That is the Question

So the other day, Bart’s cousin Laura left a comment asking about book titles and mentioned that she never reads a book twice. This comment has been rolling around in my head all week.

I love rereading books – I like catching things I didn’t catch the first time around, I like cementing the story and characters more firmly in my head (is there anything more embarassing than when someone asks you about a book that you’ve read but you can’t remember more than a few insignificant details about it? This makes me crazy), and I like returning to a familiar book that I loved. I feel most comfortable recommending a book I’ve read multiple times – I know it. I am confident about what is in it.

But . . . .there is is so much good stuff to read out there. And every book I reread means there is a book out there I will not get to. Books are, technically finite, but the number is SO far beyond the time I have to read, that there might as well be an infinite number of books. I mentioned a while back that my mom sent me two huge boxes of my old books. I’m dying to pull some of them out and reread them. And yet. . . my library stack is bursting with new and fascinating titles. To read something old or new (borrowed or blue? Why am I so lame?)

How do you balance this? Why cannot I not read FASTER and with better retention (I read quite quickly and my retention is fairly good, yes, but it could be SO much better)? Alas. Life is full of decisions.

Speaking of comments about books, I absolutely loved the comment that Grover left. That guy is brilliant:

I figure people who are asking you for book advice aren’t really sincere about reading; they’re just enjoying the taste of the idea that maybe they would read books. It’s jealousy really, the same as when someone says, “Will you teach me to play guitar too?”

The real answer to their question is “Go read something, anything. If you want to read, just read.”

But of course I’d never say that to someone who asks for a book recommendation. But I will admit I might think it.

Similar Posts


  1. I completely agree with you about re-reading books. I frankly can’t understand why people can re-watch a movie again and again, but feel it’s weird to re-read a book. I love curling up with one of my old favorites. I just did this the other day in fact. I didn’t have any library books so I picked up Eclipse. I loved it even more the second time around and it made me want to re-read other favorites like Beauty.

  2. I don’t think I have EVER re-read a book, for the exact reason that you talked about. My time is limited and there is SO much good stuff out there. I also don’t like to watch a movie twice. And my retention is absolutely horrible. If you ask me today about a movie I saw yesterday, likely I won’t remember most of it. But I’m okay with that. I just enjoy them in the moment and then move on to something new.

  3. I think the Grover comment is funny and insightful but also totally misses the point of how valuable book recommendations actually are.

    Since this whole blog is based partly on the idea that discussing and recommending books is valuable,

    Like you said, the proportion of the world’s literature that we can read in our short life is tiny. For that reason it would be pretty sad if we had to “just read.” So we do better than that. We act as filters for each other and help each other find only the best books.

    I generally have to see a book strongly recommended from a few places and then I seek it out and put it on the list. For that reason I’ve been blessed with a long stream of great books.
    Thanks for your efforts on those lines.

  4. It’s like Christmas to me to go back to an old favorite. It’s not even necessarily that I want to find things I missed or any good reason like that–it’s that I want the feelings that I had while reading the book. Harriet the Spy helped me feel like it was okay to be myself as a teenager, I Capture the Castle makes me feel creative, and Peace Like a River just makes me want to be a better person. THAT’s why I reread.

  5. I fall in the category of re-reading books, but I haven’t done that in a while. Maybe I should pick up The Giver for the thirtieth time. (Literally, I’ve read it AT LEAST twenty times).

    I also like to watch movies over and over and over and over. Whereas, Eric will say “We just watched that movie,” and I’ll say, “Yes, two years ago!” Just my preference, I suppose.

  6. Like you I also read fairly quickly, but unfortunately I have horrible retention. It’s not that I don’t understand and think about what I read while I’m reading it, it’s just that my mind gets full of other information so quickly and the book’s details are pushed into some recess of the brain. I love discussing books–in a class, a book club. That always helps me remember more because I’m forced to synthesize, evaluate, and analyze more than I would when reading on my own.

    I’m with the camp that there is so much out there to read, it’s hard to spend time re-reading something. Yet there are those old favorites (Wuthering Heights, Little Women, A Tale of Two Cities, etc.) that I’ve read over and over–usually when I don’t have access to anything new but want to be reading something.

  7. I’m not sure if I’ve ever re-read a book before. There are so many books out there that I haven’t read and should, including about fifty books on my bookshelf that I have purchased and never read. 🙂

  8. To Mr. Douglas:

    Of course you are right, if we are speaking between readers. And since everyone who seems to read this blog is actually a reader, let the recommendations flow.

    I was speaking more specifically to those who don’t read and ask for recommendations anyway. Those who think that maybe if you prescribe a really good book they might actually read the whole thing. To them I say, “Go read anything. Anything at all. Read the first book that you are interested in, no matter if it’s David Copperfield or Car Care for Dummies. If you get bored and can’t continue, skip it and go to the next book. The point is to read, then to read well.

    I have a friend who, jealous of me I think, tried to read Harry Potter 1 because he knew it was easy and interesting. And yet after a whole year he hadn’t made it through the book. Then one day he picked up Watership Down by chance and read the whole thing. Go figure.

    I am a voracious rereader. My thoughts on rereading:

  9. I rarely reread because with work (read all the time) and the stack of pleasure reading I want to get to (ginormous) I just don’t have the time to reread. Although there have been two books I’ve read more than twice, The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing and Wasted. I could read these every day.

    I also will eventually reread One Hundred Years of Solitude. I claim it’s my favorite but I need to refresh my knowledge of it to continue that claim.

  10. I struggle with this, too. I have books I love and have re-read multiple times over the course of my life. But lately I have so many books in my TBR stack that even when an old favorite calls to me from the shelf, I gently tell it to wait until I have more time. I think the real answer would be to quit my job, and just read all day. But it’s not very feasible…

  11. I love to reread books, but find the allure of new (to me) books to be too strong. Because I’ve started to miss some old favorites, and forget details of some stories, I’ve actually made a list of books I want to reread so that I would be motivated to do it. I figure I have room in my reading schedule for a couple rereads a year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *