I’m a big rereader. More than 10% of all the books I finished in 2015 were rereads. My copy of Farmer Boy has been paged through so many times it is literally disintegrating. At this very moment, I am working my way through the entire Captive Prince trilogy, less than a month after I read it for the first time (I devoured all three in one weekend). Some might say I have a problem. Some days, I might be tempted to agree with them. In many ways, rereading is great. In other ways, it can be problematic. Let me elaborate.
Why I Reread:
For the warm fuzzies.
My favorite books are like a security blanket, comfortable and familiar. It feels great to cuddle up with a book I’ve read several times before, returning to characters I’ve missed and am happy to reunite with. It’s like having a joyful reunion with a friend who moved away but has come back for a visit.
To get out of a book slump.
When I’ve been underwhelmed by several books in a row and am in a reading rut, I return to an old favorite that’s tried and true. It’s a relief not to have to invest time and energy on a new book that may turn out to be a dud.
For nostalgia’s sake.
I’ll occasionally think back to a book I read a long time ago and feel an urge to crack it open again. I’ll vaguely remember that I really liked the book but won’t be able to recall all the details. In this case, rereading is a little like looking back at an old photo album, reminiscing over scenes I’d forgotten about and smiling as things start to come back to me. Sometimes, if enough time has passed, the book will still be able to surprise.
To discover new layers of meaning.
I love when I reread a book and notice all kinds of hints, foreshadowing, and symbolism I didn’t pick up on the first or even second time through. Series are great for this – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to the first book in a series and been bowled over because what I originally thought was a casual detail ended up being a clue to something important later on. It’s evidence of clever and extensive planning on the author’s part. Maggie Stiefvater is the queen of this. Her Raven Cycle books are wonderful individually, but they have so much more power and meaning when viewed all together, when you can appreciate the parallelism and symbolism that Maggie’s woven throughout.
On the Flip Side…Why Rereading Can Sometimes Lead To Trouble:
It makes it hard to recover from a book hangover.
I go through painful bouts of book depression each time I finish a great novel. I often try to ease this pain by immediately diving back into the book a second time, thinking it will help to re-immerse myself in the world and characters. Wrong! If anything, it’s like ripping a scab off a nearly healed wound. It can’t get better if you keep poking at it!
I know when the end is coming, and it gives me anxiety.
When I read an awesome book, I like to pretend it’s going to last forever. On my Kindle, I hide the progress indicator so I don’t have to see when I only have 25% left, or 10%, or 2%. With a reread, though, it’s impossible to fool myself. I know what’s coming, and all I can focus on is the fast-approaching conclusion. “Oh no, there are only 3 more major scenes left…now 2…1…oh, it’s almost over! Waaahhh!!!”
I’m tempted to skip ahead.
Because I already know where the juicy stuff is, I have a tendency to skim over certain sections to get to my favorite scenes. This makes it hard to accurately count how many books I’ve read in a year; if I’m skipping parts, I can’t technically count it as reading the entire book without feeling like I’m cheating. And skimming is just a terrible habit in general. It goes against my grain to read books this way, but sometimes I get excited and can’t help myself.
Books aren’t always as good as I remember.
There’s nothing worse than returning to a beloved book from your childhood or adolescence and realizing it’s not as amazing as you remember. I recall reading Gentlehands by M. E. Kerr in middle school and thinking it was the best thing ever. A couple years ago I found a copy at a book sale and bought it, excited to re-experience Kerr’s masterpiece as an adult. It ended up being a mistake. The book I’d been so fond of was a letdown the second time around. Sometimes it’s better to let a book remain perfect in your memory rather than risk tarnishing its legacy.