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Monday, July 26, 2010

To Re-Read, or Not to Re-Read?

As a child, I used to reread books all the time. Sure, part of it was because I loved the books and I got more out of them on multiple readings, not to mention there's something comforting in rereading, like visiting with an old friend. As Ramona Quimby noted, I also had to reread a lot of my books because my parents would neither give me enough money to buy more, nor take me to the library often enough to replenish my stock, so frequently it was because I had nothing new to read.

Once I hit high school though, that problem stopped. Not only had my assigned school reading ballooned both in quantity of books and length, and my pocket money expanded thanks to lawn mowing and babysitting, but I also had more extra curriculars and socializing opportunities so reading time decreased. Immediately post-college while working at a bookstore (where I got a staff discount), I first starting having more books in my house than I would read. I'd buy several, read a couple, then buy more before I'd finished the first pile. I thought I'd catch up later. Haha! Doesn't everyone think that? This problem has now grown out of control as I have well more than 350 unread books in my house. So since college, I've not reread books (with one exception). There are too many books, and too little time for rereading!

My exception is normally at this time of year. In the middle of the summer when it's hot as blazes outside, I pick up The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Reading about the many blizzards makes it seem not quite as boiling hot. (And I can't stop with that one. I read through to the end of the series, the last four books, all in one day.)

Two years ago, thanks to Goodreads, at the end of the year I realized I was very close to reading a book a week. So I picked up the pace and managed to read 52 book! Last year I wanted to beat the year before, but not set the bar too high for this year. So when I got to 53, I wanted to stop. But it was mid-November. I wasn't going to not read anything for 6 weeks. So I decided to reread books (I only counted new books towards my annual number.) I have a bunch of my childhood favorites, so I read all the Ramona books, several Norma Kleins, and a few other assorted classics like Ballet Shoes and A Little Princess. And it was wonderful! I so enjoyed it! So I have continued rereading children's classics all this year.

But I still don't reread adult books. The only exception there is when a book for Book Club is one I read more than 10 years ago (Jane Eyre, The Good Earth.) Recently I watched the latest version of Emma from the BBC. I did love it, and I found afterwards I was discussing it with a friend and I said something about how it hewed more closely to the book than other adaptations. Then I paused. I read the book in 1994. How on earth could I remember it that well? Am I simply comparing the book to the other movies, and what other people who've read it more recently have said about it? I'll bet what I think are my memories of the book are very faulty at this point.

Around the same time, a friend mentioned she was rereading Gone With the Wind. I thought, wow I'd love to do that. I used to reread that book a lot until I got out of school. My copy is quite literally falling apart so I should probably get the pretty new edition too, even though I love my old ratty mass market held together with packing tape and paper clips. I'm also hoping this could maybe help me get back to reading a few more novels after my nonfiction binge of the last few months. So I'm thinking this fall I'll tackle three adult rereads: GWTW, Emma, and Pride & Prejudice, all of which I've not read since college. Which sadly, was a long time ago.

Do you reread books? Do you feel guilty that you are spending time on a book you've already read when you could be reading something new? What do you get out of rereading?

11 comments:

Chelle said...

I've got the same GWTW edition. It's a great cover but the book is chunky. I tried to read it a few summers ago and didn't get very far.

I'm usually the same way as you - why reread when there are so many new books I really really want to read. But a reread is fun and usually shows me something I missed the first time. I think it's good you make time for your favorites. I need to do that too.

Christy said...

I used to re-read quite a bit, but in more recent years, I can't seem to resist the siren call of what's new. That said, I think there is a lot of value in re-reading books, especially seeing how your older self reacts to a book compared to the younger self.

Btw, I saw the recent BBC adaptation of Emma last month and thought it was fantastic. The other versions I've seen had the handicap of being feature films, not mini-series, so it was more difficult for them to be faithful. Also, I think Romola Garai was a perfect cast for Emma - Beckinsdale & Paltrow were fine, but not quite on the mark, IMO.

Carin S. said...

I HATE the Gwenyth Palrow version of Emma. A few years ago some friends and I had a mini Emma-thon. We watched the Paltrow, Beckinsale, and Silverstone versions. Clueless was by far the most faithful to the book (which my friends were surprised by though I suspected as much before), and we were susprised when you watch them all together how awful the Paltrow version was. She was schizophrenic. She was super-nice one minute, then a raging bitch the next. Beckinsale's version was never super-nice, so her bitchy moments weren't out-of-left-field at all. She was a more believable character, whereas Paltrow's seemed to have multiple personality disorder.

Yes, I liked Garai very much. I still think Clueless might be better (except for having basically written out Jane Fairfax) but it's the best by far of the period movies.

Teresa said...

I love to reread, and I used to do it all the time, especially with children's books and classics. I fell out of the habit a few years ago and realized how much I missed it, so I started keeping a previously read book at the office to read on my lunch break. I've reread a good half-dozen books that way--just finished Howard's End today as a matter of fact!

Suzanne said...

The only re-reading I have done recently has been for book group discussions on books I've already read; each time I found myself liking the books even more the second time around (examples: The Lovely Bones, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society). I feel that I should re-read more of the books I claim as favorites (The Handmaid's Tale) just to make sure I still enjoy them; but like you said it is so hard to take time away from all of the new books!

Jeane said...

My reading habits have changed just like yours. I used to re-read a lot, but now my unread books pile up faster than I can get through them, so re-reads are rare. I do love them when I can fit them in, though. There's something so comforting about revisiting a loved book, and rediscovering things about it all over again.

Vicki said...

Yes, I re-read, and yes, sometimes I feel guilty for it. I almost always re-read a series when the newest release comes out, just to help me remember what's been going on and get me hyped up for the new book. I re-read other books when the mood hits, or for book clubs/discussions. I feel bad that there are SO many new releases I want to get my hands on, but I'm 'stuck' reading my current book. Even if the book is GREAT! Heh, not enough time.

Constance Reader said...

I am a natural speed reader (I read at least 3 books a week), and so I have to re-read or else I'd be broke. My perennial re-read faves are: Anne of Green Gables (I've read it close to 100 times, but I still find new things every time), GWTW, and everything by Jennifer Weiner. I just re-read Certain Girls and loved it just as much as the first time.

teadevotee.com said...

I wouldn't think of it as guilt for re-reading; more like an investment in a guaranteed good read! Unless they turn out not to be as good as you first thought: that is dreadful. I had that with a Joyce Carol Oates.

Carin S. said...

Teadevotee, that is a big fear of mine. I was worried with a bunch fo the childhood favorites that they wouldn't stand up. So far they pretty much all do with the one caveat that they all seem a whole, whole lot shorter than I remember. But that is why I won't be rereading Pat Conroy. I haven't liked his last 2 novels and I worry that the problem might not be that his writing has dropped off, but that I've outgrown him, and if I reread his earlier books that I adored, I might now find them maudlin and trite. So I'm not going to reread them.

Amanda said...

I tend to reread for emotional reasons. If I'm going through a particularly rough time and know a certain book will help, then I'll reread it.