Some people re-read their favorite books every few years. I, however, am not one of those people. I almost never re-read books because there are so many books out there I still haven’t read yet that I get a little panicked thinking about spending time with a book I’ve already read.
Still, there are definite benefits to re-reading, and many smart people have disagreed with me by making a case for re-reading. Vladimir Nabokov, for instance, famously said “One cannot read a book: one can only reread it,” implying that the first time through is only a preparation for the true pleasures of re-reading. Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall, says a “good book is never the same twice. Rereading is a pleasure and duty of middle age, and illuminating, even if it only sheds light on how you yourself have changed.”
In this Guardian article, she tells us that she recently re-read Evelyn Waugh‘s Sword of Honour trilogy. The article also has thoughts from many other authors. For example, Ian Rankin likes to re-read Bleak House and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. John Banville says “each time we revisit [a favorite classic,] we see more clearly the cogs and flywheels of the writer’s technique behind what at first had been its opaque and burnished surface.” As an example, he cites The Great Gatsby. The article contains opinions about re-reading from many other authors, but if that’s not enough for you, The Millions has published a follow up article with still more opinions.
Do you like to re-read books? What are the pleasures of re-reading? Which books do you return to again and again and why?