Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

On rereading

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I was listening to Starship Sofa, and I heard Tony Smith say that he has never re-read a book.  He was saying this in the context of not understanding why people read books more than once.  He must read very differently than I read, because I feel like rereading is the best reading I do.  In fact, yes, I’ll say it: the only meaningful reading is re-reading.

When I read a book for the first time, I don’t even know what’s in it yet.  When I read a book for the first time, that’s when the author is teaching me how to read that book, and when I’m deciding whether or not this is a book which should be added to my Inner Library, the collection of books that live in my brain.  I enjoy reading a book for the first time, but in a very surface way.

Most of the books I read for the first time don’t make the cut, and get returned to the library with no further thought.  I log them on Goodreads just so I won’t completely forget what they were, in case I do want to return to them.  But a book read for the first time is like a single potato chip in a bag of potato chips- the process of reading is enjoyable, but each individual book is no more memorable than an individual potato chip.

Mmm… potato chips.

Mmm… books.

Once in a while, my first reading reveals a book that I do want to add to my Inner Library, so I buy a copy of it and add it to my collection.

Rereading it, I read more slowly, enjoying the words more.  The first reading taught me what skills will be needed and what pleasures I can expect, and I’m better able to savor the book.  The second reading is critical: sometimes, I’ll realize that a book is not half as good as I thought it was, and often, I’ll discover that it’s much much better than I realized.

The best books are the ones I find myself returning to over and over again, and there is a small family of books that I reread once or twice a year, with increased enjoyment each time as the familiar words settle themselves into the smooth groove that has been worn in my brain for them by many readings.

I don’t feel that I’ve really read a book until I’ve read it at least three times.  No matter how many wonderful new books there are in the world (and, oh, the pain of knowing I can never read them all is sharp!), I always have time to read Jane Eyre or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.


Written by Contented Reader

July 25, 2011 at 11:05 am

Posted in Opinions


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