Why I Re-Read

Re-reading is another one of those topics I see pop-up on book Twitter regularly. Do you re-read? Should you re-read? Again, this is a personal choice, just like your preferred format, or to DNF or not to DNF. I re-read books, always have done and always will. But why do I read them again if I know what’s going to happen? The story isn’t going to change, so why?

Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a very strong emotion and it courses through our veins. You see it everywhere nowadays. In the remakes, the prequels, sequels to old series, reboots of series. It’s everywhere. It’s also one of the reason I pick up old books again. Some series I’ve read several times now, but it’s the Harry Potter series that made me realise how strong nostalgia is. The books aren’t really that good. Especially the first few. Nostalgia often clouds our judgement and makes the things we loved years ago seem better than it really was. Sometimes it’s a good thing, but often it’s misplaced. Re-reading can be good, just to get in touch with that feeling again. Maybe you still love it as much as you did before, but don’t feel bad if your opinion changes.

Comfort

My brain isn’t working with me right now, so re-reading a book I already know is easier than reading a complicated book for the first time. That’s why I’m re-reading the Wicca series by Cate Tiernan right now. The story over the whole series is complicated, but the books are short and I still remember mostly what happened even if the details are vague. I don’t have to figure out relationship dynamics, political structures, or complex words. Going back to the series is like meeting old friends.

New Perspective

The different times in your life will give you different perspective. You’ll find other things or themes that pop out, ones that resonate with you more now. Maybe you’ll see undertones that weren’t visible before. Or you see the jokes or hidden symbols. Maybe you’re in a better mood now, or a mood that doesn’t fit the book at all. Every time I read The Night Circus there is new magic to enchant me. Things I didn’t pick before. Maybe it’s the same as re-watching The Matrix. You know the twist and now you’re looking for clues that hint at the twist. Sometimes it’s nice to analyse a story like that.

It’s a risk to re-read a book too. You might not like it anymore. Maybe you’ll take it off your favourites list. It happens, and that’s okay. You’re growing and changing as a person, your reading tastes might change too. Don’t feel bad about that. You’ll find new ones.

What about you? Do you re-read books? What is the latest book you re-read?

10 thoughts on “Why I Re-Read

  1. Alli says:

    Yes, for comfort reading but also when a series comes out with a new book and I can’t remember what happened in the last however many books. That happens more and more as I get older!

    • Tessa Hastjarjanto says:

      Pesky age! I understand though. I re-read all the Harry Potter books as the new one came out. I probably read the first one more than ten times haha

  2. Naithin says:

    I re-read. But not often. I didn’t know this was as hotly debated as to DNF or not though, hah!

    I mostly don’t re-read very often because my backlog is *so big*. There are so many new things I want to get through that it is hard to often justify going back to things I’ve already covered.

    But! Sometimes something is good enough that it breaks through these barriers. I might want to re-read to pick-up on foreshadowing as it happens for events I didn’t yet know about during my first read. If a betrayal occurs or some other twisty-twist, I want to know if I should have seen it coming.

    Other times — in particular with Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle — there is just a lot to it. Many, many, many intertwining bits of lore, clues and just *things* to join together.

    I still have no doubt I’m missing many of them, and will re-read again when (if, lol) the third book ever bloody comes out. xD

    • Tessa Hastjarjanto says:

      The Kingkiller Chronicles are on my TBR but maybe I’ll dive in when the series is complete? I don’t know. Fantasy seems so intimidating at the moment xD

  3. Bhagpuss says:

    I always find this topic confusing. Self-evidently re-reading is *far* more important then just reading. How could it not be? Does anyone seriously believe they’re getting everything there is to get from even a short story in a single read? Let alone a novel. How could that conceivably happen? You’d need to be the Einstein of comprehension.

    I used to have a rule of thumb: the third read is the important one. On the first you’ll either be concentrating on the plot or marvelling at the prose style, depending on the kind of book it is. Both, if you’re lucky. On the second you’ll be comparing your new reading with your memories and opinions of the first. The third is your baseline read, where you really start to take in what you’re reading with the least distractions.

    I’d love to re-read more than I do. Ideally, if I thought something wasn’t a total and complete waste of time on the first read I’d like to do the second and third as described. For books I really like, or believe I haven’t fully understood or appreciated, I’d like to keep re-reading until I felt that was no longer the case. Unfortunately, to do that I’d have had to stop reading new books a few decades ago and people will keep writing the darn things.

    In practice I re-read far less than I’d like and the books I do re-read tend to be short and easy. I’ve re-read most of Robert Parker’s Spenser novels anything up to half a dozen times, even though the meaning and context of most of them is clear enough the first time through – but I can easily read one in an afternoon and they’re always fun, so it’s too tempting to resist. Re-reading something like Dhalgren, on the other hand, takes me a couple of weeks or more so I’ve only read it twice in forty years, even though I barely understood it either time.

    The older I get, the more I realize I need to re-read some of my favorites sooner than later, too. It used to be fine to tell myself I’d get round to re-reading them eventually but there’s less and less “eventually” left and reading is not a quick process. Sadly, after more than fifty years of obsessive book consumption, most things are going to have to go unreread but that’s no excuse for slacking off and not re-reading any of them.

  4. The Masked Gamer Gal says:

    I re-read often, it helps me remember things that happened in the book or game that I may have forgotten. However, that wonderful nostalgia of picking up a book or an old game, I get all the feels and goosebumps of happy memories seeing that world.

  5. Susan says:

    Thank you for writing this! My rereads are audibles. I cant reread in the traditional sense for whatever reason but those certain books that I reread via audibles are so important. Some are like security blankets or anti anxiety medication and some make me laugh. Some I listen to at night like some listen to rain or waves to help them sleep at night… it is like rewatching movies or tv shows you love.

    • Tessa Hastjarjanto says:

      I used to do this as a kid so I totally understand I’m glad books can do that for you.

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