Deja Vu: Re-Reading My Favorite Books
I recently grabbed a my well-read copy of Bill Bryson’s A Walk In the Woods because I was in serious need of a laugh. Bryson’s writing never fails to make me laugh; his turn of a phrase and sharp wit crack me up. My husband glanced over to see what I was laughing about and said in an exasperated tone, “You’re reading that book again?”
I shot him a look and continued reading. But his comment got me thinking about re-reading books. Now, I’ve seen my hubby re-read a few books in his day, but I take re-reading to a whole new level. I’ve read all of Bill Bryson’s books at least twice, and a few of them more than five or six times. I’ve gone through the first three books of Harry Potter series a dozen times easily. I’ve re-read Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling series a bunch of times, too.
So, does re-reading books make me, “arrogant, narrow-minded, or dull” as Jack Thurston contends in an article he penned (Why Re-Reading is a Crime) for The Guardian in July 2007? I’d like to think not, and after doing a bit of research online I learned that I’m not alone in my re-reading compulsion. Articles in defense of re-reading have been featured in an op-ed piece for the New York Times, and articles in The New Yorker and Newsweek.
Now, I’ll admit that my re-read choices may not be classics from the literary canon that the supporters are writing about, but my books have merit and offer entertainment and cozy, familiar characters. Like a favorite pair of perfectly broken-in jeans, I just love these books and can’t bear to let them languish on my shelves. I realize that my re-reading might seem a bit excessive, but sometimes I only re-read portions of my favorite books.
Thurston argues that I’m wasting time and missing out on other authors, but I have to disagree. I read more new books in a year than the average person–I think book bloggers in general read waaaay more than the rest of the population–and so I take exception to that point too. I also take issue with the notion that I’m re-reading books because I’m dull and didn’t get the gist the first time through. Nope, that’s not true either.
As the pro-re-reading faction argues, re-reading a book is like listening to a favorite song more than once (or twice!). I’ll take it a step further and compare re-reading books to watching a movie or television show more than once. I’ve seen Back to the Future, The Wizard of Oz, The Graduate, and Goonies multiple times and still enjoy them. Does that make me arrogant, narrow-minded, or dull? (That’s a rhetorical question, friends.)
Now, if you’ll be kind enough to excuse me, I have to get back to re-reading A Walk in the Woods.