Coming Back To Our Favorites: Why Do You Reread a Book?
Posted by Melissa
Greetings, LHP Readers! After the holiday season, we are continuing our reposts on the best blog entries of 2013. This post was published by Melissa one year ago, a reminder of the best books we have read and we should keep rereading. This post has particular relevance to writers, for as we contemplate why books are worth rereading, we will hopefully apply the same criteria in our own writing.
Happy New Year, everyone! And because new things terrify me, I am going to be reflective instead. Reflective is deep, right?
I was talking with some friends about the joy that we take in watching some movies over and over and over again. Some movies just keep coming back out when people come over for a visit. Sometimes only a certain film will do for our particular mood. Sometimes, a movie simply provides a comforting, familiar background to whatever it is we are doing: writing, grading, cleaning, studying, etc.
For me and many others, rereading books can provide a similar solace, although books are much less a social thing and can certainly not be read at the same time as writing, grading, cleaning, or studying (unless you are especially talented, that is). So why do we reread books? Or rather, why do you reread a favorite book? Do you? I know some people will read a book, and then they are done with it. Some books aren’t worth a second read, to be sure.
These are some of the things I want to explore a bit more. In this post, I want to talk about familiarity. I think that one reason for rereading a book for many people comes down to the fact that you know it. A good book is a friend. It tells you a wonderful story and it is a reliable source of excitement, joy, and interest.
Knowing the Ending
Some people don’t understand the appeal of rereading a good book, particularly if it’s a mystery or otherwise surprising toward the end. Why read something when that initial surprise is gone? What’s the point if you know the ending?
Honestly, knowing the ending never bothers me when I reread. Perhaps it is because characters matter more to me than plot, but I don’t think that’s all of it.
Sometimes knowing the ending is a good thing. It allows you to focus on enjoying the experience of reading, the pleasure found in a good turn of phrase, and the well conceived setting and characters in the book. You don’t have to stress out about how it ends. You might even take some pleasure (you cruel, cruel person) in knowing what your characters do not. You know their fates.
Maybe that’s going a bit far. I don’t know. I find that knowing the ending when I start (so long as I discovered it for myself and it wasn’t ruined by someone before I got to it) doesn’t detract from a truly good story. A good book is a good book and will be a good book every time you come back to it.
Meeting Old Friends
The most comforting aspect of a good reread for me is that I feel like I am revisiting people that I have already gotten over the initial difficulties of meeting and getting to know. I don’t know about you, but I find meeting new people very stressful: that awkward stage when you have already exchanged names and now wonder what you have to say… that moment when you find out something about the other person that shocks or annoys you… that moment when all you really want to do is to figure out a good way to part company… Okay, so I like people, but I don’t like the meeting bit.
But after the first read, the heroes and heroines become my friends. I can enjoy the characters all the more because I know who they are. And I can continue to develop that friendship with the character more the second (and third, and fourth, and fifth…) time around.
And don’t tell me they’re not real people. They are.
I have one book that I read every year, usually in the summer. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett is historical fiction and my particular favorite. Every time I read it, I am drawn into the story again. I’ve read it over half a dozen times, but it doesn’t matter that I know every detail of the plot and I know what’s going to happen. What I love is re-experiencing the main character’s adventure. He’s an intimidatingly brilliant hero, but I feel like I know him pretty well by now, and I plan to keep renewing the acquaintance every year.
Next week, I think I’ll talk about what the experience of rereading can offer that is new, different, and ever-changing. Because that’s important too, you know.
But in the meantime, what do you think about rereading books? Do you enjoy it? Does it lose some of its magic once you know the ending? Do you feel connected to the characters or do they remain firmly affixed to the pages? Or are there simply too many good books to spare time for a reread?
About Melissagenerally in love with things Celtic, mythological, fantastic, sharp and pointy, cute and fuzzy, intellectual, snarky, cheerful, or some combination thereof. Such things as sarcastic bunnies wielding claymores might come to mind...
Posted on January 5, 2014, in Best of LHP, Books, Humor, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Melissa Rogers, Photography, Story and tagged books, dorothy dunnett, favorite books, game of kings, good books, New Year, reading, rereading. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.