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*
A Fine Balance
The Glass Bead Game
The Gold Bug Variations
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
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).