Books are one-time things.

ReReadI almost always read books to their very end; yet at the same time, I almost never reread them. I often feel surprised when I come across someone who has a book or two that they read time and time again. I heard a fan of Jane Eyre say they read the book fifteen times, and my only reaction to that was, “How can you do that? Don’t you get… well, bored?”

I love books as much as the other bibliophile and I do have some favourites, but even those I can’t picture myself reading so often. I can read a book twice, or three times if I really love it, but even then I wait for long stretches of time before I even think about giving it a second spin. My shelves are crammed with books I haven’t read in years because they are still fresh in my head. I can remember almost every detail about them and as such I don’t feel the need to read them again. In a way I’m a bit of a paradox – I can’t not finish a book, yet I can’t be bothered to finish it a second time.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s silly or stupid for people to do that. I just don’t understand the idea behind it. Some favourites of mine like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (my favourite HP book), Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About,Β Little WomenΒ and David Copperfield I’ve read more than once. However, they lost their novelty with the second read, my eyes glazed over and I start skipping pages to get to the parts I like best.

Comic books and manga novels are exempt from this because I like to go back and look at all the art and the things I didn’t catch the first time. One might argue that, similarly, I might have missed out on some things while reading a book. That’s true, I might’ve missed a sentence or two, but I doubt that I missed something so significant that could possibly alter my perception of the book or my general understanding of it.

What do I do then? I move on to new books. There are so many books I want to read, and I recognize that time spent re-reading and growing closer to a book is time I could’ve spent getting acquainted with a new one. I suppose I could save myself a lot of money and just borrow books, but I just love the way they appear on my shelves. Of course… the result is that I soon run out of shelf space, haha.

On an entirely different but semi-related note, I don’t mind re-watching movies and some TV shows. There are some that I’ve watched countless times (Home Alone, A Walk to Remember, Wall-E, You’ve Got Mail, Lord of the Rings, Click, Scrubs, Friends, etc) and yet I willingly sit and watch again if they’re on TV.

Do you re-read books (or re-watch movies)? Is there a particular book you always find yourself returning to? πŸ™‚

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51 thoughts on “Books are one-time things.

  1. I re-watch movies but don’t re-read books…
    I mean , not so often.
    I like re-visiting the classics I read in my youth , just to “see “them with my grown-up judgement , otherwise I prefer new stuff…
    I’m hungry of new books ,really!
    Ciao , Zen

  2. I never reread books, because there are so many new ones I want to read. Until now, that is. I’m rereading Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ in anticipation of his sequel to it coming out this September (‘Doctor Sleep’). I read it so long ago that I wanted a refresher. Plus, I wanted to see if it still scared me. So far, it hasn’t. Guess I’ve developed some thick skin over the decades…

    • Haha, well, if it’s any comfort, all writers are mad to some extent! And I care a lot about my books. Even if I’m not reading them, I like to keep them in a pristine condition. πŸ˜€

  3. I will solve this conundrum for you. The answer is: memory. You have an excellent memory, therefore you don’t need to re-read books because you remember them perfectly. Whereas I have a God-awful memory, meaning I can re-read a book once a year and forget enough of the details to make the re-reading experience almost as awesome as the first time I read it. I don’t forget the books on purpose, obviously, and if I re-read a book enough times the details eventually stick and I just skip, like you said, to the best parts … but on the whole, I think the re-reading vs. non-re-reading thing all boils down to how good your memory is.

    • You make an excellent point! I can tell you almost everything that happened in any given book I’ve read, so if I read it again, it feels like I’m… spoiling… it for me somehow? It’s great that your second reading is just as awesome as the first though. πŸ˜€

      • And third … and fourth … and fifth πŸ˜€ Honestly, as long as I leave a year or more gap between readings, I’m usually good with re-reading over and over until I get to like the seventh or eighth re-read. Then I need to put the book aside for more like 5 years, to give my brain time to … re-charge or something, lol. It is possible that I am a robot.

        • That’s a lot of rereads! Any particular book you go for? And haha, I’m pretty sure a robot wouldn’t be as fun as you are! πŸ˜‰

        • πŸ˜€ Hmmm … I’ve re-read Harry Potter a lot, although not recently. I’ve re-read the Xanth series four or five times. Same with the Sword of Truth series. Game of Thrones … I think I just finished the third re-read. Ender’s Game I think I’ve read at least 20 times.

        • It’s awesome that you’re a fan of Ender’s Game! =D I think that that’s one book worth the reread, if only to look at Ender’s “battles” from a whole new light.

        • Yes! Very good point. Books with twists like that definitely deserve a second read through. I was going to watch The Sixth Sense a second time for that very reason, but then I remember that I hate M Night Shyamalan because he ruined The Last Airbender and couldn’t bring myself to do it.

        • I’ve never watched The Last Airbender cartoon; however, I did catch snippets of the movie and didn’t like it. So if a non-fan would dislike it, it’s not surprising that a fan would hate it!

        • The cartoon was amazing. The movie … dear lord. You know how there are book-to-movie adaptations you go to see because you enjoyed the book and want to see it brought to life, even though you know it’s not going to be very good? This was not one of those movies. This movie was like they took the original cartoon, used a bad internet translator to translate the plot summary into German, hired an eight year old kid semi-fluent in both English and German to translate it back, and then just totally ignored the summary and did whatever the heck they wanted.

        • Hahaha, that’s an interesting way of summing it up, but I think I do know what movies you’re talking about! I may just have to watch the cartoon to see how they compare. πŸ˜€

  4. I sympathize with the feeling that there are just SO many books and I want to devour ALL of them *nomnomnom*. But there are also a few precious books that I reread, for different reasons. Like many, I reread the Harry Potter books before a new one was about to come out, and that was mostly a memory thing, as Ms. Proulx pointed out. But I find that I don’t often read books for “novelty,” and so I’m not bored by the thought of reading a story I already know. I’m that person who rereads Jane Eyre, because the characters are so dear to me that I sometimes find that I miss them, and because that book achieved a level of mood in setting that I have yet to encounter again. I’ve known pretty much every spoiler for the Song of Ice and Fire books since I read the second one, but the third book – A Storm of Swords – was still an absolute thrill to read because of the language in the action and the characterization.

    I’m not just in books for the plot points. I read for the unique twists of language and to watch a character slowly unfurl a chapter at a time. Maybe it’s the writer/crow in me who is always looking for shiny little things to pick up.

    • Thank you for your reply. You give a nice explanation for the reason behind rereading. I definitely know what you mean by missing certain characters; however, sometimes that’s not enough to make me want to read their books again. That, and as you said, there are so many books out there that need to be devoured! πŸ˜€

  5. I find re-visiting a story and world fun and relaxing, there is something in comforting in going along the ride, and reminiscing on the first trip, and watching for new details.
    The down side is the plethora of new material being produced daily that grabs our attention. It’s like trying to visit old friends, but continually meeting new ones along the way.

    • That’s an interesting analogy, and it definitely fits. πŸ˜€ However, I prefer to cherish those old friends in memory and get to know some new ones… while forgetting about those who were horrible or failed to grab my attention. πŸ˜‰

  6. I’ve read the Harry Potter series at least 5 times, simply because it really does take you to another world. J.K. Rowling’s writing-style in this series is never boring to go back to. Another book which is similar is Memoirs of a Geisha. OMG, this is one book I would go back to anytime (already did 5 times). I think its the best well-written book I’ve read so far.
    “The Stranger’s Child” = the only book which I gave up on because simply… you can read my review on goodreads ( http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/295218781 )

    • You know, I’ve never read Memoirs of a Geisha. I keep seeing it on shelves, but for some reason I just avoid it. xD I may have to pick it up next time I’m in a bookstore.

  7. I do re-watch films more than I re-read books but I have read my favourite Pride and Prejudice a lot and Twilight too. I think sometimes I’m in the mood for something that I know the ending and have really enjoyed.

    • That’s a pretty good reason for rereading! I know that sometimes when I read a book and end up disappointed with it, I wish it was more like some other fantastic book I read. And sometimes I do pick up a book hoping it’s more like another one.

  8. I love rereading my favorite books but I don’t have your wonderful memory, Zen, so some of the passages feel quite new to me at times πŸ™‚ And sometimes it’s interesting to reread a book that marked me at a certain time in my life – to see if it still does, or to see how it affects me differently.

    I love watching old movies again and again too – it’s funny how we love to do that, isn’t it? πŸ™‚

    • Well that’s a good thing! There are some books I would like to read again, but then I realise I remember everything about them, so there would be no point to removing them from their shelves. 😦
      And yes! It’s always fun to watch old movies again. =D

  9. As an adult, I haven’t read very many books a second time, but I read my favorites many times over as a youngster. I do admit to watching favorite movies over and over and over again. A favorite movie when I’m sick or even just surfing and/or blogging is nice to have on as it is entertaining but doesn’t need my full attention.

    • You know, when I was younger I did re-read books… only because I went through mine very quickly and didn’t have as many books as I do now. πŸ˜‰ And that’s a very good point about the benefits of rewatching old movies. =D

  10. I have been re-reading – books I read years ago – i.e. Catch 22, The Magus (still one of my favorites) & enjoying them as an adult. Also my folks kept many of the books I read in my early-teen: Hardy Brothers, Tom Swift etc. & I’ve read through a lot of them too – helps to see where my writing roots really came from –

    • I keep meaning to read Catch 22. I’ve heard it’s a great piece of literature, so I’m waiting until I’m in the right mood to read it. The Hardy Boys were awesome! I read any book I could get my hands on, haha.

  11. I don’t reread books, mostly because I’ve got something else that I want to read waiting for me. The only reason why I would ever reread a book is so that I can critically analyse it (which is the case for me sometimes regarding my studies), but even then it is very hard.

    I suppose I will eventually reread books that I haven’t read in ages, such as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, just so that I can read it with “newer” and more “mature” eyes, and so that I can remember what happened in those pages.

    What I find myself doing sometimes is when there is a book that I absolutely love, such as Patrick Ness’ “The Knife of Never Letting Go”, I usually have a passage or part that I keep reading over and over because that particular moment is just so amazing! The risk in doing this however is that the more you read a passage, the less (even if it’s gradual) effective that passage is.

    Sometimes I’m scared to reread a book, because I’m scared that the book won’t be as awesome as it was the first time around. Rereading makes you more aware of the mistakes that are made, even if those mistakes are insignificant, and might ruin it. This, however, is mostly just paranoia and I haven’t really reread many books before, so I can’t confirm if this is true. I hope it’s not true.

    • I’m glad there’s someone who shares my point of view regarding this! Yes, there are too many books out there for a person to reread something that has already been read and done.
      And I understand that fear. There are some books I loved when I was younger that I’m not sure I would enjoy now. But for your sake I hope it’s not true, otherwise it would really suck. =[

  12. I used to read books avidly and only once. I was surprised to discover that some authors don’t like to read their own books. I believed I was doing the same because of my journalistic background. I changed since I started to write in English. When I find a book I really like, I can read it again and again. This is because I am too fascinated by the writing to mind the same plot and characters.

    • I’m one of those authors. I feel like if I read my book again I’ll start picking at all the imperfections and want to take it down and edit it all over again. Such a daunting thought. It’s great that you are able to read the book time and time again, but for me the plot and characters take precedence!

  13. I think re-reading brings a lot of enjoyment, but my problem is my mind wanders so much that it takes too long to get through anything once, and I usually value reading something else for the first time more than reading something for the second time. But if reading speed is not a problem for you, I would suggest you go back and pick out your favorite book or two and see what you think about the re-reading experience. I bet it’ll feel different.

    • The problem I’m having right now is lack of time. It takes me much longer to finish a book because I’m usually too busy to sit down and read, so the most I can do is sneak a few pages per day, and I’d rather read new pages than old ones. 😦

      • Totally get that. I feel the same way most of the time. Maybe in the future you will have a little bit more time, and it will make more sense to re-read because you will have gotten to everything there ever was once already. (Smirk emoticon).

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