"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, March 17, 2017

Brona's Salon, on rereading

Brona's Salon is a new meme which aims to gather a group of like-minded bookish people 'under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.'

Each week she will provide a prompt intended to inspire a conversation.
However please feel free to discuss your current read or join in the conversation in any way that you see fit. Amusement, refinement and knowledge will surely follow!

This week's prompt: Lately I have been thinking about rereading a lot.

I, too, think a lot about rereading but rarely do it. I want to revisit old friends or retrieve the good feeling I got the last time I read the book. Sometimes I want to reread because I want to refresh my memory of the action, plot of characters, as my daughter would be sure to tell you if she was here. But usually I do not succumb to the pull of the desire for a reread because I have so many other unread books calling my name.

On the rare occasion when I do reread a book I am never quite sure what the experience will hold for me. Several times I've actually ended up not liking the book as much after the reread as my memory told me I would like it. Case in point, I just reread Little Women for the Classics Club Spin late last year. I embarked on the rereading journey expecting to be entranced again by the March sisters and their world. What I found was a preachy, almost stilted book. I was shocked. Now to be fair, I first read Little Women when I was a pup myself, probably under the age of twelve and I may have read the abridged version first time around. But I think that in my childish stage I completely glossed over or didn't recognize the overt preachiness of this classic. This has happened a few other times with books I loved as kid and didn't admire as much when I reread it as an adult. 

(Word of caution here: if you are a parent and want to read a book aloud to your children, one which was one of your childhood favorites, read a few chapters to yourself first. You might be shocked at what you find. My mother-in-law, God rest her soul, gave me one of her favorite childhood books to read to my children. I didn't preview it, just started reading it aloud and had to stop. It was too racist. Society norms had changed a lot since Mom was a young girl. I was pretty upset with myself for not previewing it first.)

I have actually made a conscious decision to NOT reread some of my favorite books because I don't want to risk having my memory tainted if, by chance, I don't like it as much the second time through. Three books which come to mind as examples of this are:  The Secret Life of Bees; Cold Sassy Tree; and The Power of One

Rereading a book can also help me realize how much I have changed and moved on since I first read the book. For many years I reread a favorite book A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute. I saw the mini-series based on the book back in the 1980s and loved it. I first read the book at that time and would reread it with some regularity afterwards. For some reason it really spoke to me. The last time through, though, I realized that the book no longer spoke to me. I actually touched it and said goodbye. It was obvious to me that I was done with it, whatever need it had fulfilled was done. Now it will become part of my memory bank of books, one I will only revisit in my mind.

When I do reread a book, the format may help make my decision. For example, I love to listen to the audiobook of To Kill a Mockingbird read by Roses Prichard. I have it on my iTunes account and relisten to all or part of it every once in a while. This narrator has become for me the voice of Scout. Stargirl read by the late, great John Ritter, is a treasure to be enjoyed many times.  I first read The Fault in Ours Stars in the print edition then reread (or re-consumed) it in the audio format. Likewise, I may read the print edition of books I first listened to as audiobooks. Mirrormask by Neil Gaiman is an example of that. As I listened to the story I realized I was missing out on the illustrations which would bring it to life in the print edition.

Oddly, because I never saw myself this way in the past, the books I reread the most often are poetry books. Well, that statement isn't exactly accurate. I am more likely to reread poems than anything else, I rarely reread the whole book. My favorite poets are Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, and Galway Kinnell. My favorite poetry books are those edited by Roger Housden in the "Ten Poems" series. What I love best about the poems in these books is how Housden adds his thoughts and a commentary which opens up the poems for me. I reread these books often. Poetry, on a reread, always come across as new because various aspects are revealed on closer examination.

Lastly, I should mention Jane Austen. I read her books all the time. Need I say more?

So there you have it. I don't often reread books but if I do I either do it with trepidation or I attempt to consume it in a different format (usually audio.)  What about you? Do you often reread books? If so, what are your favorite rereads and why do you reread books? If not, why not? Let's have a discussion. Your turn to talk in the comments below....


PS- If you are a blogger and want to participate, join up at Brona's Books.


  1. Wonderful and thought provoking blog post in re-reading.
    I agree, poetry must be re-read. I never 'get it' the first time around.
    A 're-listen' audio book ...that is interesting. I would choose Dickens' `Pickwick Pages. It was at times hilarious with variations of cockney dialect. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas on re-reading.

    1. I reread certain favourite poems at times, but it's not a deep need that draws me to do so. It's often just a chance moment.

      Whereas the urge to reread certain books over the years, has been a clear, strong clarion call that has to be paid attention to!

    2. Sometimes I start listening to an audiobook and decide that it would be better in the print format and switch mid-book. I listened to at least half of Great Expectations before switching to the print version because I can read faster than I can listen.

  2. I am not a re-reader (except Harry Potter books), but I totally get the idea of previewing books. The first couple TinTin books are racist! I also read Little Women with my daughter. I was bracing myself for Beth's death and talking about death with my young child. Well, Beth never died! She was reading a Young Classics version :-)

    1. Ahhh - hope and the power of love - the Harry Potter themes are two of the biggest reasons why the reread urge calls us! We all want hope and love in our lives.

      FYI Beth doesn't die in Little Women. It's not until the end of Good Wives that she dies, although many editions of Little Women are actually the two books combined anyway.

    2. Ha- that is a funny story about Little Women. Sometimes we remember things as being more traumatic from our childhood then they really were. I wonder if that was the case for you with Alcott's book.

      I wonder if you and I aren't big re-readers because as librarians we are confronted every day (you past tense) with how many books there are out there to read.

  3. You did have a lot to say about rereading!

    I really liked what you had to say about your rereading of A Town Like Alice. I think that deep unconscious need that a certain book or series fulfils is a big part of the reason why we reread (relisten or rewatch).

    The fact that we can reread Jane Austen forever until the end of days says a lot about her enduring power and universal themes :-)

    Have you tried to reread a book that you didn't like first time around?

    1. Yes, I have reread a book I disliked the first time and it was a complete shift. When I reread Beryl Markham's West With the Night last summer I was blown away by it and just couldn't believe it was the same book I struggled through it ten years earlier. In fact, I must not have been in the right frame of mind the first time. It was so different than I remembered it.

  4. This is such a fantastic and insightful post

  5. I love rereading, but don't always find the time because like you, the TBR is far too large. I find it really interesting how you read a book differently after years. It hasn't changed, but your of course have. I'm glad you mentioned Jane Austen. I've read P&P several times and continue to love it.


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