Thursday, September 17, 2015

To Re-read or Not to Re-read: Which Side of the Fence Do You Fall On?

Do you guys do a lot of re-reading?  I've done a little in the past, but not nearly as much as I would like to do because it seems that I'm always behind on the stack of newer books that have more recently caught my eye.  But I did decide a few months ago that it was time for me to start taking advantage of the substantial Library of America books that I've accumulated in the last few years.  

For those unfamiliar with the LOA books, they are high-quality editions of American classics, both fiction and nonfiction, and there are something like 250 volumes now.  I should mention, also, that the LOA is a non-profit publisher, so if you are working on putting together a really fine home library, please do consider them in your plans.

Anyway, I picked up a volume of Steinbeck books and started there before I could lose my good intentions.  And it worked.  I was instantly reminded of all the reasons that I've always found John Steinbeck's writing so fascinating - and of the six of books that I've read this year, three turned out to be re-reads.  What surprised me about that is that I enjoyed two of the re-reads as much as I enjoyed them the first time around, and one not as much.  It's the difference between reading them as a young, inexperienced man and reading them as a much older, battle-scarred one that intrigues me.

In the past I've re-read a few books on a regular basis: To Kill a Mockingbird, Lonesome Dove, and The Prince of Tides, among them, but it's been at a sporadic and unpredictable rate.  Some years, I do no re-reading at all; during other years, I re-read several of my all-time favorites.

I was reluctant to re-read anything for a long time, fearing that I would ruin an old favorite by carefully reading it through a different set of eyes and biases the second time around.  But that hasn't really happened - yet.  And with 83 volumes of Library of America books already in my collection, my re-reading can be as varied and unlimited as I could ever wish it to be.  (I put the Steinbeck aside a couple of days ago and decided to read a Raymond Chandler novel or two.  And The Little Sister, which is not a re-read, has been a revelation.  Man, that guy was good. you guys re-read?  And, if not, why not?

Link to Library of America

Post #2,563


  1. I like re-reading, but rarely do anymore- just not enough time, too many books. Re-reading has ruined some old childhood favorites for me, but the ones that stood up to the test were treasured even more.

    1. I never thought that I would enjoy re-reading as much as I do. I think what gave me the confidence to start doing it more was that no matter how many times I re-visit "Lonesome Dove," I enjoy it every single time I read it. And that's even after having seen the wonderful television movie several times that was made from the book. It may end up being another passing phase in my reading, but for now it's fun.

  2. I rarely re-read either, simply because I'm running out of time and there are so many books I still want to read. I do re-read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass because I love them, they're relatively short, and they always make me laugh.

  3. Joan, I kind of figure that I'm never, ever going to be able to read all the books I want to read anyway. So, if my re-reads come in at about one percent of my total reading, I'm probably not missing much that I wouldn't have missed anyway - especially when you consider that at least twenty percent of my new reads don't turn out to be all that enjoyable anyway. But like I mentioned to Jeane, this might just be another reading phase I'm going through...

  4. Generally speaking, I do not re-read. Mostly because I already know the story and just do not have the patience to read it again while knowing how it will turn out. With that said, I can re-read over and over and over again my favorite series of all time. Those books never bore me. I find new details in them with every reading. And my favorite scenes endear themselves to me even more. Looking at my favorite bookshelf just now, I see a few that I do want to re-read and probably will eventually.

  5. It's funny how attached we become to our favorite series. As the years go by, and a series stretches into 15 or 20 books, I can barely resist the temptation to re-read them from the start. I'm always planning to do that with James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux series and Elizabeth George's Thomas Lynley one but I have tried to do it a couple of times with them and failed to finish to stressed about how long it was taking.

  6. Ah yes, the stress of trying to read a series in a timely fashion. That's the beauty of my fav series - I now know it well enough that I can read the books out of order with book 1,3,5 and 6 being the ones I choose most often (there are 7 books so far). Otherwise, for any other series I would need to re-read them in order and would most likely fail for the same reasons you stated...So I tend to not bother.

  7. I reread but not a lot, not as much as I always promise myself I will. It generally amounts to less than five books a year out of the total 65 or so books I read. I always get distracted by all those yet to be discovered books!