Tuesday, September 15, 2015

On Rereading (Again, Probably)

The other day, one of my college professors mentioned that “All good reading is rereading.”

Admittedly, at the time we were talking about rereading a chapter from a book we read over the summer so we might better discuss it in class the next day. Even so, it also made me think about rereading in the sense of the things I like to read myself.

Many book bloggers I’ve known insist that they don’t reread because they want to read the new shiny books they haven’t gotten to yet. This has always been a little strange for me because I’ve always been of the opinion that most books you read are going to be mostly disappointing—like, seriously, kudos to you reviewers who can always find something nice to say about a book, because if it were me discussing a book I disliked, I’d probably end up saying, “Well, they got all the page numbers in the right order!”

It is not much of a compliment.

Anyway, that’s me. I expect dullness and repetitiveness from the books I’m about to read, and a lot of times they prove me right.

via Goodreads
Take, for example, my current audiobook: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I’ve heard such good things about this series, but for the first 80% of the book I was getting kind of bored with the “Virginian Artemis Fowl and eccentric everygirl get frustrated with their friends and seek a prophesied magical boon” shtick. It’s a very funny book, don’t get me wrong, and the ending is more exciting than the beginning.

Still, there were times when I would try to escape from the story by listening to the radio because I was bored and there was no promise of Noah or Adam in the immediate future (and they are, by the way, such sweeties). If I was reading a paper copy, I’m not sure I would finish it.

Many people I respect love this book (my best friend and sister included), but I’m having trouble seeing myself rereading this book. Definitely three stars, emotionally gratifying, and character-driven, but maybe not something into which I could reinvest my time.

I like books I can study.

via Goodreads
I mean, as Mary Sue as Harry Potter is, I think that’s why so many people are drawn to it—what Harry lacks in personality, the story has in profundity. Shall we discuss mythological allusions? Name meanings? The “Hero’s Journey”? Latin? Character histories? All the foils between the previous generation, the present, and even the future? Complex relationships? The Ministry of Magic as a Marxist entity? Voldemort as a Hitler figure? Fairy tale elements? Harry Potter’s parallel to Jesus Christ? Harry, Dumbledore, Voldemort, and Snape reliving the Peverell story? Color and animal symbolism within the houses? Prejudice towards the previously evil? Forgiveness? Cultural diversity? Werewolves paralleling LGBTQ+ people in our world? War, death, and suffering messages? The shades of gray (or lack thereof) in morality? Anything related to fan fiction?

Go on Tumbr—people have so much to say about Harry Potter. You could write books about the amount of worldbuilding J.K. Rowling put into that story. Actually, there are college courses offered based on the Harry Potter series! You get something new out of that series every time you read it, and that makes the story better.

Now, I don’t think my professor meant that you can’t enjoy a book you read only once. Of course you can! I can think of a lot of romance novels that would have been financial flops if that weren’t the case…

But there’s something to be said about “getting” something from a story first reads can’t provide. I mean, you wouldn’t publish the first draft of your novel, would you? Likewise, when it comes to the symbolic, thematic, and global perspectives of a book, you can’t completely explore them with just one read.

Of course, that’s not the defining character of a book. The Raven Boys isn’t the kind of book you’ll be able to discuss critically in college course someday. But at least for me, it does end up being kind of disappointing when you can determine a book’s significance before even finishing it.

How often do you reread books? Do you prefer to read books you can study, or would you rather eat all the books instead?


  1. Interesting post! I kind of have a middle stance: I don't reread often because I /need/ to read ALL THE BOOKS. However, I do love to reread my favorites, and every once in a while, I'll make time for that. Like you said, it is super cool to find the little tidbits and nuggets of symbolism, theme, and character development that just don't jump out at you the first time around.

    Again, cool post! :)


    1. *nods* And I can sort of understand that concept, even though I can't... BUT STILL. I love finding those nuggets, as you said. They make me all the happy.

  2. I reread books ALL THE TIME. Like, right now, my TBR consists of about 20% new books and 80% books I want to reread. Normally the reread percentage is even a little higher. I always get so much more from books the second and third time and so on. Of course, it all depends on the book. Some novels just flop the second time through, and my appreciation of them lowers. But I really enjoy the books you can study and study--like, they just seem to grow bigger and bigger the longer you look at them. Those are the best kind of books. I mean, honestly, what's the point of owning a story if you don't make it your own, if you don't invest your time into it? And stories, for me, work well as scrapbooks. I remember everything I was thinking and feeling all the other times I've read it, so it's a way to take a peek at my younger self and see how my perceptions have changed over time.

    It's funny, because I had actually partially drafted a post on rereading books, but you've said everything better than me, so I'll probably lay that idea to rest. Unless I come up with another facet of the pro-rereading argument. (I just didn't want you to think I was stealing this idea, or anything. And if you'd prefer it if I didn't write a post on rereading so soon, just let me know and I'll hold off. :P)

    1. *high fives* You and me both! Books can kind of suck, unfortunately, but I tend to have a knack for what I like these days, at least while I'm in a phase. Books you can study, though? You described them so perfectly. And right? There's no point in collecting books if they're all just going to sit there. Also, the scrapbook thing? That's lovely, and I think I do the same.

      Well, there is always room for more discussion in the blogosphere. I'd love to hear your thoughts on rereading! Go at it, for all you are worth!

  3. I love rereading. Rereading is like being with friends you've known forever, and you don't get any nasty surprises. I'm totally with you. And yes, I've reread harry potter about 3 times, depending on the book (I've only read the 6th once or twice, because it wasn't as good). While rereading does reduce your 'number of books read' quota, it is also good. I often see so much more when rereading (this is a poor example, but when I was about 10, I read Calvin and Hobbes. It was funny. Now I go back and read the collections, and I'm like 'this is HILARIOUS. My younger self didn't get it at all'. I guess this is kind of like saying you're going to see a little of every country, rather than deeply knowing your own, or at least a few, or going to the moon or mars when we don't even know what's at the bottom of the ocean or under our ice caps. ~Shar

    1. Right? It's just joy and joyness with familiar pain which I think is better than unfamiliar pain. And you're right! You gain new insights with age, and that's part of the reason why I now understand why The Princess Bride is one of the best movies ever made. XD That's also an interesting argument, and I hadn't thought of it, but yes! If we don't know what we already have, should we look for things we don't know if we have?


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