Thursday, March 20, 2014

BTT: About Re-Reading

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Deb at Booking Through Thursday wants to know this week if our habits of re-reading books (or not) has changed over time:

I’ve asked before if you re-read your books (feel free to recap), but right now I want to know if that habit has changed? Did you, for example, reread more as a child and your access to new books was limited by how often you could convince your mother to take you to the library? Has the economy affected your access so that you’re forced to reread more often now? Have you grown to look at old books as old friends so that you’re happy to spend time with them rather than rushing the next new thing? And, just to give you something to think about, here’s an interesting blog post about this very thing.

I’m pretty sure that I did re-read favourite books even more often back in childhood; both some that we had at home and some that I borrowed repeatedly from the library. But I still do it. Economy has never seriously restricted my access to books, as I’ve always been able to borrow from libraries. And in later years, modern technology has made access to a wide variety of books even easier. So when I re-read a book it’s not because there’s no alternative, but because I want to.

I’m 58 now but I still like to re-read (or listen to) both old and more recent favourites every now and then. I still enjoy re-reading certain old favourites from my childhood and teens, even though I know some of those stories almost by heart. Other titles I can suddenly decide to re-read because something makes me realize I don’t remember them, even though I know I did once read them. But I’ve also kept collecting new favourites along the way.

I think there are lots of books well worth diving into a second time, or more. Some books I may have read ten or fifteen times and would happily read again, because they’re well written and full of details to enjoy. (It’s really not much different from seeing a favourite film or TV-series again.)

However, re-reading a book you read a long time ago may sometimes bring surprises too, because even if the book has not changed (the letters and chapters all still there in the same order), your own experience has. So you may be seeing something quite different this time than you did last time.

… As I wrote that last paragraph, something just recently read kept nagging at the back of my head… I checked my Kindle highlights, and there it was. From Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen – new book which I’m currently reading and have not finished yet:

Once he’d asked, “Don’t you want to read? There are hundreds of books in the sitting room.”
  She had laughed and said, “I’ve read them all. I want to remember them the way they were. If I read them now, the endings will have changed.”
  He didn’t understand that, but then English hadn’t been his favourite subject.

Yes, there are books like that too – perhaps better just left on the shelf! (smile)

11 comments:

  1. I agree that our life experiences do change our feeling about a book when we reread it. Some of my childhood favorites seemed LESS wonderful than they were, while others seemed MORE wonderful. Funny thing, life experience.

    Here's MY BTT POST

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    1. I know what you mean, Laurel, about some childhood favourites standing the test of time more than well, and others not so much!

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  2. until I was 15 i had no access to library or books unless they were given as a gift. books were all i wanted if someone gave me a gift and they were read and re-read. as an adult I have several that I read maybe 4 times each over a period of 20 years... and i did see things i missed in the first reading. I do know that i tried to read Tarzan and the City of gold which is one i read dozens of times as a child and could not read it....i like the quote and it is true, we see it with different feelings than we had the first time... even the Bible is like that.

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    1. I agree Sandra. In my pre-teens I liked to read books like Famous Five and Nancy Drew, and trying to reread one or two of those later in life, I just found them tedious. Probably because there wasn't much development in the characters. While books like Little Women or Anne of Green Gables for example, fall into a whole different category.

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  3. There are several books that I've probably read ten or more times--sometimes you just want something comforting and familiar! There are whole passages from some books that I can quote from memory because I've read them so often!

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    1. I'm not sure I could quote whole passages from memory, but I'd like to think I could probably "reinvent" some of my favourites if, let's say, I got stranded on a desert island without neither books nor the internet...

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  4. Everything you say there about your own re-reading habits and experiences is what I'd say, Monica. I have not re-read as many books now than I used to, simply because I have a seemingly never-ending supply of books yet unknown to me, and keep thinking that I'll keep the re-reads for such times when I haven't got anything else to read - which somehow does not happen anymore :-)

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    1. I just went to read Bookmammal's post on the topic. She says that she often finds the urge to reread hits her when feeling stressed, overtired or ill; something which applies to me too. It's often when being tired that I prefer to reread (or re-listen to) old favorites rather than take on the challenge of a new story. Partly because it's kind of comforting and partly because it requires less concentration. :)

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  5. I love that quote - there are some childhood favourites that I'm tempted to re-read but I'm worried that it will spoil my memory of them. I don't re-read very often although I keep books for this very purpose!

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  6. I've read a handful of books more than once that I can recall. I read War and Peace in three different (but all English) translations. I've read CP Snow's Strangers and Brothers entire series three or four times and I have every intention of reading it again before I pop my clogs. Amongst other books I read Black Beauty and The Adventures of Pip many times as a young child but wouldn't want to read them now. Having said that I still have my original Wind in the Willows and might be tempted to read that again.

    Actually the more I think about it the more I realise that I've re-read more books than I at first thought when I started this comment. Hmmm.

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  7. Re-reading a book or re-watching a movie always seems to bring something out that I wasn't aware of the first time( or second time in some instances)...it's like you said, my experiences in life have a lot to do with my re-perception of the book/movie.
    Good thoughtful post Monica.

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