Monday Musings | “Rereadable” Books

This past week I’ve been thinking about re-reading books more than usual. What with the The Remains of the Day reread with Random House Canada (#RemainsReRead), and my insistence that David Mitchell’s new novel The Bone Clocks is a book that begs to be re-read, it seems to have been a theme on my blog lately.

This prompted me to wonder: why do we re-read certain books and not others? For me, whether I re-read a book depends on mainly two things. One, I will re-read a book if absolutely loved the story. Maybe its ideas really resonated with me, or the characters were so wonderful that they feel like old friends (hello, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, Fred, George…you get the picture), or maybe it just has the magical ability to transport me into a different world, space, or time that feels extremely cathartic. If I finish the book feeling sad that I have to say goodbye to it, I will almost always add it to my mental “revisit later” list. Second, I will re-read a book if it holds sentimental value to me. Maybe I read the book at just the right time and it left a strong impression, or maybe I got the book as a graduation gift or a “pick me up” book after a rough time. If I have strong feelings linked to a book, I am more likely to pick it up again and read it for nostalgic purposes. Sometimes a book will combine reasons one and two – those books I am pretty much guaranteed to re-read. What makes a book re-readable to you?

Now, I don’t want to assume that everyone re-reads books because I’ve definitely come across readers that never re-read books, even if they loved a book the first time they read it. One of the main reasons for this, according to what I’ve heard, is time. There are so many new releases coming out each week that the reader doesn’t want to spend extra time on the same book. Being a sentimental person with a long TBR list I can see both sides, but eventually my attachment with some of my “re-readable” books wins out. There’s just something special about revisiting an old story and reconnecting with it. Plus, some books are so layered and intricate that you can always find something new within the pages, whether it be a detail you missed or a new angle you’ve never examined before, so I think that keeps a freshness to it too.

So, let me ask you: Do you re-read books? Why or why not? If you do, how do you determine whether a book is “re-readable” or not? As always, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

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17 thoughts on “Monday Musings | “Rereadable” Books

  1. Charleen says:

    I absolutely re-read books. The time argument doesn’t hold up for me… yes, time is limited, so why not occasionally return to something I know I’ll enjoy rather than take yet another chance on something new? Besides, I’m never going to read ALL the books anyway.

    As for what makes a book re-readable… it could be any number of things, but I guess the biggest one is just not being able to get that book out of my head. Sometimes it’s the plot, sometimes it’s the characters, sometimes it’s the writing itself… but there’s that sense of “I want to go back there” that I just can’t shake.

    • kmn04books says:

      That’s so true; re-reading a book is an almost guaranteed good use of time because you already know you love it! I love that “can’t get the book out of my head” feeling; not many books can do that and they’re so powerful when they can! (Your comment is making me want to re-read a few things now!)

  2. The Paperback Princess says:

    Great idea for a post! I bet you get a lot of feedback on this one!

    I don’t re-read books very often. There’s only one modern novel that I’ve read twice: The Dinner by Herman Koch. Mostly, the books that I re-read are Harry Potter or classics: Bronte or Austen mainly. I do sympathize with those people that don’t re-read because of time constraints. Sometimes when I’m engaged in a re-read, I feel like I’m wasting time I could be using to chip away at my ever growing TBR list. But there are certain books, certain characters, that I need to visit with over and over. Every year I try and re-read a book of Jane Austen’s because they are the very best. And I find that every time it’s a different experience. Either something finally clicks that never had before, be it due to a better understanding of the time or a greater emotional education as I get older, or I read something a slightly different way because I’m a different person than I was the last time I read it.

    There’s something so satisfying about a re-read though. Visiting book friends that you know so well, making your way through the story via all your favourite passages – it’s the best!

    • Denise says:

      I’m a “don’t re-read because of time” person. Also, when I’ve tried, I’ve sometimes been disappointed because I am a different person now. Eg Mrs Dalloway. Also The Green Knight. I was more innocent then and there were books which seemed to present a huge world to me, which seemed to have shrunk when I went back.

    • kmn04books says:

      Yes – I LOVE finding new things in books that I love. It’s like a thing that just keeps giving! It’s so interesting to track how you feel about a certain book, isn’t it? Team re-reading!

  3. Naomi says:

    I have always wanted to be a re-reader, but I am not. I love the idea that I might get more out of books a second or third time through, but I just can’t bring myself to do it when I see so many good unread books around. Maybe someday when I have more time. And they would have to be books that I really don’t remember much about, except that I loved them.

  4. Amy Sachs says:

    I think I like the idea of re-reading things more than I actually do it. I’ve only re-read a couple handfuls of books, many of them being Harry Potter. (Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home and all that!) I’ve read The God of Small Things a couple of times, but mainly just to go back for quotes. I’m interested to see what other people have to say on this topic, too!

    • kmn04books says:

      It’s true that I talk about re-reading more than I actually do it. I think if reading were my full-time job I’d definitely re-read a lot 😉 I think Harry Potter is such a part of our generation that it feels like re-visiting old friends again. It’s definitely one of my most re-read series 🙂

  5. Elisabeth says:

    I am a do not re read. There are too many books on my TBR that I want to read and more added to the list all the time, I am not interested in reading a book again. Movies, now that’s a different story. I love watching my favorites over and over.

  6. jjoongie says:

    I’ve found that I have a handful of books I reread pretty regularly — I read “Never Let Me Go” at least 2-3 times every year, and I find myself looping back to “The English Patient,” “On Chesil Beach,” and “Man Walks Into a Room” pretty regularly. I’ve read “The Interestings” three times in nine months (which goes to show much I LOVE this book; I just can’t let it go, hence the obsessive rereading). I think I tend to reread books that have the “whole” package — amazing writing, a compelling narrative, a mood of its own, fully-fleshed characters — because these are the books that stick with me and keep going even when I’m done reading. And they’re books that encourage me as a writer, too, that I find myself turning to when I’m running low on energy in my own writing.

    I love rereading, especially when time has passed. Sometimes, it’s disappointing to revisit a book because i learn that I’ve changed and the book has changed and we’re no longer on that same plane, but it’s always interesting to see how my relationship with a book has changed or how the things I respond to in a book have changed or how the things I notice and understand have changed because I’ve gotten older. It makes me love how reading isn’t a static, passive thing — and similarly how books aren’t simply static objects but have these lives of their own, too. 😀

    • kmn04books says:

      Ooh – I seriously need to read Never Let Me Go! So many people have recommended it to me and I think I’ll enjoy it since I’m really liking The Remains of the Day! I haven’t heard of On Chesil Beach or Man Walks into a Room… I’ll have to look them up! I really enjoyed The Interestings and am so excited for Belzhar!

      I love what you said about seeing the changes over time in relation to the books we re-read. They truly do have lives on their own and it makes them such great companions 🙂 Thanks for your insightful comment!

  7. tanya (52 books or bust) says:

    I’m not a big re-reader just because there is always so much new stuff I want to read. But there are certain books I go back to, usually for sentimental reasons. Because I have a kid, I now re-read many one the books I read as a kid and it’s fun to revisit them and see how different they are from my memory of them.

    • kmn04books says:

      That’s a wonderful excuse to re-read! I bet it’s really interesting revisiting your old reads through the eyes of another. If I ever have kids I will definitely be reading them my old favourites. (Let’s hope he or she loves reading! Haha.)

  8. Milliebot says:

    I re-read books for the same reason you do – though probably I shouldn’t because my TBR is huge and I know I’ll never catch up. But! It’s my life and I’ll read what I want to ;D I do find comfort in reading an old favorite. It’s also a way to get me out of a slump – I read almost every day unless my schedule doesn’t permit it, so if I’m in a slump I don’t just stop reading for a few days. I’ll go back to an old favorite, something I know I’ll enjoy, to sort of spark me up again!

    • kmn04books says:

      Haha I know! Although my long TBR has prevented me from re-reading in the past few months. But I’m sure I’ll re-read something soon. (The Book of Unknown Americans is one that I’m hoping to reread soon – it was so good.) I’ve never thought of it as a slump-buster but that makes total sense! I’ll have to keep that in mind in case I ever need it 😉

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