To Reread or Not to Reread

There was a time when I read nothing new. I had a few favourite books that I would systematically reread each year, and I was quite content with that. I was wrapped in a warm bubble of comfort reads, blissfully ignorant of anything new being published while I stuck with my familiar favourites.

Book love | © Kate Ter Haar / Flickr

But people kept on asking me if I’d read X or what I thought of Y and, I won’t lie, I started suffering from a serious case of FOMO. It was time for me to let Frodo go and embark on a new adventure, one that might sadly not live up to my expectations, but that might just surprise me.

And as I started reading some of these recommended books, albeit years later than their release dates in most cases, I realised that life’s too short to be rereading the same books over and over again. Over 2 million new books were published in 2020 alone (including mine!), and although only a few those appeal to me, and an even smaller number of them are so good that they mess with my sleeping patterns, I just can’t see myself falling back into that habit of rereading books I’ve read before.

But last month, I reread Dune (because I wanted a refresher before I saw the movie at the cinema). I remember liking it as a teenager – and I have paperback copies of the first four books on my bookshelf to prove it – but this time around? I feel kind of meh about it. The world has evolved since this novel rocked the sci-fi scene in 1965. I’m sure it was groundbreaking then, and there is an element of the timeless classic to it, but as a modern reader, I found it problematic and, even worse, boring.

The same happened a few years ago when I reread The Belgariad series by David Eddings, one of my all-time favourites. These books were the reason I started writing in the first place, but now I see so many issues with them and I don’t think they’ve aged well at all. I didn’t even go on to reread The Mallorean. Some books, it seems, are only meant to be remembered fondly.

It’s not all bad, though. The Lord of the Rings still holds up for me, and although I despised To Kill a Mockingbird when they made me read it in school, I loved it as an adult. And of course, you can never go wrong with Jane Austen!

So, here’s my question to you, dear reader: do you reread books? If you do, which ones have disappointed you later in life, and which ones have stood the test of time? What do you think makes a timeless classic? Please let me know in the comments below!

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3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Some very good insights here.

    As for me, I almost never re-read books. As in, I’ve re-read books of the Bible that I’ve grown up with in Sunday School and Church (but Christians are expected to do that, so it doesn’t really count), and I’ve read the occasional book as an adult that I was forced to read in school.

    Other than that, I’ve always believed that life was too short. If I’ve read it, I’ve read it (and similarly with movies and TV shows, if I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it).

    This year I was actually considering re-reading some old classics… but then I got the news about my Retinitis Pigmentosa, and there went that idea: if I’ve only got a finite amount of time left where I’m still able to read, I’m not going to waste it re-reading stuff I’ve read before. 😉

    That said, I’ve got lots of friends who routinely re-read books. They say each time they read those books, there’s something else that they get out of them, and that people at different ages and levels of life experience are naturally going to appreciate books differently.

    I respect that, but still… live is too SHORT, man! 😛

    1. I think it’s okay to reread the really good ones, just like I rewatch my favourite movies again and again too. I guess it depends on the quality of the book and the reader’s own life journey.

      Have you considered going the audio book route instead? Give your eyes the chance to rest, but still listen to new and old stories. I haven’t tried audio myself, because my mind tends to wander, but I’m consuming a lot of podcasts these days and I think keeping my focus on audio only is starting to improve slowly, especially if I listen in bed at night during my normal reading time 🙂

      1. I’ve been practising on-and-off with audio. I’m getting better, but I still don’t like it, for the same reason as you: my mind tends to wander.

        I can’t do podcasts either. I can listen to something while I’m ALSO reading it (and in fact I really enjoy that) because that engages two senses and keeps me focussed. And I can watch Vodcasts because then I’m seeing the person’s lips moving and their body language while they’re talking, so it’s the same thing.

        Listening to disembodied voices is tough for me. My mind wanders and I zone out, no matter how engaging the narrator is or how interested I am in the content.

        I think I’m just going to have to get over that. 😛

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