To Reread Or Not To Reread


This past weekend we went to visit my grandmother.  I try to visit regularly but it has been awhile since the whole family has made it in to see her.  This time I brought my laptop so I could show her the pictures from our trip to London back in April.  She used to love to travel and was very into photography before she had her stroke so I thought she would enjoy seeing the pictures.  I was right, she did enjoy it but finally after about the five millionth picture of a bookshop she looked at me and asked "but what do you do with all these books?  You buy them and read them, but what then?  Do you just give them away?"  She was confused by my choice to buy souvenirs that I would not hold onto, that I would just give away again.  I explained to her that I would keep the books but she found that just as baffling.  Why would I keep a book I had already read?

Now, my grandma is a reader.  She has always had a stack of library books on her end table and she trades books with my aunt.  She is a reader but she doesn't own books.  There are no jam-packed bookshelves, no old favorites that she goes back to again and again.  Once she has read a book she is done with it.  I suppose there are many people who look at books that way but I am the exact opposite.

If I love a book I want to read it over and over.  I want to submerge myself in the story and get to know the characters better on a second reading.  I want to notice details and connections I missed the first time through.  I simply want to revel in knowing what is going to happen and in anticipating my favorite parts.

As I have gotten older and the internet has made more and more books easily accessible I don't reread quite as often.  Some days, however, only an old favorite will do.  I want to sit in the attic and munch on apples with Jo March. I want to walk to Netherfield Park with Elizabeth Bennett.  I want to dance at a ball in Regency times.  I want my old friends to comfort and soothe me.

Some books I have read so often that I can recite whole sections of them.  As a teenager I memorized an entire swathe of Pride and Prejudice.  My dad occasionally still makes me recite it just to see if I can.  What can I say, we are a family that is easily amused.  Despite those feats of memorization, I don't have the best memory.  Wording I particularly enjoy may stick in my head but whole plot points manage to evaporate.  Maybe that is a reason why I don't mind rereading books.  There is always going to be something I don't remember and sometimes that is something vital like who the murderer is.  I suppose it is a bit of a contradiction.  I remember and love books but at the same time I don't always remember them clearly.  I think I am grateful for that.  I can reread books and somehow they are still brand new.

The two books I have read most often are probably Little Women and Pride and Prejudice.  I am not sure how often I have read them, I wish I had kept track of my reading when I was younger.  It must be twenty times at least but honestly I am just guessing.  It could be more.  I read them a few times a year for years and years on end. To read them again is like coming home.

Even when I read a book for the first time and I really love it, I also know that I will probably love it more the second or third time around.  The first time I am galloping through, caught up in the story, desperate to get to the end to find out what happens.  The subsequent times I slow down and notice more.  I sink into the story instead of skating on the surface.  I love to reread.

My grandmother also asked why I had to go all the way to England to buy books.  I am just a baffling grandchild.

Are you a rereader?  What book have you reread most often?


13 comments

  1. I had the conversation about re-reading more than once with my mother. She could never understand it either. I have so many authors that I re-read, those are the books I tend to collect, and sitting down with the books again just feel like meeting old friends. And maybe I know their stories already, but like you I sometimes forget the details.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Favorite books are like old friends. They are comfortable and familiar and just what you need on a bad day.

      Who are the authors you like to collect? I am always curious about other people's favorites.

      Delete
  2. I love rereading! Little Women, Gone with the Wind, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, To Kill a Mockingbird...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You list some good ones there. I have read all of those multiple times. Rereading is comforting, isn't it?

      Delete
  3. I used to reread often, but now I have so many books that are unread and waiting! But I agree with you -- you can't remember every single detail of a book, that's just impossible! And a second (or third) reading can be a rich, rewarding experience. I usually find things that I missed the first time. Not to mention, a book I found average the first time can transform into excellence the second time around (this has happened to me several times). I think we need to be in a certain mood to enjoy certain books.

    Anyway, the two novels I reread most are Pride and Prejudice and A Little Princess, both for comfort reasons. And really, that's all the reason you need.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, a second or third reading can cause you to notice so much you might have missed before. The nuances of the story are more likely to make an impression.

      My daughter loves A Little Princess and has read it multiple times. I always liked The Secret Garden.

      Delete
  4. I am very much a re-reader - Thomas was shocked to recently be told that each of the 900+ books I have in our house are books I've read at least twice. If I don't think I'll want to read something again, I donate it. I especially find re-reading useful when I'm in a reading slump or when I'm feeling sad - after the horror of Brexit two weeks ago, I spent the weekend rereading some old favourites.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nine-hundred books, that is a lot. I don't know how many I own because so many of them are in boxes in the attic. I just don't have enough shelf space. I tell my son that when he grows up and moves out I am going to turn his room into a library.

      Rereading is vital sometimes when life gets too much. Sadly, this world lately is just a bit too much. At least we have favorite books to help us muddle through.

      Delete
  5. Rebecca is the book I've re-read most often, but I also re-read P&P and To Kill a Mockingbird every now and then. I intend to re-read all of Angela Thirkell's Barestshire books - in order this time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love Angela Thirkell. Reading them in order is a great idea but I would have to get hold of them all first. Pride and Prejudice seems to be a book that is often reread by many people. Rebecca is good too. That first sentence pulls you right in.

      Delete
  6. I'm a devoted rereader. A book only finds a place on the shelves in my library if I have already read it and know I want to reread it. The same goes for movies, actually -- I only buy and keep the ones I want to watch over and over. If I buy a book and read it and don't like it enough to want to reread it, I sell it at the used book store or donate it to the library. Ditto for movies.

    But my mom's parents were the same way -- why own books? Why reread them? My dad's parents didn't really read fiction at all, much less own it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For me, a lot of the joy of books is owning them and rereading them but I guess not everyone feels that way. I don't want to reread everything though. Sometimes a book is just fluff. It is fun to race through for the story but I know I will never pick it up again. Like you, those are books I donate.

      Delete