Thursday, January 14, 2021

Rereading

I was not always a rereader. 

I like to read books fast. I like to read books with stories in which I don't know what was coming. I like to read lots of books. 

Rereading is the antithesis of these things. Rereading is slow. Rereading is knowing what is next. Rereading is reading fewer books.

Still, I have come to see the pleasures of rereading. 

I am intrigued with a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2012, "The Temporal and Focal Dynamics of Volitional Re-Consumption: A Phenomenological Investigation of Repeated Hedonic Experiences," by Cristel Antonia Russell and Sidney J. Levy. Russell and Levy investigated why people visit the same places over and over, why they watch movies again and again, and, what I am most interested in, why people read and reread the same books repeatedly. "By doing it again, people get more out of it,’ say authors Cristel Antonia Russell of American University and Sidney J. Levy of University of Arizona and Northwestern University. ‘"Even though people are already familiar with the stories or the places, re-consuming brings new or renewed appreciation of both the object of consumption and their self," Russell and Levy write. "The re-experience allows them not only to refresh their memory of the past experience but the recollection is accompanied by the discovery of new details. Therefore, the experience is different, even though it is repeated," the authors explain. "Given the immense benefits for growth and self-reflexivity, re-consuming actually appears to offer many mental health benefits," the authors tell us.

What-to-read-next is one of my favorite daily questions. We are all drawn, I think, to the shiny new books on the shelf. But what about the delights of the worn and closely-read books of the past? I hope to explore those in the time I have remaining here on this planet.

That's what it comes down to. We just have so much time remaining. I have a life expectancy of 81.1 years. I am just a little past 64. That gives me 16.9 years left to read. During the pandemic, I've found myself reading a 300-page adult book each day, though I doubt I will be able to continue that pace once life resumes (assuming it will do so). Let's say I can read a 300-page adult book every third day, a pace that sounds a little more realistic. That's roughly 120 books a year, with a grand total of 2052 books during these last years of my life. I like that number, even if I temper it somewhat by remembering that some of these books I will be reading or rereading will be 600-page or more books, cutting into my numbers. Maybe 100 a year is a good number. I could choose a good number of new books (say, 20-30) as well as new-to-me classics (maybe 20-30) as well as rereading some books I've enjoyed in the past (leaving me with around 40 which sounds ideal). 

I like that plan.



What books would I like to reread? Here's a list, with an asterisk by the ones I plan to reread soon.
All Things Bright and Beautiful*
All Things Wise and Wonderful*
David Copperfield*
Dubliners
A Fine Balance
The Glass Bead Game
The Gold Bug Variations
The Hobbit
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Main Street*
Middlemarch
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Stars My Destination*
The Three Musketeers*
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn*


Are you a rereader? Or do you like to stick to reading books you have never read before? Are there books you would like to reread one day? What are they? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.








Cristel Antonia Russell and Sidney J. Levy. "The Temporal and Focal Dynamics of Volitional Re-Consumption: A Phenomenological Investigation of Repeated Hedonic Experiences" 
Journal of Consumer Research: August 2012 (published online October 28, 2011).

https://press.uchicago.edu/pressReleases/2012/February/1202_JCR_Reigniting.html


49 comments:

  1. I.LOVE.THIS.POST
    You show me that I have LOADS of time left to read, while I always feel like I have NO time left to read. Thank you!

    I'll just move away from my computer now, to get 15 minutes of reading squished into my busy schedule :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember when I was in my twenties, like you, and, like you, I was also a primary school teacher. Time was at a premium. So, no, you may not have time now, but I assure you that you will have time someday.

      Delete
  2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is so sad! I recently reread Smith's Joy in the Morning, and it was... kind of awful. My reading will certainly change once I am no longer recommending books to students. I foreseea lot more cozy mysteries and adult historical fiction!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will be rereading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn next month.

      Delete
  3. I don’t reread for a couple of reasons - 1. I do feel like my reading time is finite, 2. I retain a pretty good memory of what read so I don’t feel the need to reread 3. On the rare occasion I have reread a book, it’s generally tarnished my fondness for that book because who I am isn’t the same anymore

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Every book (probably) doesn't hold up to a reread. I wonder what are the qualities of a book that does versus a book that doesn't.

      Delete
  4. I used to reread a lot in the past but not much recently. There's that constant pull of unread books that keep me away from favorite rereads. I like that some people make a goal of rereading a certain number of books each year. I would certainly like to try that. Good luck with you rereading plans!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The idea of rereading has had appeal for me only recently. I've always been one for the next shiny new book. Now, at 64, I'm suddenly interested in polishing up some of the old books in the back of the shelf and seeing what they look like under all that dust.

      Delete
  5. I'm glad to see your post here about the pursuit of reading books again. I have always done this. Not to excess I don't think, but certainly as a regular thing. I do this in various ways. Sometimes I listen to a book that I previously read in print. Sometimes I revisit a book that I read way, way back in my life. Sometimes I do this to refresh my memory before a book group meeting. And sometimes I do it for 'comfort'. Lots of reasons. I like the study results that you mentioned. I think all have applied to me, especially that it's good for my mental health and also that I learn new things. Do I always finish a book that I'm visiting again? No. If I don't love it like I did in the past, I move on. Sometimes I just hit the highlights and sigh with pleasure. And sometimes I realize that the clues to the puzzle were there earlier than I thought or whatever. I know I'm not going to get to read all the books that I want to read in my lifetime. However, I'm delighted to pursue the aim of reading and rereading as many books as I can that bring me pleasure and peace. Good luck with your rereading!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good luck with your rereading! Yes, I’m a rereader, though not as much as I used to be. I feel guilty about it because I have so many unread books sitting around. I reread 12 books last year and will probably do the same this year.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I looked back to last year and found that I reread one book. Just one. I enjoyed the reread so much. I want to do more.

      Delete
    2. Oops. Two. I reread two last year. Both were among the best reads of the year.

      Delete
  7. Oh, how this post speaks to me! I am not really a rereader, but I have a bookcase full of favorites that I long to read again. Last year I decided to reread one book each month. I started with The Bean Trees (Barbara Kingsolver) and I loved it just as much as when I read it over 20 years ago. Did I reread any other books in 2020? Not one! My other bookcase is full of unread books which called to me more than my old favorites. Maybe 2021 will be my year.

    Of the books you wish to read again, I have read (and would love to reread) A Fine Balance (such a great saga!), The Phantom Tollbooth (a childhood read) and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (a book lovers delight). You've inspired me to put together my own list and I'll get it posted in the next week or so. But first, I plan to share a collection of the books I'd like to read in 2021.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Rereading a book you loved -- or maybe were too "young" for when you first read it -- is like visiting an old friend. I don't know that I could ever read all I want in the time I have left -- not, without giving up every other activity in life. But I've sure ramped up reading in recent years, especially last year. You have some good titles here. Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the secret, for me, is to reread the really worthy books. Now if I can only discern what those are.

      Delete
  9. It is hard to commit to rereading when there are so many new books that I want to read, but I do hope to work some rereads into my schedule this year; for example, John le Carre's Smiley books that I read and enjoyed so many years ago. I wonder how they will appear in light of all the history since.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of the few books that I've read and reread several times is Wrinkle in Time. It holds up well, I think. I'm curious about what makes a book worthy of rereading. I'll have to think about that a little more.

      Delete
  10. I like to reread some books by favorite authors. Spy fiction books are my favorites to reread, assuming I like the author. I read a lot of mysteries so I try to reread ones I read a while back and don't remember exactly who did it. But I have one favorite author, Rex Stout, whose books I read over and over because I love the characters and the dialogue. I do think I learn more about a book every time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting. I'm surprised to hear that rereading mysteries has been a great experience for you. But, if I think about it, even if you remember the who-did-it, it might be fun to work through the puzzle again, this time with the end in sight.

      Delete
  11. The July 21, 2011 Booking Through Thursday (BTT #9) question asked about Repeats: "What’s the first book that you ever read more than once? (I’m assuming there’s at least one.) What book have you read the most times? And — how many?"
    https://bonniesbooks.blogspot.com/2011/07/btt-9-repeats.html

    I'm quite sure the FIRST book I read more than once was a Mother Goose or nursery rhyme book. Or maybe that's technically the first one I requested that my parents read to me over and over and over again.

    Even after I started reading for myself, surely the FIRST book I repeated would be inconsequential to us now. That would have been at least 65 years ago, since I'm 71, and who cares which book was first?

    Since I don't count how often I read books, I'll tell you the titles of a couple of books I consider worth reading more than once — or at least once, if you haven't yet read these.

    Herland ~ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915) is one I re-read about every ten years.
    This utopian novel describes an isolated society composed entirely of women who reproduce via parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction). The result is an ideal social order, free of war, conflict, and domination.

    Time and Again ~ by Jack Finney (1970) is my favorite time travel story.
    "Sleep. And when you awake everything you know of the twentieth century will be gone from your mind. Tonight is January 21, 1882. There are no such things as automobiles, no planes, computers, television. 'Nuclear' appears in no dictionary. You have never heard the name Richard Nixon." Did illustrator Si Morley really step out of his twentieth-century apartment one night — right into the winter of 1882? The U.S. Government believed it, especially when Si returned with a portfolio of brand-new sketches and tintype photos of a world that no longer existed — or did it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing these two books, Bonnie. I keep a running list of books I'd like to read someday, and I will add both of these to it.

      I was fascinated to see how helpful it is for young children to reread a book. It makes sense that children would be better able to make their way through a book once they have read it once.

      That first reread for me, by the way, was Go, Dog, Go. I delighted in the humor. I delighted in the rhyme. Over and over and over.

      Delete
  12. What a lovely post Debbie! I used to reread when I was young all the time. There was a series in Afrikaans that I used to read every single December holidays until I was about 20. Maybe even older.

    As an adult way into my adult years, I don't really do re-reads. Here and there. Agatha Christie about annually. I think I'll reach a point where I start rereading a bit more again.

    I love your idea of making a list of books you would like to re-read. That might keep one focused on that.

    Hope you will have a good weekend!

    Elza Reads

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love to reread favorites. For me that means reading or listening to whole series of books like David Weber's Honor Harrington or Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga. Seems to me that there is strong evidence for the value of series books for beginning and young readers too. Now that I've discovered audiobooks, I find that listening to a book I've previously read changes the experience and brings out things I missed the first time or times yoo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kathy. You are right; reading a series is like rereading in its effectiveness for early readers.

      Delete
  14. if i reread any more, it's because it's on my kindle and i forgot i already read it. doesn't happen often and there are too many books i haven't read that i want to read
    sherry @ fundinmental

    ReplyDelete
  15. I don't often reread but if I do it is usually re-listening (audiobooks). For some reason I like the hear stories I am familiar with. Usually if I do reread it is because I realize I've forgotten some detail or another and want to check my memory.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would go as far to say that I never reread...until now.

      Delete
  16. I don't reread a lot these days but I have a few books on my bookshelf that I do like to reread.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I read Gentleman in Moscow twice, have read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and will skim it for the book club, and I read Heriot series twice in order to meet book club satisfaction (plus saw the original show and the new version.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My plan is to reread Gentleman in Moscow before the book discussion. I hope I can.

      Delete
  18. I am not a rereader. I feel like there are so many books I haven't read that to take the time to reread something means I am missing out on something new. I think I am in the minority on this one, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would have said I was not a rereader until recently. Everything changed as I've entered old age.

      Delete
  19. There are a few books I've reread and mainly it was because I was going to discuss with a book group and needed a refresher. It's not so much that I don't like too but there are just so many other books I want to read as well. Lately I've been thinking of some of books I read as a teen and how it would be fun to read them now. I see you have A Fine Balance on your list. Oh goodness that book was amazing but was so devastating. Not sure I could reread that one.

    ReplyDelete
  20. At this point, I personally feel too old with too many great books I haven't read, to take time to reread. Though there are a few books I have read more than 2 or 3 times: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and The Dream by Zola are two that come to mind.
    A bit along the same line though, I tend to read more of the authors I know, and plan on resisting a lot to new voices this year

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I felt that way when I was your age. Now I almost feel the complete opposite, as if I have the attitude of who-cares about a lot of the new books.

      Delete
  21. I love re-reading. I used to do a month of it twice a year (with some new stuff) to check whether I wanted to keep books or just to revisit favourites. I'm re-reading Anne Tyler right now (apart from the last two which are new to me) and I re-read all of Iris Murdoch's novels every decade - I've done the whole lot three times now and find the process fascinating - last time round I tried to note my feelings about the re-reading process in detail, and the changes in my reactions.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I re-read a lot up until my late teens. We made one trip to the library each week so if I finished all my books, I had to either re-read a book I owned or just not read anything until the next Friday. Well, that wasn't really a choice.

    I rarely re-read now just because I usually want a new-to-me story. Before we started traveling, I would re-read a handful of books a year though. Right now I'm not re-reading at all.

    I don't think it's a coincidence that when I list my favorite books of all time, books I read and re-read at that time of my life feature prominently.

    You plan to re-read Middlemarch? Kudos to you! I barely made it through the first time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right, Jen. I didn't have many books at home, and, if I wanted to read, rereading was my only option.

      And Middlemarch? I didn't give it a good read the first time.

      Delete
  23. I reread a lot as a kid and into my early 20's. When I joined the blogging world and discovered more books that I can ever hope to read in a lifetime I slowly stopped. It's my unoffical goal to reread one old favorite a year, but I think I've missed that the last few years. Thanks for reminding me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rereading is such a rich experience...with the right book.

      Delete
  24. I am certainly a rereader; and I read books over for so many reasons - some simply because I love them, others because I need a break and rereading books (even romance novels) is easy and comforting at times, and others for other reasons.
    And your wonderful post for the discussion challenge (which I was tempted to join in, and didn't) tempts me to try to do my own..

    ReplyDelete

Please share your thoughts.