I have never been a rereader. As Nick Hornby writes in The Polysyllabic Spree:
“I don’t reread books often; I’m too conscious of both my ignorance and my mortality.” (p. 25)
I agree. With so much out there to read and so little time in which to read it, it’s hard for me to justify rereading. I’ve only read the Harry Potter series once; I never reread the previous books in preparation for the next installment’s release. My shelves are full of favorite titles I want in my collection but have had no plans to revisit. I don’t mind; I see my library is a reflection of me, so naturally it should be made up of my favorites. Even if I don’t reread them yearly…or ever.
I’ve come to think there is another, deeper reason I avoid rereading. The books I would reread are my favorites, the ones I couldn’t tear myself away from when I read them the first time. What if, upon rereading, I discover they’ve lost some of their magic? Suppose I find they don’t affect me the same way? I would be so disappointed. And so I leave them on the shelf.
Recently I’ve had reason to reread several books. A college course assigned Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, which I’d read in high school. While I’d been indifferent to the novel the first time through, I couldn’t believe how much I loved it upon rereading. There were To Kill a Mockinbird by Harper Lee and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, others I didn’t care for in high school, which I chose to listen to in the past few months and ended up adoring. And then there was my most recent reread, The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, which I liked when I read it on my own and liked even more when I read it again for my book group.
My point? I’ve yet to not enjoy rereading a book. That’s a little confusing. What I mean is, even the books I hated the first time around, I’ve liked the second. It’s making me reconsider my habitual stance on rereading.
(Of course, I don’t think there’s some sort of magic in rereading that renders every revisited book amazing, no matter how hated it was after the first meeting. There are some books I’m not going to like regardless of how many times I reread them. Like A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.)
This month, I have the opportunity to reread one of my absolute favorite YA novels of all time, ever. I can still remember how thoroughly Kristin Cashore’s Graceling sucked me in, how invested I was, how hard it was for me to tear myself out of Katsa’s world and back into my own. The characters were–are–so real to me. I’m torn: part of me thrills at the thought of getting all wrapped up in Graceling again, but the other part hesitates for fear it won’t be as magical the second time through.
And so I call on you, my fellow readers: What are your experiences with rereading? Have your opinions of books changed with a second (third, fourth) reading? Do your very favorites lose or gain with repeated readings?