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!