The benefits of re-reading

booksI've lately taken to getting more of my books from the library than from Barnes & Noble. Not only did last year's effort of moving my collection of 600 books — small by some measures — from one town to another prove exhausting, but I've realized I rarely revisit books that aren't part of a series. Seeing them as part of my personal library can be a gratifying reminder of my literary pursuits, but the expense of purchasing, storing, and moving books that I would read only once has become difficult to justify.

But new studies suggest that my methodology is flawed, and that I should be re-reading books more often. Mail Online reports:

The first time people read — or watch — through, they are focused on events and stories.

The second time through, the repeated experience reignites the emotions caused by the book or film, and allows people to savour those emotions at leisure.

The 'second run' can offer profound emotional benefits… By enjoying the emotional effects of the book more deeply, people become more in touch with themselves.

If you think that such repetitive activity is exclusive to children and their reruns of Blue's Clues, think about your peers who re-read every Harry Potter book to date in anticipation of the release of each sequel.

I own few books that I've found myself revisiting over the years, in no particular order:

And there are admittedly books I'd like to read again:

But with so many unread books waiting to be read, how do I justify retreading old ground? Is it better to spend time with old friends than it is to make new ones?

What books make your "must read again" list, and what balance do you strike between old and new?

  1. I will admit I have a horrible taste in books. I do find myself retreading stuff from time to time, especially easy to read books. After a long brain burning day at work something very syrupy from my adolescence is often a good pick me up.

    Old TSR fantasy books from the late 1980s and 90s are fun to retread. I really enjoyed the Dragonlance Legends books. Magic, time travel and saving the universe. Fun.

    A series called Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams I re-read every 5 years or so.

    A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving I've gone back to a few times.

  2. I've held on to every book I have ever read because my intent is to reread them all. However, my "to-read" list is growing faster than my "to-reread" list. Rereading is a luxury I can barely afford time-wise (let alone plain 'ol reading). However, now that you have me thinking about it, non-fiction books are on the bottom of the reread list, since their content is temporal, they have reduced value over time. My non-fiction books are generally science and technology-based–a moving target at all times. That said, the history of science or tech is always a good reread, and I often reread passages from time to time. The last front-to-back reread I did of a non-fiction book was Steven Levy's "Hackers". I had not read it since the mid-'80s. Awesome then, more awesome now. Some non-fictions books age very well too.

  3. Ken! I love Watership Down and have reread it about 12 times.
    I really love rereading, because I definitely rush through any fiction just trying to know WHAT HAPPENS. The next time through I can relax more and enjoy the journey.