If you’re anything like me, there’s always piles and piles of books that you plan on someday getting around to reading. No matter how many you finish, there’s more to take their place, and it often feels like there’s never enough time to read everything you want to. With this mentality, I can easily understand why some people choose to only ever read books once. It doesn’t matter whether it was the best thing since sliced bread or a burning dumpster fire, for them, once is enough. In my case though, I love re-reading books I’ve really enjoyed in years past. Sure, they’re nothing new and not exactly contributing to cutting down the growing unread pile sitting loosely stacked on my book cart, but I believe there are plenty of reasons to embrace the art of re-reading.
An *Almost* Guaranteed Great Read
One of the best things about re-reading is going into a book with the almost guaranteed knowledge that you’re going to enjoy yourself. I’ll admit, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule – for example, when we outgrow books we used to love – but for the most part it holds true. If you’re facing down a stretch of not so great reads or have been stuck in a bit of a reading slump, having something to reread that you already know and love is a great pick me up and will help kick you back into gear. It can also be really comforting for those who’ve been having a tough time or are particularly sensitive to certain triggers to know they can read something that’s going to give them exactly what they need at that particular moment in time without any nasty surprises. It’s like ordering your favourite dish off the menu because it’s exactly what you’re in the mood for.
New Things to Discover
Another aspect to re-reading I enjoy is that I pick up new things about a novel every time I read it. With books I really love, on my first read through I often get so caught up in the drama of the story that in my excitement to reach the climax I miss or gloss over little details and subtleties present in the writing, plotting and characterisation. Upon re-read I already know the path the story is going to take and, as a result, I’m able to view the journey to the big reveals in a brand new light, as well as the characters. This can sometimes drastically affect my opinions. My favourite thing, however, has to be coming across an author’s clever use of foreshadowing that I wasn’t able to appreciate the first time around. It’s also important to note that with particularly complex stories, rereading might sometimes be essential to my understanding of the full picture and what the author intended to get across in their work.
Prepping for Sequels
I tend to read a combination of both standalone books and series. With series, these books are usually released over a period of several years, or longer if the author is a popular one with multiple novels on the go at once (or you’re George RR Martin and Patrick Rothfuss). My memory isn’t always the best at keeping track of all the nitty-gritty plot and world building details of every book I read and this can make going into a newly released sequel challenging and confusing without first getting help from a re-read. Plus, having events fresh in my memory really helps me to emotionally connect with the sequel. Okay, yes, I could always try and track down a recap somewhere online but which is the more fun option?
If you’re an aspiring author, the best way to improve your skills and encourage creative thinking is to re-read books that you’ve loved in the genre you want to write in. You’ve already read that book for the purpose of enjoyment and thought it passed the test, which means you can now reread it with a different mindset and think critically about what exactly it is that makes it work so well for you. You loved the writing? Great, what makes that author’s style and technique so appealing? Or if it’s the characters, how were they presented and developed to help them burrow their way into your heart? These are things we usually don’t pay attention to on our first read, I know I don’t, but they’re the perfect things to look out for on re-read.
A Chance for Revised Perspective
As I touched on in my 2020 post questioning the reliability of my past book ratings, it’s inevitable that as we get older our tastes, interests and reading experience develop and change. When this is applied to re-reading books it can potentially be a bad thing in that we realise we no longer enjoy a particular book as much as we used to, but it can also take a turn for the best! Sometimes growing older and going through certain life experiences allows you to connect with and understand certain characters and stories in ways you were never able to previously. Further education since your original read might allow you to grasp more complicated themes and ideas that previously went right over your head. Or perhaps, nowadays, you’re a more patient and introspective reader, one who enjoys slower, character-oriented novels to a greater extent than when you first read a particular book? Who knows, maybe your next favourite book is an old ‘meh’ book.
It’s easy to feel like re-reading is a waste of time or a stagnation of our reading progress. Yet, in reality, it can have a lot of value when it comes to personal enjoyment, comfort, learning and reflection. It’s definitely something I need to be less wary of doing on a regular basis and not something I should experience guilt over. Because when it comes down to it, if you’re enjoying what your reading, what else matters?
Are you someone who likes to reread books or are you a one-take type of reader? Why/why not?
If you do enjoy re-reading, what are some of the books you like to reread and why?