Sunday Salon: Do you re-read?

The Sunday Salon

Re-reading is one of those subjects that comes up every now and again and every time I say wish I did, I just never get round to it. But that’s a rubbish excuse. I mean, if I don’t re-read, then what’s the point of my beautiful library (except as a repository for the ever-expanding TBR)? I have friends who re-read all the time, who return to certain books over and over again, and I can definitely see the appeal.

I was listening to an old episode of Books on the Nightstand in which Ann and Michael discussed how they don’t re-read and I recognised some of their excuses: too many new books – both in terms of the excitement of new books and the pressure to keep up – but also the fear that a book that was a perfect read the first time round won’t live up to the memory of it on re-reading. But I must also admit that blogging is another reason I don’t do it. Because it’s a lot harder to review a book on a re-read. Or at least, it can be.

For instance, I just read The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for, I think, the third time. Not only have I read it before, and all of its sequels, and watched the TV series and the film (though sadly never heard the radio show) but it’s also become a firm part of our culture, from the Babel Fish online translation tool to our local secondhand bookshop Beware of the Leopard to everyone’s favourite number being 42. There’s even a Towel Day every year to celebrate the work of the late Douglas Adams. This weekend, while going round our neighbourhood arts trail (here’s my post about the 2010 trail) I spotted that the sign next to the Norwegian waffle window included a joke about Slartibartfast, which made me grin like a loon.

How do you review a book like that? It’s not far off when I read a book for book group and on my way to the meeting I’m desperately trying to think of something more clever to say than “I liked it”. But then, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is exceptional, surely. Not every book I want to re-read is going to be quite so…well, brilliant.

Of course, when I was a child and even as a teenager I re-read all the time. My copy of Carbonel by Barbara Sleigh is in pieces I read it so often, and I’m frankly amazed my other most-read favourites The Wickedest Witch in the World by Beverley Nichols and The Ghosts of Motley Hall by Richard Carpenter (yes yes, I loved a book based on a TV series) didn’t end up in the same state. I think I did buy new copies of a couple of Roald Dahl books that were getting tatty. But then I hit 16 or so and stopped re-reading as often. And the books I have re-read as an adult – most of which were for book groups – I have still only read two or three times, as compared with the at least 50 times I must have read the three titles listed above.

Of course, I do have less free time now. And I do challenge myself more (sometimes, at least) with my reading choices. And I am aware of the limited time I have versus all of the beautiful books out there that I have yet to read. But still, it is both comforting and rewarding to re-read and once again I conclude that I should do it more.

What about you? Do you re-read?

16 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Do you re-read?

  1. Judith November 18, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Very recognisable. I love to re-read books but I tend to only do it for a reason: a bookclub read, a read-a-long. I have too many books to read anyway but I love to re-read my favorites.

    Sometimes I find a book doesn’t live up to my previous experience of it, and that is a real pity.

    I certainly think it can be very comforting to re-read books and I should do it more often!

  2. Annastasia November 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I have a number of titles that I re-read every few years (including The secret history, The Witching hour, and Popco). I find that everytime I re-read I get something different. It’s like catching up with an old friend and seeing how things have moved on for them. So comforting and rewarding.

  3. RealBooks4ever November 18, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I never re-read. Too many books, too little time! Now my favorites sit on my shelves and remind me that I had a good time reading them.

  4. Deb Nance at Readerbuzz November 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    One of these days I’m going to write a blog post about rereading.

    I don’t do it very often, but I’m always happy when I do. I wish I did it more.

    There’s really only one reason I don’t reread much and that’s because I want to read everything. Silly reason, I know.

  5. Vasilly November 18, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    I love to reread and I’m finding myself re-reading books before I review them now too. It has been awhile since I’ve last re-read a favorite book.

  6. Lisa November 18, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    I reread out of necessity- to get me out of a book slump (my last post details it). However, I don’t do it for anyone else-so I don’t post reviews for them. I tend to be like most bloggers, I want to read everything!!

  7. Laurel-Rain Snow November 18, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    I used to reread all the time when young, too; perhaps because I didn’t own as many books.

    I reread Gone with the Wind several times; Little Women and other books by Alcott; and the Nancy Drew books.

    I do have a few favorite authors now that I enjoy rereading: Beth Gutcheon, Elizabeth Berg, and books by Sue Miller (The Good Mother, etc.).


  8. Melissa W. November 18, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    I do it occasionally and usually because my book club book has picked a book that I have already read or its something I just enjoy reading.

  9. Nose in a book November 18, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Lisa Yes, when I have a reading slump one of my methods of getting out of it is to re-read. The other is to read a James Bond book or graphic novel.

  10. Marie November 19, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    I don’t re-read much any more, as people have said above, there are just too many books and too little time and I want to read everything! Occasionally when rearranging my shelves, for example, I’ll pick up an old favourite and flick through a few pages and the desire to re-read hits me very strongly. I re-read all the time as a teenager though, and funnily enough when it comes to films I am a big re-watcher. I’m not a big cinema fan but I have a select few favourites that I could watch over and over again.

  11. Susan November 22, 2012 at 4:00 am

    I very seldom reread but like it when I do. I plan to reread The Hobbit soon (b/c of the movie). I’d first read it when I was young so I would like to refresh my memory.

  12. Athena November 26, 2012 at 1:02 am

    When I was younger, I rarely reread. I use to only buy books that I know I would reread which kept my library small. Nowadays, I tend to buy used books which are cheaper so I can afford to give them when done or keep them if they are good for rereading. In an average year, I would say there are very few books I want to reread. I’m a tad picky about the books I reread because while some books are brilliant in many ways, there may be some aspects of it that I can’t attach onto to the point of rereading. A book really has to wow me for that to happen or comfort me with its awesomeness. I do find as I get older, there are more books I want to go back too, and I do reread more now. Every time you reread a book, it’s different because a reader changes. I look forward to rereading some of my favs years from now just for that.

  13. RealBooks4ever November 26, 2012 at 1:45 am

    @Athena: I think I might actually be afraid of rereading a book I loved. The magic might have gone away!

  14. Dan Gusset November 29, 2012 at 9:41 am

    I’m the same. The books I reread most were the ones of my childhood, and as a parent am now doing so again. There are a couple of others I’ve read a handful of times but generally it feels more productive to work through the TBR than to go back to what has been read already. I wish I had time to go back to some of them, and to justify the existence of the ever growing library, but maybe I should start looking forward to retirement for that =0

  15. Harvee December 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    I re-read books I like that I have either forgotten or feel I’ve missed on some things. There are becoming more and more numerous, sigh! I have re-read Gone With the Wind, Travels with Charley by Steinbeck, and recently a yoga book, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi by Brian Leaf. I sometimes reread a book that I have to review on my blog.

  16. elizabeth December 12, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    i don’t have time to re-read books. i did take the time to re-read to kill a mockingbird this summer and i was glad i did so because i remembered too little of it from the first read.

    but, it’s not custom. i do wish i had better recall at times to relish the details and moments of the first read of any given book.

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