Monday, August 13, 2012

Why Reread a Book?

I’m coming up for air from my writer’s cave  to face the real world again as fall draws near, and it’s struck me that my reading time during this intensive writing period has been mostly rereading old favorites.  I had big plans to read some of my huge stack of never-read books, but as I got more into my new stories, I couldn't bring myself to pick them up. I have been doing quite a bit of reading for research of material I haven’t read before, but my free-time reading has been almost exclusively books I read before. When I’m really concentrating on my own writing, somehow I can’t take in a brand new world of another writer’s imagination, and it’s more relaxing to retreat to a familiar place in a book I’ve read before.

I know some people say they never reread. I’ve always done so. It started when I was young out of necessity. My family weren’t big readers, so besides a few books of my own and my brother’s, we had a set of encyclopedias, which while interesting, didn’t always make for scintillating reading.

Before I was old enough to get to the library for myself, I reread my library books until they were due back. It was just a normal thing for me and it never occurred to me that other people didn’t reread.

Friends of mine now sometimes despair if their child wants to read the same book over and over. I say let them. There’s no harm in it. Some educators and child psychologists believe children reread because it provides them a feeling of security. In the world of a child, who learns and experiences new things each day, retreating to a familiar book is comforting. Adults reread for many reasons, sometimes going back to book not read for many years to see if it remains as they remembered it. Often it doesn’t, because the reader has changed, making his or her lenses in which the book is viewed very different. Patricia Meyer Spacks, after retiring from teaching literature, spent a year rereading dozens of novels, and has documented her project in a book titled ON REREADING. It’s fascinating to read of her reflections on books she chose, some of which she didn’t like the first time she read them.

I have some books I reread at least once a year. The list has changed over time a little, but in general, these are the ones I return to:

Pride and Prejudice
Dune
Either The Hobbit or one of The Lord of the Rings trilogy
One of the Harry Potter books (Both my children are on a Potter kick right now. My son is rereading them and my daughter is getting through them for the first time. She’s on the sixth. I’m rereading the seventh.)
The Mary Stewart Merlin trilogy

Anyone else have a list they’d like to share?


~Dee Garretson

22 comments:

  1. There are some books I re-read just becaue I like them and I don't have it in my budget to purchase more.

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    1. I know what you mean. Sometimes it feels like if I bought a book that I've only read once, I should read it again. Most of the time I want to, because i give away the books i don't really like to the library after I've read them.

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    2. YES!!! I reread Vonnegut, almost any. And Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. I feel like scholars reread books for a reason- you learn more and are closer to a text you have visited more than once. Films are like that, too. Rereading is like rediscovering. If you loved it the first time get to know it better.

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  2. I used the read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy every spring. I did it for like 7 years or so from about age 8. It was different every time.

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    1. I find it different each time too, though sometimes i worry it's because I have a bad memory. I've also seen the movies many times, it all gets mixed up in my head, and I need to reread the books to remember how the story really goes.

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    2. Oh that's so true. Adaptations are like that. Sometimes they even taken over, tricking our memories.

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  3. I was just commenting at my all-male book group yesterday that I don't have time to reread books--too many books, classic and new, that I haven't read yet. Now you've given me pause... (I have reread Harry Potter, but only because each of my three children has over the years wanted me to read HP to them aloud. And I cry at the same places every time.)

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    1. I'm struggling with guilt looking at all the books I planned to read this summer. But there's always another day, right?

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  4. I re-read books that I loved as child. I want to remember WHY I loved them so much. What made them so special to me. It helps me as an MG Writer. We want to capture that magic we read as kid! :)

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    1. I agree rereading does help improve your writing. When you reread, you can actually focus more on technique than you can the first time through a book.

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    2. I'm writing the 3rd book in my series and I had to reread the first two, to make sure I get all the details right. It was actually fun! It felt like I was reading something someone else wrote. :)

      Oh, and my favorite book to read again and again is The Wind in the Willows. :)

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  5. Some newer research indicates that re-reading is related to the relationship that the reader forms with the characters. While reading, the relationship that forms is the mental equivalent to the relationship the reader forms with a real person, so going back to the same book over and over is a way of hanging out with a friend. As with real people, literary characters affect us in the same way as we try to model their behavior.

    That said, I've never been much of a re-reader, because there are too many books I've never read.
    However, I've read The Hobbit more times than I can remember. My #2 is Watership Down.

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    1. Interesting idea and it makes sense. I do feel like I know the characters in some of my favorite books. I may have to try Watership Down again. I think I read it at the wrong point in my life and it didn't really stick, though it should be exactly the sort of book I love.

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    2. Elizabeth Bentley8/21/12, 4:47 PM

      I am sure this is exactly why I reread, which I do all the time. Sometimes I get to the end of a book and start all over again. There are several authors whose books I know well enough to recognise quotes from, even with the names removed. I want to spend time with the people again, and even though I know what is going to happen I still want to read to the and every time, as though it might have changed.

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  6. Books are like friends: you grow together. Probably the biggest book I've ever re-read is Gone With the Wind. I read it the summer before sixth grade and the summer after eighth (I spent both summers in Spain and felt like it would be fun to revisit the same book while in the same country). I'd love to spend Scarlett again as an adult. Maybe sometime soon!

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    1. Oh, I haven't thought of Gone with the Wind in a long time. That would be a fun book to reread.

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  7. I haven't reread since I was a child. In the 4-6 grade I read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry 7 times!

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    1. I've actually never read that book, but you are the second person I've heard mention it in the past week. That must be a sign I should read it.

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  8. This isn't fair for me, since I am a teacher and reread books many years over. The list:

    Outsiders
    Freak the Mighty
    Artemis Fowl
    Shipbreaker
    Stargirl
    Hatchet and The River
    Holes
    ...and more.

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    1. We won't tell your classes, but can you tell us the one you most like to reread?

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    2. Will always be Outsiders. Huge influence on me in terms of reading and future writing when I read it as a kid. Still find new things to appreciate about Hinton's classic. And don't worry, I come right out and tell my students it is my favorite book.

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  9. Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising... every Christmas!

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!