From Page to Heart: The Magic of Rereading (or not)

I have said lots about the magic of reading, and while I can keep doing it, today I am shifting gears a bit to talk about the magic of rereading (or not!).

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I am exploring rereading a few different ways today. And first up, some random thoughts on how some books jump

from Page to Heart: The Magic of Rereading (or not)

Some books leave an impression on us, something that springs from the pages within to our heart. And that something brings with it an urge to read that book again (and again and again sometimes).

The phrase ‘so many books, so little time’ is often repeated among us bibliophiles, but yet, many of us tend to reread the books we have already read. Why so? What is it that lets us ignore those massive TBRs and pick up that old favorite, the one whose pages are worn from touch? Or the book we return to with regularity at certain times of the year (or on specific occasions)?

I am sure many wonder why people reread at all. But this quote by Anne Fadiman might put rereading in a different perspective,

“…the reader who plucks a book from her shelf only once is as deprived as the listener who, after attending a single performance of a Beethoven symphony, never hears it again.”
― Anne Fadiman, Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love

So, looking at this quote from a different angle, if we can listen to a favorite song many times over, or watch a movie/show over and over again, why not reread and reread and reread? Right?

The Evolution of the Rereader

Life shapes us in so many ways, changing what resonates with and moves us. So when we revisit a cherished title from the past, we might discover we are looking at the beloved book just a little bit differently. Not because the book has changed, right? For it is the same one we read ages ago but we have changed since then.

Like this quote from Rachel Simon about students who frequented the library, specifically of those who “savored the same book repeatedly.”

“Now she understood those rereaders differently … she realized it was not the rereading that led to fresh insights. It was the rereader– because when a person is changing inside, there are inevitably new things to see.”

Reminiscing and Reflecting

Each time we interact with a familiar book, it is an opportunity for reflecting on ourselves. Our renewed perspective of the book allows us to reassess ourselves and notice the changes within us since that first or previous reading. And if it is a personal copy with handwritten notes by us, well, that adds a whole new dimension to these self-reflections!

In addition, it is like unlocking a memory-box. Just like a song or a scent can transport us to another time, rereading a book can bring back memories. Those little footnotes we physically wrote somewhere or had locked away in some dusty part of our brain can show us a glimpse into who we were then.

Rereading a favorite novel first read 5, 10, or 20 years ago, is a measure of our travel, how far we’ve come; it’s a way of visiting an earlier self.” – Lewis Buzbee

And then, we reread to specifically reminisce and reflect too sometimes, or sometimes for the pure joy (or pain) of reading favorite parts of books even. This quote from Iris Murdoch captures that well.

“Of course she had read this work many times before, but there were certain parts to which she passionately returned: so cool, so elegant, so beautiful, so terrible. As she read tears began to stream down her face.”

And the Book Being Reread

When we read a book again, the familiarity with the what can help us uncover previously missed layers within the book. We can focus on the beauty of the writing, or the nuances and quirks in the characters, or maybe find some hidden surprises we did not notice before. I know this happens to me on every rereading of a book, just like it does when we walk or drive down familiar paths.

Some of these discoveries might, to be honest, just be faulty memory on my part. But others are really that – delightful new treasures within familiar favorites!

Is reading the book in a different version of it, like when I read Pride and Prejudice’s graphic novel adaptation, an exception? Or is it also considered rereading? What do you think?

But as I thought about rereading, I went looking for what others thought about it too and that led me to a delightful

Treasure Trove of Books about Rereading

Rereading: Whys and Hows and a Bit of Whats Too

In Pen in Hand: Reading, Re-reading and Other Mysteries, Tim Parks looks at reading and rereading and other aspects thereof. All those questions that we have about reading. Like why people read or don’t read, how someone likes a book or hates it, and so on and so forth. I am dipping into this a little at a time.

Patricia Meyer Spacks’ On Rereading is one that needs to be read first (by me) and then most likely reread too (like all the other books in this list). But the little I have seen of it – quotes and snippets and such – assure me it belongs here. And some day, I hope to set aside time to do what she did – reread my favorites and then write about the experience!

Alan Jacobs’ The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction is a book for all of us: readers, non-readers, rereaders, reluctant readers, and the rest (well, the other books on this list qualify too). This is a book that explores reading in today’s world (and rereading is one way to help focus and better our reading skills).

Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering by Wendy Lesser takes us on a journey of author’s favorite works of literature including Anna Karenina, Huckleberry Finn, Don Quixote, as well as poetry by Wordsworth and Milton, among others. On my TBR at the moment.

More About Books (Worth) Rereading

Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books they Love edited by Anne Fadiman, includes essays from seventeen authors as they ponder on whether any book or reader remain the same the second (or the nth) time around? Humorous, thoughtful, and simply beautiful to read.

Michiko Kakutani’s Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread. I have borrowed this from the library a few times already, read bits and pieces selectively, and then had to return it back. Now, I know I want to reread it and read the remaining sections as well.

The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread by Harold Bloom. This one is another list of books by another literary critic (like Ex Libris above). And another totally re-read-worthy book. Bloom’s How to Read and Why is another I enjoyed earlier but yet to review anywhere.

Rereading Childhood Books: A Poetics by Alison Waller. This is a book I am eager to read. Here, Waller looks at childhood books and how they play a role in shaping our reading, our future tastes for books, and our identities themselves. She further explores how adults remember, revisit, and sometimes forget, these significant books.

Bruce Landy’s Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult explores, as the title says, the joys of reading children’s books as an adult. Like you know, I love reading (and rereading) children’s books. Maybe even more so than I did as a child! So this book is a cornucopia of delights for me with all the discoveries we tend to make as older readers reading those age-old childhood favorites.

In Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, Lizzie Skurnick focuses on books that took her through the tough teenage years, and reflects on some of the classics there. I previewed this book and truly enjoyed the couple of her ‘book reports’ that I read so far.

Books I Hope to Reread

I have a few books I have reread in recent years, and thankfully, enjoyed reading them again. Llike Skolsky below, Heidi is one of them. Though I have read it just once more in recent years and not as often as she does! Others include Little Women, Black Beauty, and Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl.

“My favorite thing in the world to do is read a book. I read Heidi, which I love, then I read another book, then I read Heidi again. If I stopped reading Heidi in between the other books, I’d be able to read twice as many books, but the thing is I like reading Heidi. So I do.” ― Mindy Warshaw Skolsky, Love from Your Friend, Hannah

Now, for the books I hope to reread (some from ages ago, others from more recent reads – like the past decade or so)

  1. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Read it years ago as a teenager.
  2. Persuasion by Jane Austen. This one actually makes it in a list of books I haven’t read too (but I mention that I am not sure about it). So it could be a first time read or a reread.
  3. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. This book is now one of my all-time favorites, but first, I need to get to his new book Covenant of Water.
  4. Mother by Maxim Gorky. I read this one as a high-schooler and recall being in tears over parts of it.
  5. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I read this book as an adult but given I also read it with my son when he was little, I feel it is time to reread it yet again.
  6. The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. I watched the movie(s) first in this case, but it did not spoil the reading of the book, and I am guessing the rereading will be great too.
  7. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. My go to sci-fi author eons ago, and I recall enjoying reading this one one childhood summer.
  8. Life of Pi by Yann Martel. It has been almost a decade and a half since I read Life of Pi and I do want to get to it again. Capture that magic and have a look at the deeper connections I discovered this book has later in articles elsewhere.
  9. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I have not reviewed this book yet, but maybe after the reread?! Though I have mentioned it in a few posts, including this one.
  10. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Like my review post title says of this book, it slammed its way into my heart and remains there among favorites. Now I need to reread it (but like with Cutting for Stone, I also want to finish the other books by her before I get back to this one).

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, have you read any of the books? Or reread them? What are your thoughts on rereading? Your favorite rereads and why?

“You will find that most books worth reading once are worth reading twice.” ― John Morley

16 thoughts on “From Page to Heart: The Magic of Rereading (or not)

  1. I’m intrigued by the prospects of rereading childhood favorites like “The Phantom Tollbooth” with an adult’s perspective, or iconic stories like “Rebecca” after many years. Revisiting old haunts can be such a powerful way to both recapture the past and appreciate how far we’ve come.

  2. Interesting thoughts on re-reading. With only a very few exceptions, I am not a re-reader. I have so many books on my TBR list that it feels like wasting time to read something I’ve already read. When it comes to favorites like LITTLE WOMEN, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, etc., I do enjoy re-reading for the comfort of it as well as to notice and enjoy new things about them.

    Happy TTT!


  3. oh there are a few books that I read once a year over and over again. A lot of the books I reread are inspirational and they help me a lot.

  4. Thank you for the share, some of these titles I think I might have to check out because of their re-readability! There are a handful of books I like to re-read at least once every year or two! With fantasy it’s almost like visiting old friends.

  5. Each reread is a reflection of our growth, an intimate conversation between our past and present selves through the pages of a book. I find it incredibly moving to uncover aspects of a story or character that I didn’t notice before, or which didn’t hold the same meaning to me on a previous read!

  6. I’m all for rereading books especially if they are really good reads. I am actually rereading a book I read a few years ago now. It amazes me how I catch certain things the second time around when I reread a book.

  7. It is interesting to reread a book after many years. I definitely have a different perspective now that I am older, so it makes books different now, compared to when I was a teen or in college.

  8. Loved this post and I do have a few books that I ahve not read in a long time and that I am now going to reread. I love rereading my favorites and so glad to know I am not alone 😉

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