Why Reread Books?

With so many books out there, why do many people keep going back to the same books and rereading them? Did they simply enjoy the book that much during their first reading, or is there more to it? Perhaps the book is being adapted into a film, and people want to jog their memory and reacquaint themselves with the story and characters. Maybe people love the world so much that they feel a great comfort and familiarity escaping to it when they reread the book. It might be a tradition to reread a particular story at a certain time of year, like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It is also possible that the readers did not fully appreciate or understand the book the first time through, or, quite oppositely, fully understood it and want to experience the book again now that they know all the twists and turns the author has to throw at them.

Why do you think people reread books? What value does rereading the same books have when there are so many other new stories out there waiting to be uncovered?

  • I mean in addition to what you already have. – Tigey 7 years ago
  • I find re-reading book exceptionally beneficial from an academic standpoint. I have NEVER re-read a book and not found a piece of "evidence" or a new idea for a paper or thesis I was working on. As for reading for pleasure..there have only been 3 books I have re-read because they absolutely enraptured me: "Mrs. Dalloway," "The Crying of Lot 49," "The Waves." Regarding the works of Woolf, I just couldn't get over the beauty of her prose, and The Waves became a type of puzzle I was figuring out with all of the different voices. The Crying of Lot 49 was an absolute trip!! It is a complete departure from my genre of study--Medieval Literature, with a concentration of readings in Middle English--but that may be why it fascinated me; the book toys with language and you have to be alert to be "in," on the jokes Pynchon throws at the reader. Sorry for the ramble. – danielle577 7 years ago
  • No need to apologize, Danielle! I agree wholeheartedly. I find it extremely helpful to reread books when I'm approaching them from an academic standpoint. For example, I've read Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury three times, and each time I pick out something new. – KennethC 7 years ago
  • Danielle, good call. I had to reread Mrs. Dalloway to understand it, and then when I unlocked the code, I was "enraptured" and astounded. I'm not afraid of Virginia Woolf, but she does make me feel very wee. The necessity of rereading complex works is a necessary aspect of this topic. – Tigey 7 years ago
  • I like to re-read books that I loved partly because I know what to expect, but also because I like to analyze what exactly I liked about the book as a way to inform myself as a writer. – Lauren Mead 7 years ago
  • Much like re-listening to a song over and over for a span of a month when it's new, and then having it find your ears months or years later, it might be that the reader is trying to recapture what they felt when they read it first. For me, this was "Paper Towns" by John Green. The main point of the novel, which isn't a spoiler, is that not everyone is as they seem, and people are more complex than you think. John Green, at one point in his vlogbrothers YouTube channel career, said the quote, "Imagine others complexly." That novel can be summed up like that. For me, it pushed me out of my previously egocentric philosophy of looking at the world. It made me realize, and actually think in words, "That person might be having a bad day. They aren't out to get you. They didn't hold the door open for you because they were thinking about how their cat just died." Etc., etc, etc, you get the idea. So for me, a few years ago, soon after it first was published in paperback, in a short span of a few months, I read "Paper Towns" over and over. Maybe in disbelief that I never realized the complexity of humanity in that way before. Maybe in shock about how words on a page could change my whole view of the world. Much like a meaning that you find in a song and its lyrics, you find yourself wanting to relive the experience of the first time you read it, and what you first thought of the novel. – MaryWright 7 years ago
  • Some books are designed to be read multiple times and in multiple fashions. Prime examples of this are the productions of Vladimir Nabokov, especially his later works. Pale Fire requires multiple readings (or at least a circuitous, repetitious romp throughout the novel's pages) in order to glean a full(er) understanding of the story presented within the interplay of the poem and commentary. Transparent Things initially appears to be a rather convoluted narrative about a book editor's life and death, but opens up so much further once one has reached the conclusion and begins to reread the novel. A good book can open our eyes to so much and alter our understanding of the world, as noted by MaryWright above, thereby making a new reading of a novel as rewarding (if not more so) than the first reading. One should also consider that we are always changing. When we finish a book we are a different person in some ways than when we started the book: We have lived our lives, interacted with others, events have taken place in the world around us, and we have read a new book. When I first read Look at the Harlequins! I was unaware of the rancor between Nabokov and his first biographer, Andrew Field. After reading Field's books on Nabokov and reading Look at the Harlequins! in this new light the novel transformed from a fictitious autobiography of an author with some slight resemblances to Nabokov into a doppelganger of Field's works, revealing fictional counterparts to Field's very real scholarly errors and oversights. Nabokov's final, incomplete novel The Original of Laura has been widely dismissed as a recycled pastiche of elements from his previous works, most notably Lolita. But critical consensus has shifted as the work has been reread and re-evaluated (including the reversal of the most noted Nabokov scholar, Brian Boyd). However Nabokov's works are certainly not the only example of this. Some others that jump to mind are: John Barth's Lost in the Funhouse, Danielewski's House of Leaves, Dick's VALIS, Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom, Moby-Dick, and many others. Heck, some works require multiple readings and considerations before we're even sure what we've read, like Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell. – echarlberg 7 years ago

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