Friday, June 1, 2012

The Art of Reading: Re-reading vs. Reading Only Once


The Art of Reading: Re-reading vs. Reading Only Once

All bibliophiles have at least one thing in common: the love of books. Still, as I'm reminded every time I talk to another reader, that doesn't mean we express our affection for the written word in exactly the same way. I'm referring to how we read.

This post's theme: re-reading. Do you re-read books or will you only read a book once? How many times can you re-read the same book? What books make the re-reading cut and what ones fall short?

I don't re-read books. It's not that I don't want to, but I have a list of hundreds of books that I still intend to read for the very first time that seems to grow longer faster than I can keep up. I only have so much time in the day/week/month/year and I want to experience as many different books as I can squeeze into my lifetime!

However, I have re-read books. Never simply for leisure; I stick to my statement above and usually want to try something new. Of course, circumstances come up where it makes sense for me to re-read a book. For example, I've re-read books for classes, for book groups, and for this blog.

When I started reviewing books on here I felt sad that some of my favorites might miss their chance for a glowing review simply because I read them before I started blogging and now can't remember enough details to write an accurate review. So I'm slowly re-reading some books I know I adore. Some examples of books I re-read for the purpose of reviewing them here: 

THE BLACK JEWELS series by ANNE BISHOP
BRUCE COVILLE’s UNICORN CHRONICLES
PHILIP PULLMAN’s HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy
MARIE BRENNAN’s ONYX COURT series
DRUIDS by JOSH LANGSTON and BARBARA GALLER-SMITH
SCOTT WESTERFELD’s UGLIES series

Still to come - I know I want to make time to re-read and review:

everything TAMORA PIERCE has written
some of EVA IBBOTSON’s young adult work
more of JOHN GREEN’s books
SOPHIE KINSELLA
all METTE IVIE HARRISON’s books
PHILIPPA GREGORY
more JODI PICOULT

Based on my experience re-reading books, I find I never enjoy the book as much the second time around. Oh, sometimes I do pick up on details I missed in the first reading or I even forget big twists so they still take me by surprise, but overall I feel slightly...numbed. Stories simply don't grab my emotions with quite the same intensity the second time around.

Yet I frequently meet people who totally disagree with me on this, claiming that sometimes a second reading, or even a third or fourth, hits them more emotionally than the first time. Others have told me that re-reading a book can take them right back to what was going on in their life the first time they read it, perhaps summoning the exciting emotions of a fresh romance, now long ended. On a different note, maybe the reader used to read this book with a relative or friend who has passed away. Now the story and the characters will forever be intertwined with memories of that relative and re-reading the book can help keep the person alive in the reader's memory. For me, the third book in THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING PANTS series by ANN BRASHARES will always hold a special place in my memory for reasons outside the story. In high school a close friend of mine was in the hospital for months and I would come and read her snippets from that book. Because she kept falling asleep, I would sometimes read the same section numerous times; I also skipped ahead when she told me someone else had read her a few chapters. By the end, it’s the most roundabout method I’ve ever taken to reading a book and, if asked what happened, my description might be terribly misarranged chronologically, but I can’t think of that book let alone read it again without fondness for the comfort it brought us both.

How about you? Do you re-read books? Why or why not? If so, what ones?

2 comments:

  1. I do quite a bit of rereading, especially of books that I love. Partly this is because I tend to miss a lot of details the first time I read a book because I'm racing ahead to see what happens next. With the right book, I'm thinking of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, a leisurely second reading is more enjoyable than the first because I pay more attention the beauty of the writing. Also, knowing how the story ended completely changed my reading experience the second time around. Additionally, I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I definitely re listen to those, otherwise my audiobook bill would be prohibitively high.

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  2. I reread all the time, especially if I've gone through a whole slew of books that didn't do much for me, and am looking to wash the bad taste out of my mouth. I've reread Robert Jordan's Eye of the World maybe a good ten times (though I'll probably never read it again), and all the Hunger Games books and Demon's Lexicon books I've reread at least five times each. But I read The Lion of Senet by Jennifer Fallon about once a year, and have been doing so for almost a decade now. The books I reread are the kind that give me the same highs and lows every time I read them. And I agree with Suzanne - knowing the ending means I'm now picking out things and paying attention to things I didn't see when the book was a new experience. These books are like my favorite meal - I know what to expect from them, and I love it.

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