I re-read an awful lot. So far, about sixty percent of the books I’ve read this year have been re-reads.
Some of the members of a Facebook readers group I recently joined say that they don’t re-read at all, either because they’ve never felt like it (I can’t imagine this), and also because doing so would mean having less time for books they haven’t read.
Yes, I suppose it does seem like a waste of time to re-read a book you’ve read more than ten times before when there are dozens of books waiting on your to-be-read shelf/sidetable. But … in a way, always picking new titles over old, familiar ones is almost like not seeing old friends because you just want to keep on meeting new people.
OK, I know that you won’t hurt the feelings of books if you don’t re-read them, but, for me at least, re-reading an old favourite is as enjoyable, comforting and inspiring as any reunion with an old, beloved and missed friend. How could you not want to re-read a book that gave you pleasure, made you happy, brought comfort, or inspired you? In this way, re-reading, to me, is more important than reading new books.
While I enjoy trying new authors and books, and while it’s a thrill to read something for the first time and find I love the story and the writing style, it still doesn’t beat the pleasure I get from those books that I keep coming back to. (Sometimes you know that a book you’re reading for the first time is going to be one that you’ll re-read, again and again, and that is really the highest compliment I can pay a book.)
Until very recently, I was somewhat bothered that the number of new books I read per-year has dwindled over the last five or so years. But now I think ‘Who cares?’ Am I in a race with anyone? No. After all, the primary reason I read is to have a good time: Am I still having a good time? Yes.
This year, I’ve done two big re-reads: Nine of Antonia Forest’s twelve Marlow books; and all the Barbara Pyms I own, which means twelve of her thirteen published novels.
I’ve just started a re-read of selected Diana Wynne Jones books: Finished Hexwood, and am currently reading The Time of the Ghost (which was my introduction to DWJ in 1986) and Unexpected Magic (which is not really a re-read because I’ve previously read only two or three of the stories).
I would like to re-read the following at some point this year:
Ursula K LeGuin’s Earthsea books, including the short stories.
A Degree of Mastery: A Journey through Book Arts Apprenticeship by Annie Tremmel Wilcox.
Garrett Freymann-Weyr’s My Heartbeat and Stay With Me.
Some of the Moomin books by Tove Jansson.
Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome.
We shall see if I do. With books and reading, nothing is predictable.