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.

BB+NM 4-EVA

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.

19 Comments

  • At 2010.02.07 21:34, Kathy R (Bermudaonion) said:

    Hey, if you get pleasure out of re-reading books, I think you should do it as much as you want, no matter what anyone else says!
    .-= Kathy R (Bermudaonion)´s last blog ..Our Life in France – banking, money and numbers =-.

    • At 2010.02.07 22:15, softdrink said:

      I’m not a re-reader, or even a re-watcher, but I live with one. Hamburger will watch the same movie over and over and over again…especially if it’s playing on tv every day.
      .-= softdrink´s last blog .. =-.

      • At 2010.02.10 14:43, nat @book, line, and sinker said:

        my husband is a re-watcher too! he will watch the original star wars trilogy TO DEATH. that, and the original halloween movie from the 70s.

      • At 2010.02.07 22:34, Jenners said:

        Oh I love love love Bill Bryson!!! I do reread his books … but I’m not big on rereading as a rule .. there are just too many good books I haven’t gotten to yet … but if you’re going to reread, Bryson is an excellent choice. I usually wait at least 5 years between rereads though.
        .-= Jenners´s last blog ..2/7/10 – My Week In Review =-.

        • At 2010.02.08 09:19, Chrisbookarama said:

          I disagree with that guy. I have a few favorites I’d read over and over again. I just enjoy them.They make me happy. And I do get something different from them each time.

          • At 2010.02.08 09:51, Care said:

            I’m just this year attempting to reread books. I love to rewatch movies but usually a book feels old and stale and well, “like I’ve read this before” and so I can’t hold attention. And when I’ve reread childhood favorites, they get ruined because the magic is gone.
            However. I’m learning that some books hold surprises on each re-read (ie, Mrs Dalloway!) and some books I want to re-read because I can’t rememeber how they end – oops!
            oh, and you are NOT arrogant, narrow-minded, or dull.
            .-= Care´s last blog ..The Princess Bride =-.

            • At 2010.02.08 09:54, Jess - A Book Hoarder said:

              There are some books that I know I will read over and over my whole life (Harry Potter for example). I love visiting the story again and seeing the different way it affects me. If you love it, why would you want to experience it only once?
              .-= Jess – A Book Hoarder´s last blog ..Invisible Children – A Cause and a Bag =-.

              • At 2010.02.08 14:47, Kari said:

                Oh I loooove re-reading my favorites! Especially if I haven’t read them in a few years. Then I get to see how much my perspective has changed, if it still holds up to my opinion, and you always get more out the second (or third, fourth, or fifth) time around.

                I’m a big fan of re-watching too. I do love finding new films with my Netflix account, but I’ve watched all the movies I own about a zillion times because you know it’s gonna be a fun time when you go back to a favorite. I can pretty much quote Old School, Orange Count, and Wet Hot American Summer from beginning to end at this point in time.
                .-= Kari´s last blog ..GIVEAWAY Winner: Between Here and April =-.

                • At 2010.02.08 14:54, Meg said:

                  I actually just had a chat with my sister yesterday when I was pacing around my room, trying to find a place to store more books. We got on the subject of re-reading — and how, specifically, I just don’t do it. So why do I keep my favorite books, stacking them up neatly on the shelves — never to be opened again? If I’ve read and enjoyed it, why not let it go.

                  My answer? I don’t know. The only books I’ve ever re-read portions of are our dearly-loved Jessica Darling books! 🙂 Everything else gets my cursory read, and if I loved it, I heap it onto the shelf. If not? It gets passed along to someone else.

                  I definitely don’t think you’re dull, narrow-minded or arrogant for spending time with a beloved author or favorite characters again! In fact, that seems utterly ridiculous to me.
                  .-= Meg´s last blog ..Book review: ‘When She Flew’ by Jennie Shortridge =-.

                  • At 2010.02.08 19:56, Ti said:

                    I re-read Bryson all the time. If you had a good experience reading it the first time, I think it’s perfectly normal to want to re-visit that good feeling again. Don’t you?

                    Some books I re-read to get a better understanding of what’s being said. Certain books, read at different times in your life, strike different chords when read a second time. Age, experience, wisdom…all that stuff comes into play. I never consider it a waste of my time.
                    .-= Ti´s last blog ..Moby Dick Monday: February 8, 2010 (Week 13) =-.

                    • At 2010.02.09 11:35, Hayden Tompkins said:

                      Is re-reading a crime??? Asshole. Excuse my language but REALLY. The books I keep are old friends, characters that I love, that I’ve learned more about in each reading. Some books NEED more than one reading!

                      And what about kids? Kids who fall in love with a book (like I did with the fantastic “Rainbow Goblins”) who love to be read, or read, the story over and over again. They must be criminals too.

                      Sometimes I need to pass the time, like waiting in line, but can’t really devote too much of my concentration to what I’m reading. A book I’ve already read is perfect for that!

                      Anyway, he clearly has a boulder on his shoulder –

                      The most common use of the expression is simply to show off, a way of saying “I’m so clever that I’ve read all the great works and am having to start over again.”

                      What he’s saying he’s anti-pretentious people, so just SAY THAT and leave those of us who aren’t, alone.

                      • At 2010.02.09 22:32, Dishy said:

                        I see you did not forget the E here.
                        .-= Dishy´s last blog ..Life with Kiwi. =-.

                      • At 2010.02.10 10:11, Dishy said:

                        Sorry I was so snarky yesterday. I will be good now.

                        I’ve never read BB, but will def see what they have at the library. I hope he sees your photo tribute; maybe he will send you a signed copy of something. I rarely re-read, but BOY does my family re-watch. Especially Maddie. If I have to sit through Grease ONE MORE TIME…
                        .-= Dishy´s last blog ..Life with Kiwi. =-.

                        • At 2010.02.10 14:45, nat @book, line, and sinker said:

                          um, can i admit that i’ve never actually seen the entire movie (grease)? is that bad? john travolta makes me nervous. and that whole dream sequence with the pink-haired girl and the teen singer. yikes.

                        • At 2010.02.11 23:32, bybee said:

                          I just finished re-reading The Catcher In The Rye.
                          Some books, I pride myself on rereading like Middlemarch every 10 years. I don’t reread a lot, but there’s at least 2 a year when I tally up my reading stats.
                          Rereading Bill Bryson…yeah! A Walk In The Woods…double yeah!!!
                          .-= bybee´s last blog ..January: Reading & Reviewing Part 3 =-.

                          • At 2010.02.12 01:51, Do You Re-Read Books? « Sea of Reads said:

                            […] at Book Line and Sinker has also been reading up about re-reading — spurred to do so by the need to prove that she could, too, stop any time she wanted to: I […]

                            • At 2010.02.16 10:44, Eva said:

                              I am TOTALLY in the re-reading camp! Pre-book blogging, I’d guess at least 25% of my reading was rereading, and this year I’m trying to get back into that habit. I think it’s just so much deeper, and such a different experience from reading a book for the first time.

                              I’m also an avid re-watched of movies, TV on DVD, even individual scenes. I get it from my mom-she’s really into rereading and rewatching too! 🙂
                              .-= Eva´s last blog ..Eating Animals (thoughts) =-.

                              • At 2010.02.18 01:35, Colleen (Books in the City) said:

                                I don’t generally re-read – I am always hankering to move on to the next book. I have read Little Women multiple times but other than that I am “one and done”.

                                Bryson is great – I listen to his audiobooks repeatedly – his delivery is fantastic!
                                .-= Colleen (Books in the City)´s last blog ..Review: Eternal on Water by Joseph Monninger =-.

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