Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Joys of Rereading

Minimalization can be pretty important.

Sometimes more is less, whether it’s having fewer knickknacks (do I really need 500 bookmarks or twenty-five?) or using fewer words in a story or blog post. Because my family tends to move at least once every three years, I even have to limit my book collection. Books mean weight, and more weight means more money.

This past year, we’ve paired down some more, and I got rid of more books. *gasp* But I only got rid of the books I knew I wouldn’t read again. The ones I bought on impulse and didn’t care for. The books I liked but couldn’t remember enough to want to keep it.

My reader goal is to own only books I like. The ones I know I’ll reread and reread again. The ones that are signed. The ones with covers that are falling apart because I read them so much. The ones with notes in the margins.

Then again, minimalization is great… but I’ve never understood people who don’t like buying books because “Why would you want to read it again if you already know how it ends?” To which I like to reply, “Why not?”

So here it is, a semi-brief case for owning books to reread.


1)      Rereading great books means no due date.


I like visiting the library so much, I often leave with way too many books. Every now and then I have to return a book without having even started it. Which then makes me feel guilty for not having read the book and messing up the library’s statistics for books read. At least I don’t have to worry about library fines because military libraries rock and rely more on the honor system. I’m dreading the idea of one day checking out books from a civilian library.

With books I own and want to reread, I don’t have to worry about a due date. Of course, this also means sometimes, they’re harder to start because I feel like I have all the time in the world. Once I get started on a reread, though, I cannot be stopped.

2)      Rereading comes with fewer disappointments.


That’s not to say that your opinion on the book won’t change. Maybe it will. And that’s okay. But when you pick up a book you’ve read before, you know what you’re getting yourself into. If you choose one you gave five stars, you’re probably less likely to wind up giving it two stars upon finishing it again. Whereas books you’ve never read before can be pleasantly surprising or they can be incredibly disappointing. You don’t know.

Rereading is like revisiting an old friend.


3)      Every time you read a book, you have a different perspective.


When I first read The Tale of Desperaux as a kid, I thoroughly enjoyed it. But when I picked it up as a teenager, for some reason, I didn’t like it at all. Then, when I reread it for a class in Children’s Literature during my undergrad, I liked it again. I must have been a weird teenager because my reading tastes have switched since then.

Every time I read a book, my perspective is different though. I don’t just read a book for the sake of reading a book. I read it having enjoyed (or not enjoyed) the book before it. I may pick up a fantasy book after having been immersed in nonfiction. Or maybe I’ll start a middle grade novel one after another and then switch to adult fiction.

Then there’s life. The books I read during midterms weeks are the same books I read after I finished my first graduate degree, but that doesn’t make me the same person. I have more experiences and a slightly different view.

No matter how many times you read the same book, the experience will not be the same.


4)      Rereading helps you discover new things!


When I first picked up The Scorpio Races, I almost didn’t finish it. Say what? This from the person who won’t stop ranting about how good it is. I checked it out from the library during the summer when my professor posted which books we’d be reading for YA fiction the next semester, but I didn’t make it past the prologue. Later, I bought the book for class and read the entirety then, starting from the beginning. I discovered that I could really like some slower-paced books with just a smidge of romance and a lot of blood. Nearly three years later, I picked up the book again, having completely forgotten why I enjoyed the book so much.

Similarly, my family and I have a Lord of the Rings marathon once a year. Because I tend to remember plots pretty well, when I’m re-watching movies, I start predicting what will happen in the next scene before it happens. Before I know it, my mind is three scenes ahead and then I get frustrated because the movie is so slow. With the watching The Lord of the Rings, I started focusing on certain characters, their mannerisms and character development, so by the time I got to the end, I could enjoy the movies as a whole instead of mentally skipping ahead. I like to apply this same focused technique to rereading as well, whether it’s focusing on the writing style, the dialogue, or the character development.

Reading acquaints readers with the plot and the characters. Rereading helps readers get to know them even better. Reading is an introduction, but rereading is a friendship.


5)      Rereading is rewarding.


Sure, it’s fun to have books up on my shelf to look at and show off to all my fellow readers. With all the time I spend collecting my treasured books, what good are they if I don’t actually read them? Going to the library is good, yes. But it’s important to spend time on books you’ve invested money and space to.

After all, rereading isn’t just educational. It’s also fun.

Let’s chat! What’s your stance on reading a book once vs rereading it? How often do you reread books? What’s one book you’ve lost count of how many times you’ve read it?

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Literary references: Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Desperaux, Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and Mary Elizabeth Edgren’s Methuselah’s Gift

2 comments:

  1. I don't typically reread works, but I'll occasionally reread huge favorites like The Lord of the Rings. I'll also reread stuff by writers like Shakespeare and Milton as well as postmodernist/Beat Generation writers several times because there's just so much to unpack, it feels impossible to do it on the first read-through. Every time I go back, I find something awesome and new.

    Eleanor | On the Other Side of Reality

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    1. Rereading classics can be a lot of fun, and they're typically easier the second time around. Thanks for the comment!

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