Tuesday, February 21, 2012

To Read or Reread?


Do you ever finish a great book and swear that you’re going to reread it? I do this all the time. I have lists and piles of never-been-touched books waiting to be cracked open and read, books I can hardly wait to read. But I also have lots of great novels that I am itching to reread. One pass is not good enough for a fabulous book. There is so much more that can be harvested. Yet, other than rereading To Kill a Mockingbird countless times, I haven’t gone back to all the wonderful novels that I want to reread. I already know that I love the plots and characters. And I know that I’ll learn more, as a writer, by rereading. Every time I revisit To Kill a Mockingbird, I close the novel with deeper insights into character and character development, motivation, voice, subplots . . . So why haven’t I reached for The Help, The Harry Potter books, Speak, The Book Thief, (and more) a second time? Because I’m always tempted by the fresh, new reads. Also, there are only twenty-four hours in a day, which is really inconvenient. Sigh
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Last weekend an article on this very topic snagged my attention. According to “Why Books and Movies Are Better the Second Time,” by Natalie Wolchover, research reveals that people like to reread books to find deeper layers of significance in the material while also reflecting on their own growth through the already familiar book. Apparently rereading a book or revisiting a movie is often a search for new meaning in a therapeutic sort of way because the readers self-reflect. Revisiting enables them to achieve an understanding of their past and present situations. Okay, but I would add that revisiting great novels also enables writers to learn more about an author’s style, technique, and expertise.


By the way, here’s a link to that article if you’d like to read more: http://bodyodd.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/17/10437789-why-books-and-movies-are-better-the-second-time


Do you reread your favorite novels? If so, how does the reading experience differ the second and even third time?



I’m off to revisit my bookshelves. If I can somehow make it past that pile of shiny new books.

59 comments:

  1. There are some novels that I have read multiple times, but I think I did most of my re-reading before I started writing much more seriously, so I think I'll get something very different out of them now than I did then. I do know that I pick new things out of movies much more on second (or third, etc.) viewings than the first time. Some of that I guess is just the 'fresh eyes' thing, but some of it is also likely because I'm not 'distracted', for lack of a better word, by what's going on. In other words, I'm not as caught up in trying to follow the story, so I can notice things I didn't catch the first time around.

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    1. That makes perfect sense, JeffO, for both movies and books.

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  2. I think what I tend to do is re-read my favourite bits of books - rather than the whole thing. And if the book is really sad, I can't bring myself to re-read it again esp. when I know what the end is!

    Oh but films - films I can definitely watch over and over and over again and find new meaning, see things I've missed and gain new insights.

    Very interesting post, thank you!

    Take care
    x

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    1. Re-reading bits of books... that's so interesting. I like that idea, Old Kitty.

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  3. I love re-reading books. When I have time. I know what you mean about having too many new books to re-read the old ones. :P Thanks for stopping by my blog! It's nice to *meet* you! ;)

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  4. I reread most books. Always better the second time around.

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  5. I've always been big on rereading. My favorite read is usually the second time, when the book is still fresh, but I don't have the anxiety of worrying about what's going to happen!

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    1. And you reread while the original read is still fresh. That I have never done, Jenn, but it make sense.

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  6. Oooh, thanks for this link. :) I LOVE to re-read books but then my TBR pile is HUGE and I haven't been able to re-read as many books as I would like. I plan to make an effort this summer though. I always learn so much writing wise when I re-read a book that I love. It's different from movies, I just re-watch for pleasure. For books, it's learning craft.

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    1. Exactly why I think I need to reread more, Karen--to learn more about craft.

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  7. I reread a lot of books because I'm super picky about what I read. I'm famous for starting a book and not finishing it. But if I do finish it, it usually goes into the reread pile. I like having my go-to books when I'm running out the door to a doctor's appointment or when I know I'll be waiting a while.

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    1. Having go-to books ready and within reach is a huge plus, Emily. I always need to have a book with me when I'm running out the door. Every free moment is a chance to read.

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  8. I have several novels that I reread from time to time. To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorites since I was young.

    Rereading is kind of like listening to your favorite song - over and over.

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  9. As a child I used to read and reread favorite books. Now my TBR list is so long, I try not to. Though I am slowly revisiting faves from childhood. A few months ago I reread The Outsiders & That Was Then, This is Now by SE Hinton. Loved it all over again. I also want to reread To KIll A Mockingbird and A Wrinkle in Time.
    I do agree that you catch things you missed the first read around!

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    1. Oh, I love The Outsiders. That's another one to add to my reread list, Kelly.

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  10. I have a super short attention span, so I usually don't re-read books. I already know how the story ends, and that keeps me from doing this. BUT...I re-read one book, because I loved it so much. It was Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, which was lots of fun for a Mr. Darcy fan like me.

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    1. I can understand how losing the element of surprise and discovery would take away from the reading experience, Julie.

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  11. I have a list of about 15-20 books that I reread periodically. In fact, I am planning on re-reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series again this year at some point. Some, like those I reread for pure pleasure and others I reread more to observe the craft of writing and remind myself of what I am striving toward!

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  12. If I could read faster... I would reread more. Nut theres always so many. New books I need to read!

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    1. Ah, I also wish I could read faster, Michelle. Or find more hours in the day. : )

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  13. There has only been a handful of books I've read a second time and the ONLY book I've read three or more times is Lord of the Rings.

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    1. Interesting, Lynda. I'd love to hear what you think about the movie version.

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  14. Every once in a while I'll reread something, but not often. If I had more time and less availability to books, there are several that would be very well worn.

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    1. It's always about the time for me, too, Carol.

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  15. I absolutely agree that (most) books are better the second time around. Some more so than others, but if it was worth the first read, it'll be worth a second. The first time, you're just reading to see what happens next. You don't spot the scenery, flavor, nuances, things hidden in plain sight. Jo Rowling is wonderful that way. For me, every time I read the books again (especially after a new book had been released) I found there was so much more going on than I'd realized the first time. Each new book helped to bring out all the hidden treasures.

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  16. I do occasionally reread a favoritie book - it's always like revisiting a good friend.

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  17. I'm a fast reader, so I do like to go back and re-read certain books, especially longer, more complex ones such as the Outlander series or Song of Ice and Fire series. I'm able to catch details I may have missed, connect dots I didn't see earlier, and study writing, characters, story structure, etc.

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    1. And that is why we should all be rereading, I think. : )

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  18. I have been a serial rereader all my life. Only in the last 3 years have I been doing that far less, as I know so much more about all these great new books coming out. :)

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  19. Exactly, Lydia--the temptation of the shiny new book. : )

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  20. I'm so behind on my TBR list as it is. I only reread certain books. I've read/listened to the HP books countless times and always find new details and meanings. I'll reread books with my kids sometimes, like HUNGER GAMES. I should reread others like you mentioned - THE BOOK THEIF being one, it's just tough to find the time!

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    1. Well, you're ahead of me, Lisa. I have yet to reread HP, although I keep meaning to. ; )

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  21. Lisa, I agree. I'm way behind on my TBR list as well. And yet I find myself wanting to re-read Harry Potter. I must have read the first 3 books at least seven times each!

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  22. I always mean to re-read. I just rarely seem to! It's that shiny pile of books I haven't read, just like you.

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  23. I do love to reread certain books, especially books in a series (even if my TBR pile is out of control). I'm currenly rereading The Hunger Games. Hmmm. I wonder why? :)

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    1. I need to follow in your footsteps, Stina. Enjoy your rereading.

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  24. I've re-read a few books, and I do find deeper meaning the 2nd, 3rd, 4th time around. I love it when I discover something new, notice something I didn't notice the first time around, and have old territory become deeper and more familiar. I only wish I had more time to re-read my favorites.

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    1. Exactly, Medeia--time. Where can we find more of it?

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  25. I've reread Harry Potter as a marathon, and I'm about getting ready to do it again. But I seldom reread. I've reread When you Reach Me and loved it just as much the second time. I reread The Westing Game and didn't, which was a huge surprise to me. I reread some old Nancy Drews just to relive my childhood. :) But mostly, I do not reread.

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    1. I have to reread the Happy Potter books from start to finish. Thanks, Marcia.

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  26. I used to reread all the time when I was a reader, not a writer. But as a writer, I think I got into the habit of feeling that I had to consume as many books as I could to stay current with the market.

    I really should reread fiction, because I won't get as caught up in the story and I can pay more attention to the writing!

    Angela

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    1. Interesting how your reading habits changed as you shifted from being more of a writer than a reader, Angela. Great comment.

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  27. Isn't it funny...I only have a handful of books I've EVER read more than once, but I really love watching movies over and over again. I'm not sure what that means!

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    1. Well, Carol, I'm guessing that it means that you have an impressive to-be-read pile of new books. : )

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  28. That makes total sense! I think when you already know what's going to happen you can read for more depth. It's also nice when you know you like the book, so you're not constantly wondering if the author will let you down. Or maybe that's just me, because I'm a picky reader?

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    1. I don't think it's just you, Caryn. : ) Once that initial read is done, certain questions are answered. Then, we can focus on other elements of writing during a second (third, fourth. . .) read.

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  29. Like you, I always think that I'm gonna reread books that appeal to me, but don't usually have that second read. Too many other books calling for my attention, I find.

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  30. I used to reread books, but now there just aren't enough hours in the day. Darn 24-hour rule!

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    1. I hear you, Susan. If only we could steal of few extra hours from somewhere.

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  31. I've read the Fleet series by Jack Campbell (real name John Hemry). After I finished each one, I would immediately read it again, they thrilled me so much. I can't say the second reading gave me anything more; but I enjoyed each one as much the second time.

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  32. Well, as long as you enjoyed them, right, Mark? : )

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