I love re-reading books and re-watching movies. I cannot tell you how many times in my childhood and adulthood I read the Little House on the Prairie books, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Recently I’ve also taken to listening to Harry Potter while I run and have gone through that series now twice in audio format and who knows how many times in hardcopy. I don’t know where I get this tendency, since my parents think I’m weird and rarely (or never) re-read books. Or re-watch movies for that matter.
But I think there are a lot of positives to re-reading books and a few different ways to go about re-reading. The first few ways of re-reading occur when the re-reading takes place close to the finishing of the first reading. Depending on how much the book affected you or stuck in your mind, it could be anywhere from one year to four years. For example, I recently re-read The Book Thief. When I first read this book in the winter of 2008 I loved it and recommended it to every person I know. Even though it had been years since I read it, I’d still think about Liesel and Rudy and Death. While re-reading I kept waiting for the parts I remembered and didn’t take the time to soak in the language and observe foreshadowing or ponder the meaning of colors in the book. Instead I read quickly (due to a quick deadline) and a character driven attitude. Someday, maybe soon, I’ll re-read The Book Thief for a third time and really get into the literature. Other books require this kind of multiple re-reading to really get to the subtleties. Only after I know the book by heart (practically) can I really take the time to read in a non-plot or character driven manner.
Other books aren’t so character or plot driven. Think Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. While I love their characters and their plots, they are not suspenseful, quick page turners. Because of the old-fashioned language and the dependence on description, I find that these books require a slower reading pace to begin with, and as a result each re-reading brings forth something new. Whereas with heavily plot driven books I find myself skipping passages to “find out what happens next,” these slower books force me to read every word, and each time I read my mood or experiences change how I read that passage.
Finally, my last kind of re-reading occurs when you read a book you read in childhood, or I suppose for older people, a book you read in your 20s or 30s. Anyways, a book that you re-read years later, past the time when you identify with certain characters. For example, when I first read Jacob Have I Loved I related to Louise. I understood her pain, her feeling that she was the least favorite twin. Yet, when I re-read it as a 23-year-old, I found Louise annoying and conceited. My new experiences and (hopefully) maturity put the character in a new light. I know several people who feel this way about Holden Caufield (The Catcher in the Rye). These characters have their time and their place but we often out grow them once we’re past the character’s age.
So, what do you think? Am I missing any major form of re-reading? Are you a re-reader?