Discussion: Re-reading Books

Like most of us, I have a huge mental TBR. I have lists of books I want to read, lists of suggestions, piles of physical books, loads of downloaded e-books, books on my wishlist, books I’ve got my eye on in the library, NetGalley ARC’s, reading challenges that need books allocating to them, stuff on Goodreads that I added so long ago I can’t remember what’s on there, forthcoming books I’m considering pre-ordering…the list quite literally goes on. And honestly, when I see it all written down like that, I feel a bit sick. 


So, with all this self-imposed pressure, why – for the love of God why – would I want to re-read something I’d already read? I mean, I’ve ticked it off. It’s disappeared from my basket. It’s in the archives. It’s done.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I am what I would call a “gratification reader” (yes I just made that up). I loooooove that feeling of reading the last page of a novel. I get excited when I realise that a book is a lot shorter than I first thought and I can make the progress bar jump up in chunks – although nothing beats the feeling of finishing a massive tome (one day, Les Miserables, one day). So to then have to go back – even years in the future – and do it all again…where’s the fun in that?

Well, there does seem to be some method to the madness. Lots of people feel that they get more out of a story the second time (or more! Seriously, who are these people). There might be details that you’d missed the first time around and some readers liken it to visiting an old friend (I would argue an old friend with nothing new to tell you, but hey ho). I can’t help but think that this all sound horribly repetitive. Am I meant to read the entire book, even the boring bits? Or the bits I have clear memories of? I never skip through books on principal, so the thought of just missing out chunks of text fills me with dread. 

There’s a more existential argument about self reflection when re-reading – if the text hasn’t changed but your reaction to it has, you can see how far you’ve come as an individual. Well, maybe – but won’t this also potentially ruin treasured bookish memories? Won’t my main reaction be boredom because I know what’s coming next? What if I spot something problematic that had previously passed me by because different times/patriarchy/being a special millennial snowflake?

I guess I could choose a book to re-read that I have no memory of, but isn’t the reason for my lack of memory that the novel simply didn’t resonate with me? I suppose that with the benefit of additional life experience my feelings might have changed and what I hated as a teenager I might now understand/enjoy more. Plus I’m very much a mood reader, so perhaps I didn’t enjoy a particular book because of external influences? 

This brings me on nearly to the subject of Harry Potter (actually it doesnt, but if I say it does I don’t think anyone will notice). When the final HP book came out I was at University (I know! So old) and I just kind of…devoured it. If I hadn’t seen the films so many times I probably wouldn’t even be able to remember it, I read it so fast. As such, I don’t really understand what happened. Yes, I’ve looked online and had it explained to me and yes, I didn’t like what I heard so I went lalala and made up my own ending but I can’t help but miss that feeling of getting it for myself. So I really think that despite my misgivings and the metaphorical TBR tower threatening to topple over and kill me, I probably should give that one another go.

As for becoming a regular re-reader though? 

What are your thoughts on re-reading? Is it something you do often? Are you one of the crazy people who has read the same book multiple times? Let me know in the comments!

32 thoughts on “Discussion: Re-reading Books

  1. This is an interesting post! πŸ™‚ I rarely re-read books, because… there are just so many new books to read, I don’t take enough time to go back to old favorites and… I am also terrified that, like you said it here, my memories of it might be tainted, or I might end up hating it while I used to love it before. That really scares me haha. But… I re-read one of my favorite series last year and I was so happy to, because in the end I loved it so, so much, again ❀ ❀

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  2. I re-read a lot, for many of the reasons listed above. But also because I write and I like the analyzation. I’m also not a super adventurous reader, so I’m not out there requesting ARCs or buying every new release. So I find myself trying to enjoy each book I have as much as possible. Sometimes I don’t even try to remember a book too much beyond writing my review so that I can enjoy it again later without too much memory getting in the way πŸ˜€

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  3. I do re-read, but only books that have an atmosphere I want to step back into. Escapism where the plot, if there is one, isn’t important. It’s also handy to have a loved and previous-read book for occasions like hospital appointments and certain types of travel, situations where it doesn’t matter if the book has to be suddenly closed and where a lack of concentration won’t ruin anything. Also, I forget things a lot. I’ve reached the stage where I can be halfway through an episode of Murder, She Wrote before I realise I’ve seen it before πŸ˜‰

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    1. That’s a really good point. Ha! We all do that with Murder, She Wrote but if you can’t immediately recall which of Dick Van Dyke’s irrelevant skills/random family members are going to appear in an episode of Diagnonsense Murder, you might want to get that checked.

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      1. Ha! My mum once genuinely said to me ‘Do you remember that Diagnosis Murder, where Dick Van Dyke playing three generations of his own family, the make up was very good.’ I nearly choked! Me and my brother never let her forget it πŸ˜‰

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  4. Hahahahahaa. I am SO the opposite of you. I’ve become a regular re-reader in the last handful of years and plan on at least 1/4 to 1/3 of my annual reads to be re-reads.

    Details, me changing, being very introspective, all those apply. Plus, while you’re right about coming across the occasional one where you ruin a cherished “old” memory, most of my re-reads are great books the first time and are even better the second. To me, if a book can still be enjoyable and good without the “novelty” factor, then it is a great book.

    This was a great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I just feel like “so many books, so little time!” Maybe I should take the time to savour some old favourites, especially if I haven’t read them for years. I seem to be in an competition with myself to read everything.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Eh, don’t push yourself. If you don’t like to re-read, then don’t.
        I didn’t until the last couple of years and if I had tried to push it earlier then I suspect I’d be burnt out by reading.

        Every reading option has it’s season for each reader. Some readers just never need certain ones.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, I suspect it’s not my natural inclination but I won’t know if I don’t try, right? It’s not something I’ll force myself to do if I don’t enjoy it 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I get around that whole thing by thinking of them as “really strong opinion” posts then I don’t care if people discuss or not. So when they do, it’s a nice “surprise”.

        amazing what we can trick ourselves with, isn’t it? πŸ˜€

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  5. I’m not a re-reader because there are so many books I haven’t read yet but I hope to become one much much later. I’m keeping the best of my reads, that I want to re-read at some point. The ones I most look forward to re-reading are the novels that left me feeling emotional, because I want to feel that emotion again.

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  6. I’m def a re-reader, I’ve read the Harry Potter Series at least 7 times! I’m not sure why, maybe I just need to find a new book that kindles my light!

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  7. I am not planning to a regular re-reader. Will only do that for a few books- only want to reread Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations in the near future because I loved those books, but could not figure out why I even liked them, so hoping that if I reread them- I will figure it out- so might read them at a slower pace next time.

    I already went through reading Les MisΓ©rables- the unabridged actually- already knowing the musical helped. Actually want to read it again, but read at a more slower pace

    Liked by 1 person

      1. As for the classics I have not read, I own 8 others- have to read those before doing a reread. My Les Mis book is underlined and has songs written in. I did not skip over anything- I don’t believe that while reading a book not a single page should be skipped over

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No, I don’t believe in skipping pages either (even those bits about the battle of Waterloo). That’s cool that you’ve linked the musical and the book together 😊


      3. My interpretation of the Les Mis characters is a combination of who they are in the musical plus who they are in the book plus a combination of the actors and actresses portrayals I have seen.

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