Talking about childhood reading and this month’s release of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman both got us thinking about re-reading. It was always something I rarely did, but I’ve re-read several favorites this year and had great experiences. How much of your time is spent re-reading?
Not much but if I do, it is largely situational. After 9/11 all I wanted to read was Mark Helprin’s A Winter’s Tale because it is such a magical love story to New York City. When I was laid off in the recession I re-read Atlas Shrugged. And when I’m really blue with no known cause The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a favorite—maybe because I can sob at the ending and get it all out.
While I don’t spend a great amount of time re-reading I do have a few favorites that I read every few years: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. This topic reminds me that it’s been too long since I’ve read Pride & Prejudice and Alice in Wonderland and I’m going to need to dip back into those very soon.
Pre-book blogging I was a huge re-reader. I re-read A Wrinkle in Time every few years, A Prayer for Owen Meany, 1984, Brave New World, the list really goes on and on. There are books I’ve read three, four, five times. Every time I pick up an old favorite, especially if I really know the book, it’s like visiting old friends.
Part of my reluctance to read books a second time has always been the feeling that I would be missing out on something else. I still tend to feel that way—too many books, too little time. But there’s something great about revisiting a favorite, especially if it’s one you haven’t picked up in a long time.
That’s my problem as well. I think about it more often than I do it simply because of how many new books I’m always faced with. Looking back is hard.
I’ve felt this urgency much more since I’ve started blogging and up until the past few months my re-reading has been kind of halted for the past few years. But in the past few months I’ve taken up to re-reading in a different way—through audio. So far I’ve made it through the whole MaddAddam trilogy, Wicked, and the first four books of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower—it makes the re-reading experience a little different and I don’t feel like it conflicts with my ‘usual’ reading time.
For those of you who read The Last Policeman series by Ben Winters, you might remember in the second book, a short but powerful scene of readers holing themselves up in a library, devouring as many books as possible before the end of the world. It might sound overly dramatic, but this is the kind of feeling I have about re-reading. There are so many books out there, so many stories! We can never read them all. So for me, if there are books I’m going to re-read, they are pretty darn special to me—I’m looking at you, Haruki Murakami!
I recently re-read Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and it was a great experience. I felt like my 12-year-old self was reading along with me. I do agree that it can be hard to make the decision to re-read when we have so many new books to choose from, but as I was reading Blume’s classic words I sure didn’t feel like I was missing out.
Have you ever re-read or wanted to re-read a book you originally disliked?
I’d have to say no. If I didn’t like it the first time, I’m not apt to give it a second chance and more of my reading time. That’s when the ‘too many other things out there’ rule really kicks in for me.
Not a book that I finished and disliked, but books that I’ve walked away from—I often pick up later and start over again, usually to great success. That’s a whole other topic for conversation though.
In cases where I suspected my mood was the reason for disliking a book, I’ve wanted to. But as far as I can remember I’ve never actually followed through.
There are books that haven’t gotten a fair shake from me. I didn’t like them because I wasn’t in the mood, or I’d read too many similar books right in a row, or for any number of other reasons. I’ve told myself more times than I can count that “I’ll try this one again later.” But I don’t think it’s ever actually happened. I guess a book gets one shot with this girl. If it doesn’t work I’ll most likely never pick it up again.
I’m with both of you in having good intentions, but not really following through. Sorry, books!
No one else in the “old friends” boat with me, ‘eh?
I have one foot in the boat! Barely. Maybe more like a toe. Come to think of it, I do some regular re-reading that is due to homeschooling; this experience may eventually serve to change my opinion on this. Titles like The BFG and Charlotte’s Web have been an absolute delight to meet again. I’m starting to see the “old friends” appeal more and more.
Cheryl Strayed is my old friend! I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read Tiny Beautiful Things. My copy is dog eared and flagged and underlined and I return to it constantly.
How about you, dear readers? Is there a book you always re-read? One you want to? Are there any books you see as “old friends” and regularly return to? Do you try to re-read in a different format or mood? Join the conversation below!