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?
Augusta Scattergood says
When I attempted to figure out how to write a novel, a few years ago, I realized I’d always read as a reader, or a librarian (speed reading often!), or a parent. Now I needed to read as a writer. Quite a different experience. I love reading for writing craft, taking notes, pulling a book apart.
I suspect we’ll both do a lot of re-reading in the future. Happy 2015= a very good year?!
The best year. You go first and tell me how it all works out. 😉
Ines Olabarria says
the pillars of the earth (now reading)
The Lord of the rings
Gone with the wind (to be with you)
A tree grows in Brooklin
Have we ever discussed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? I didn’t discover it until I was an adult. I think I’ve read it three times now. Francie feels like a personal friend. I’ve read The Hobbit twice, Lord of the Rings only once, and I don’t know Imperial Woman. Must look into.
As you know when I saw you last, I was spending time with Rhett and Scarlett again. I’ll be thinking of you!
Much love. xo
PS – I might have enjoyed World Without End more than Pillars…
Faith Hough says
I’ve always loved re-reading, but it’s taken on a whole new level of fun now that I can read aloud to my daughters. Granted, I do sometimes stop in the middle of a paragraph to comment to my husband on the brilliancy of the writing…which my girls hate. 😉
My favorite re-read from 2014 was The Secret Garden. The character development is especially masterful, and I got to try out some fun (deplorable) accents.
Oh, Faith. This was SUCH a fun re-read for me when I shared it with an after-school book club a few years back (I think that was reading #3). I made up a fun game, where I wrote out characters on cards (even included the garden, as it truly serves as a character) and had kids draw two. They had to find parallels between the characters. It was magical to see the patterns they found.
Valerie Geary says
I have several books on my shelves that I’ve been meaning to re-read for years now. But then a new stack comes in for me at the library and I put off the re-reading for another month. Maybe I will challenge myself to re-read a book or two this year. You’ve inspired me! (PS– 3.3 times?? That is awesome.)
The .3 = my first glimpse into Sam and Ollie’s world. Just the first few chapters. I was wowed!
Raise your right hand and repeat after me: I solemnly swear I will re-read two books this year. I’ll hold you to it.
Valerie Geary says
*raises hand* I solemnly swear! I will add it onto my 52 books–“Read Slower” challenge. Now…which two books do I choose? Hmmm….
Elizabeth Varadan says
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, yes! and also, I love to return to Edith Nesbit and Edgar Eaver for a good smile. They write charmingly funny books for kids. Or did. They are long gone. Oh, yes, and Mary Poppins. These books really last!
Did Edith Nesbit write The Railway Children? I ADORED that book as a girl. Have a copy now, too. Must re-read!
And Mary Poppins! I was obsessed with those books in fifth grade. In fact, a wrote a fifth-grade serial for my childhood best friend (posting about her next week) called Mary Poppins. She wrote Gone With the Wind for me. We’d take a piece of paper, fold it in half, and write a “book,” which always ended with a cliff hanger. We each wrote 100.
Daniel Johnston says
I love re-reading books (when I was younger I’m sure there were books I read 100+ times!). Now when I read a good book I’m often disappointed because I know I’ll have to wait awhile for it be interesting again when I reread it.
My boys read and re-read and re-read. It’s like revisiting an old friend.
Kimberley Griffiths Little says
You are so wise. I keep meaning to reread various books for studying purposes, but never get around to it because I’m always trying to keep up with new novels – which I am WOEFULLY (more than ever!) behind on. So many Newbery winning books I have yet to read, too.
Yesterday I rearranged the piles on the floor around my bed and spilling out of the bookcase and counted 100+ books purchased over the last 2 years that I haven’t read yet. And I’m not counting all the titles on my Kindle, which I rarely read on. This past year I read fewer books by 2/3 than I did the previous 2-3 years. It was kind of a busy year. 🙂
Yes, a busy year for sure! Part of the re-reading for me, I think, is to thumb my nose a bit at the TBR pile. Sometimes I just want to read what I feel like, you know? It’s been rather liberating.
“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”
― C.S. Lewis
“There’s nothing wrong with reading a book you love over and over. When you do, the words get inside you, become a part of you, in a way that words in a book you’ve read only once can’t.”
― Gail Carson Levine, Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly
Beautiful, Michelle. And wholly true.