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
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?