • Rereading at short intervals, as I did in childhood, is very different from rereading after the passing of many years. When I reread books now that I haven’t read since my teens or twenties, I can really feel the impact of life experience.

  20. I love rereading however had all but stopped doing so since I began working in a bookshop ten years ago. Too many shiny new books to tempt me!
    But recently I began to miss that deeper reading experience that can only occur with a reread – as you rediscover old ideas anew, your old self and ideas and face the new year reading the book now.

    So I’ve deliberately added rereading to my blogging & reading schedule again…and I’m loving it. I’m just about to finish Persuasion for the fifth time this lifetime – it has been a delight.

  21. Kat

    I do enjoy rereading, but I have reread Jane Austen so many times that I’ve had to give her a break! I notice I’ve been rereading less this year, but this is because I’ve read my favorites so frequently that I do have them memorized. But I was just the same about childhood books, especially Betsy-Tacy, and I’m sure I will go back to them someday.

    • When you know the book by heart, rereading does seem a bit redundant. Rereading Betsy-Tacy recently after many years was great fun though!

  22. Yes, I re-read sometimes. I love discovering the things I didn’t notice first time through. Though going back to books I remember from years back has brought disappointments, I’m not the girl I was…sigh.

  23. “But I’m also looking for confirmation of certain truths I found in books in the past. Such truths, I find, only become stronger and richer over time, and that is very reassuring in an uncertain world.” – well put! You’ve captured the feeling I love about rereading a special book, but had never pinpointed. I have noticed in the past few years (coinciding with my focus on book blogging…), I do a lot less rereading. But I still come back every year to a few titles that offer me something no other books can.

    • Yes! Each one brings unique and irreplaceable gifts that are strengthened by familiarity. That’s why one has to visit them again from time to time, not just move on to the next new thing.