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On My Present Re-Reading And Discoveries Therein

A photograph of Hever Castle's lake with boats

Over the last month I’ve been being doing a fair amount of re-reading. I’ve re-read various books before but never in quick succession as I am now. It’s been a pleasure.

I’ve found re-reading to be quicker than the first read even when reading the book in full, not skipping anything just because you’ve read it before. I think it’s a ‘thing’ anyway, but it’s perhaps been intensified due to my relative generally slower reading speed; I’m re-reading these books faster than I normally would read, which is both obvious and a big motivation, and it doesn’t seem to be necessarily reflective of how I read them – I’m faster whether I’m reading a chapter at a time or spending the whole evening with the book.

It’s definitely true that you notice more when re-reading; it’s a well-known concept applicable to all kinds of things but is nevertheless still surprising when it happens. Without needing to concentrate so much on what’s happening (or on character development in cases where plot is less important) – and even if you often notice ‘small things’ anyway – it’s surprising how much you miss the first time. I’ve found this to be the case no matter whether notes from the previous reading of the book were detailed or not. And if the lifelong interests of academics of an author and/or their work is anything to go by, the more times you re-read the more you pick up. I can’t help but wonder whether there’s a line of sorts for each book (because it couldn’t be applied equally across the board) where to go over it, to re-read more than that number, would finally present nothing new. It’s an interesting thing to consider, partly because I suspect that the answer is that no, there isn’t a line, or that if there is, it would indeed take a great many re-reads. More likely, I think, is the chance that there will always be something new to find, just that the somethings will become less and less interesting, less relevant, and at some point understandably too minor to bother with.

I think it’s also true that you notice more during a re-read regardless of when you first read the book. No matter when it was you, will remember more as you go along, the only difference being the amount you remember, the time it takes you to remember whilst re-reading, and the clarity of your memories.

Reading with hindsight allows you to see more of the writing process. You know where such and such a thread is heading so you can enjoy the journey the author takes to get there, not unlike the way the author must have found it when writing. Likewise, you’re more aware of author context and/or background context in the book.

I found I enjoyed the books even more. And it does help to know in advance that you’ll most definitely enjoy reading it/them, it lessens any tendencies to browse before choosing. Whilst any twists will not be new – you’re not going to get quite the same experience – coming back to a book you loved ensures an easy, happy, read.

What benefits do you find in re-reading?

 
 

Stefanie

October 30, 2019, 7:13 pm

Rereading is kind of like visiting friends. It’s also comforting because of the familiarity. And, like you say, there is always something new to discover.

Charlie

November 4, 2019, 3:04 pm

Stefanie: I have to agree with you on friends; it did very much feel like that, and that was wonderful.

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