I have countless unread books littered around my room, dotting my bookshelves, and sitting dormant on my Kindle. I frequent the bookstore (I’m probably there at least once a week, intentionally or not) and find myself picking up new books on a whim. My Goodreads ‘to read’ list is comprised of over 500 books, novels, and short stories. And plays. And graphic novels. And poetry collections.
So why do I find myself stashing my favorite, crinkled-cover, page-worn, and spaghetti-stained book in my bag to read day after day?
To my credit, I did just finish reading two, new-to-me library books that I quite enjoyed. Yet while I have a variety of types, topics, and genres to choose from for my next read, I keep coming back to the same favored books that I’ve already read three, four, five times.
What makes rereading such a pleasurable, magical experience?
Part of it is a sense of nostalgia. I often pick up a book that I’ve already read because a whole barrage of memories, sentiments, is conjured up when I read those words on the page. I remember what it meant to me at a particular time, how a story resonated with me at a certain time of my life. Though the words remain the same, my reading of them changes every time I open the book. As I grow, a book takes on a whole new life, a whole new meaning.
Many times it’s out of comfort that I open a treasured book. Like a bowl of macaroni and cheese, or a favorite worn-out t-shirt, a book can be just as much of a comfort object. Sometimes I need to hear my favorite character’s quips, or draw strength from a hero. Sometimes I need to meander around the grey, dreary landscape too, or find magic in the everyday just as the protagonist does. Sometimes I need to just read something that warms my heart, and that gives plenty of comfort. I don’t think there’s a feeling in the world as comforting as wrapping yourself around a favored story for a few hours, nothing that provides as much peace of mind.
But what warrants what books are worth revisiting, even buying and thus adding to our permanent collection?
Honestly, a good story is worth rereading. No matter why you enjoy it, enjoyed it then, enjoy it now; if it puts a smile on your face or a thought in your head, it is worth rereading. It’s the same reason we buy and watch movies – to experience something again. Perhaps something fun, something thoughtful, something that allows you to empathize, or transports you to a different world. It’s the same reason I can’t pick a “favorite” anything – there are so many types of favorites! But whether I’m rereading a book to discover something I hadn’t before, to visit my favorite characters, to hear my favorite prose, or relive my favorite story, I’m loving every minute of it just as much as I would love reading something new and exciting.
Yes, I reread Harry Potter every year (my students were only slightly concerned for my well being when I told them this). Sometimes I crack open a book just to reread my favorite short story or poem, like an afternoon snack (Neil Gaiman’s The Day the Saucers Came, if you’re wondering). Should I tackle some of the unread books, classics and otherwise, that are collecting dust on my bookshelf? Probably. But some days, I am perfectly content visiting my favorite worlds, just to see how things are coming along.
Why do you reread books?