I used to think re-reading books was a waste of time. With so many to choose from, what was the point of picking up books I’d spent time with before? This changed when I began collecting titles for my future classroom. Pulling books off my childhood shelves and searching through used bookstores, I realized I wanted to know these stories again, not just in memory.
Since then, re-reading has been a key part of my reading life, this last year especially. While I read dozens and dozens of new-to-me books, I re-read over a dozen, too. Here’s my list of last year’s re-reads, along with the number of times I’ve picked up each book (as far as I can remember, that is):
- Murder on the Links – Agatha Christie (2)
- A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle (2)
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie (2)
- The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander (3)
- Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain (3)
- Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell (3)
- We Were Liars – E. Lockhart (2)
- Emily Climbs – L.M. Montgomery (3)
- Emily’s Quest – L.M. Montgomery (3)
- Little House in the Big Woods – Laura Ingalls Wilder (4)
- Farmer Boy – Laura Ingalls Wilder (4)
- Little House on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder (4)
- On the Banks of Plum Creek – Laura Ingalls Wilder (5)
- Crooked River – Valerie Geary (3.3)
- A Gathering of Days – Joan W. Blos (2)
There were read alouds with my eleven-year-old (1, 3), giving a book a second chance (2), revisiting an old favorite on its fiftieth anniversary (4), reacquainting myself with a character who serves as a model for a future book (5), sentimental re-reads (6, 8, and 9), the start-right-back-at-the-beginning-immediately-to-figure-things-out read (7), re-reading for a free on-line course (part two is coming in the spring!) (10-14), a celebratory read of a critique partner’s finished book (14), and a Christmas Day perusal of a Newbery I discovered when I first started teaching (thanks to my sister for sending along my own copy!) (15)
It is impossible to finish a book unchanged. But re-visiting a book gives me a chance to growly doubly. Not only do I experience the progression of the story and its characters, I re-meet my younger self and examine all the ways I’ve also changed. My preferences in literary styles, my observations as a writer, my insights on the book’s themes, my memories of past readings — all of these enrich the reading. Even when a book doesn’t measure up to my memories, the second read doesn’t diminish the first love.
Are you a re-reader? What books have you picked up again and again?