DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
May 18 2012

Are You Well Re-read?

by Jimmy L

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.”

The Prime of Miss Jean BrodieIn 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?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura May 18, 2012 at 10:14 AM

Oh, so many to re-read, so little time! Some of my favorite re-reads are those that I loved growing up. They’re comforting to read, partly because there are no surprises, but also because they’re an escape.

I regularly re-read Diana Wynne Jones, particularly the Crestomanci books and A Tale of Time City(I’m in the middle of a re-read of this now!). About once every other year, I head into a major Tamora Pierce re-read. And I can’t forget my re-reads of the Little House books!

A final one that I can settle into at any time is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I can pick it up any day, and open it to just about any page, and I’m there.

Anonymous May 18, 2012 at 4:02 PM

For some reason, the book I always return to is The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. I loved the movie as a kid and came across the book, that I never knew existed, when I was in college. For those of you who have seen the movie, it tells only the first part of the book and Bastian goes on to have many more adventures in Fantastica (Fantasia in the movie). It’s really just a fun, imaginative book.

Lesly Fredman May 19, 2012 at 9:16 AM

I love Act One by Moss Hart and find myself re-reading it in the summer especially. I also return time and again to Maeve Binchy’s The Lilac Bus and Dorothy Gilman’s Caravan and The Tightrope Walker. And AND AND The Unknown Errors of our Lives by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. This was fun, recalling how wonderful it is to re-experience favorite books.
(I also loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I never read The Neverending Story, but I was enchanted by the movie.)

Leigh P. May 19, 2012 at 8:08 PM

I still have The Neverending Story on my shelf! That is one tattered book; I’ve had it since I was nine. I’m so fond of it that I can’t let it go but I’ll never re-read it. The few books I’ve re-read in my life have only served to validate my theory that my memory has become perverted with time; the vast majority simply weren’t as good as I remembered them. That’s why I generally don’t think it’s a good idea to re-read a book you love. Of course, the case can be made that one should re-read books that one once hated in hopes of discovering the opposite. But I’m not about to pick up Carol Shields again. That said, I once had to re-read Wuthering Heights and found that I still loved it…and Heathcliff, too. (I attribute that to him reminding me of Sawyer from “Lost.”)

Greg H May 21, 2012 at 2:50 PM

I reread my favorite book, Edisto, on average once every two years. I have also repeatedly read most of Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s. earlier novels. If the storyline or the language continues to resonate I think rereading a book is a perfectly acceptable practice. The only thing that troubles me is that it has been quite a while since I’ve discovered a work to add to my list of those books.

Joseph M May 21, 2012 at 3:26 PM

There are a number of books I like to re-read periodically, but with so many great titles on my to-read list that I’ve never experienced, I don’t always get around to revisiting old favorites. Probably the most consistently re-read are the the novels in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, along with the related works The Hobbit and The Silmarillion. I first visited the setting of Tolkien’s Middle Earth as a child, and it helped inspire in me a lifelong appreciation of fantasy (and reading in general). It’s been a few years since I last picked up the series, so I guess I’m about due for a re-read, if I can just make time for it!

Jesse M May 22, 2012 at 12:23 PM

I enjoy re-reading old favorites (particulary old fantasy and science fiction series) but I typically only do so after a number of years have elapsed since the last read through, so that time has erased enough of the details to make revisiting it worth my while. The only exceptions to this have been the novels of the Song of Ice and Fire series, which I began to reread (and in some cases, listened to on audiobook) shortly after first finishing the series up to that point (A Feast For Crows). The density and complexity of the series rewards the deliberate reader, something that can be difficult on an initial read of the books, as the exciting plot carries you along so quickly you are bound to miss a few things.

Vickie M June 8, 2012 at 10:59 AM

I so enjoyed reading these comments and making notes – I’ve never read The Neverending Story – but I will read it now. I decided to reread To Kill A Mockingbird this summer – and I’ve re-read Alice in Wonderland several times. The death of Ray Bradbury has me searching for Dandelion Wine and Farenheit 451.

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