It’s a conundrum, really, and it’s not confined to just books. Music, movies, restaurants, vacation spots…with so many choices out there, the decision to return again and again to some old favorites isn’t necessarily a given. There are so many other great options out there! You could be missing out on some other, better, newer favorite!
I think books are a special circumstance, though, because you spend so much time with a book. You can really settle in and immerse yourself in any book’s little world, so much so that you really feel like you’ve visited a new place. Just like returning to a physical place often allows you to notice and appreciate things you didn’t the first time around, rereading a book can make you see it in a new way.
I also am a really fast reader, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Thanks to my slightly manic, ADD-ish brain, I skim over words way too quickly, even when I’m reading for pleasure. Especially if I’m reading for pleasure, actually. If I’m really engrossed in a story, if it’s one of those read-in-one-sitting books, I will seriously tear through it like a ravenous animal. I’ll finish, be sad that it’s over, and want to read it again. This is usually for the best; after I’ve sprinted through a book the first time, eager to see what happens next, I’m able to sort of stroll more leisurely through it the second time around.
But I think I’m extra weird, because there have been times reading the Lord of the Rings when I actually want to be finished so I can read it again. Does that make any sense? Actually, don’t answer that. I don’t care.
So far I’ve mostly been referring to re-readings that happen a few years apart. But how about the sometimes mind-blowing experience of reading a book again after as much as a decade or more has passed? Just as your perception of, oh, everything changes as your learn and grow and age, so it is with beloved books. You feel differently about the characters. You have a better sense of the scenery, since you no longer skip over physical descriptions. You think you finally get what the author meant with a certain scene or lesson. While it’s a risky move to revisit anything from your childhood, I’ve rarely been disappointed with a 10- or 20-year book reunion.
In the end, as with so many things, I don’t think that it’s an absolute verdict: “Rereading Is Good”. As much as I love relishing a few old favorites, I still try to branch out with new books, too. I’m not terribly adventurous though; I often go with recommendations from friends and acquaintances rather than just picking random books at the bookstore. (And yes, although I’m not anti-Kindle I do still buy books at the bookstore. For now.) Who knows? Maybe I’ll find another favorite that I’ll love enough to want to visit again sometime.