Re-read or not re-read…that is the question

Re-read or not re-read…that is the question

I’ve mentioned in this blog several times that I’m not a big re-reader of books.

However, I do know that many other people are.

My Significant Other knew somebody who only ever read the same two books: Helter Skelter and Gone with the Wind. They would finish one of them, start the other one, finish that and go back to the first, and so on.

That doesn’t appeal to me personally. I want books to change me. I want to read lots of books…different kinds of books by different people with different viewpoints.

For me, that’s the magic of books.

I will say that I am re-reading a book currently…fourteen books, actually.

I have an omnibus of  the original (Wizard of Oz) books, and I’ve taken to re-reading them before I go to sleep.

It takes me a long time to go to sleep at night…there’s a real process. Reading before I finally fall asleep is part of it.

I often don’t read much at that  time…quite often, not even a whole chapter.

That doesn’t mean I don’t retain it, though.

I’m re-reading them partially because I am writing some things about Oz, and I want to get the details right.

I’m also getting new insights.

Until we had cellphones,  I wouldn’t have realized that there was one in the Oz books!

The Wizard of Oz invented the cellphone

Additionally, I’m at a different  place in my life than the first time I read them…or had them read to me (I was a kid).

So, I’m now open to the idea of re-reading…even though I feel a bit guilty doing it, which I know is silly.

I can see how I’d be more likely to re-read things now, even if I didn’t have a specific purpose. It used to be that I would remember just about everything in a book I read, even years later.

That’s no longer true.

I’ll pretty much remember the general plot, but characters’ names, for example? That doesn’t happen automatically any more.

Thinking about it, it’s also interesting: I have no reluctance at all to re-watch a TV show or a movie. I’ve seen the same episodes of the original Star Trek series many times…even though I could just about write the script from memory.

I’m confident in saying that there are some movies I’ve seen more than a hundred times, and would happily watch again.

Why the difference?

I think part of it is the investment of time. Watching a movie is  a couple of hours…reading a book can be much more than that.

I also don’t expect the visual media to change me the way a book does. The level of engagement is far different…most movies work on my surface emotions…books get deep inside my mind.

Let me ask you a couple of questions. Figure we are talking about novels or short story collection/anthologies…not non-fiction, which is a different kettle of words. 😉

This whole post was inspired by a comment one of my regular readers and commenters, jjhitt, made. jjhitt thought it would be interesting for me to ask you, my readers, which books you re-read…and I am interested in that. I’m also interested in why you re-read…or why you don’t. If the poll isn’t enough for you, feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

22 Responses to “Re-read or not re-read…that is the question”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I think I’ve mentioned before that I was named after one of the characters in Gone With The Wind. I’ve read and reread it several times over the course of my life. Each time I’ve made discoveries that I hadn’t noticed before. I finally made the connection between events in my mother’s life and why my she identified with the character for whom I was named. I think I have now gotten all I could get out of the book and have no more need to read it again. However, if I happen to surf into a replay of the movie on TV, I am sure I will watch it again.

    I’ve lived in the same house since I was 3 years old. It is across the road from a hundred acre farm. When I was a child, they raised black angus cattle. In mid summer, about this time of year, they would mow the fields full of alfalfa and clover. The whole neighborhood would be full of the wonderful aroma of drying hay. There is a chapter in Little Men, by Louisa Alcott where two of the children have wandered away while berry picking and are left behind in a hayfield overnight. Every summer, about this time, I will reread that chapter to help revive my memories of the pasture/hayfield of my childhood.

    I reread “Stranger in a Strange Land” because when I read it as a 9th grader, I didn’t truly grok the last half of the book. I thought perhaps now that I’m all grown up it would make more sense. I still don’t grok the last half of the book and probably never will.

    I’ve gone back and reread one of my favorite mystery series, the Sharon McCone mysteries by Marcia Muller from the beginning to the point where the Kindle Editions are still missing. In doing so, I’ve seen the evolution of technology. In the early books, she has to find a telephone booth to contact her office. She’s thrilled by the purchase of an IBM Selectric typewriter. [I minored in business in high school. We started out with manual typewriters for first year typing, electric typewriters for second year typing, and IBM Selectrics for third year typing. I also have to say those three classes have proved more useful in college as well as in life than algebra, biology or chemistry.

    I reread “To Kill a Mockingbird” when it was first available on Kindle. It was one of the few required reading books that I really liked in high school. I loved it even more the second time around. I never got to teach it when I was teaching HS English because it was part of the American Lit curriculum, and I never taught that course. I purchased “Go Set A Watchman” but haven’t had time to read it yet. It will be interesting to read the original story that Harper Lee wrote all those years ago and compare it to the editor/publisher/author collaboration that became Mockingbird. So I’ll need to reread Mockingbird one more time when I finish Watchman.

    When I first learned it was being published, I worried that it was being done against her will. I suppose we’ll never know for sure about that. But after reading reviews and commentary about the nature of Watchman, I’m thinking that despite the great success of Mockingbird, perhaps Harper Lee has always regretted what the editors and publishers urged her to do and is relieved to allow the world, finally, to read the story that SHE wanted to tell.

    The second poem that I ever had published was about the experience of having to share my poetry in a poetry workshop of fellow creative writing students who “neatly changed and rearranged the words
    to suit their own rhymes and rhythms.” The ultimate irony is that before publication, the editor of the magazine changed and rearranged part of the poem without informing me or asking if that was OK. It took away all the pleasure of publication because it felt as if the poem wasn’t really mine any more. Could that be part of the reason why she never wrote another book?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      As to TKaM, I’ve understood that Harper Lee regretted the publication because it made public unnamed things from her own life. Perhaps those things are more greatly illuminated in Go Set a Watchman…and she’s reached a point where revelation is more rewarding than concealment. I don’t want to pay $13.99 for it, but I do think I’ll read it within a year. Perhaps I’ll get it as a gift from my family. 🙂

      I would be most fascinated to see the transformation as well. How much was the book improved? My intuition is that the editor made a major suggestion which made TKaM the book it was/is.

      I suppose I may re-read Stranger in a Strange Land at some point…that would be an interesting experience.

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        The price of Watchman is above my usual top price set for an e book, but to me, it’s as much textbook as textbook novel. It doesn’t rise to the level of finding a missing Shakespeare folio or buying a trunk at auction and finding it full of new poems by Emily Dickinson, but it’s still a big deal.

        I live less than 4 miles from the university from which I received my bachelor and master degrees. I want to check to see if they’re going to offer any workshops because this is a book I’d like to read and discuss with a group. If not, I might see if I can talk the public library into offering a discussion group.

        If it were a lost book from the Oz series would the price seem less of a sticking point?

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        Your last question is perspicacious, and fair. Thinking about it honestly, I think I wouldn’t buy it. It would give my Significant Other and/or kid such pleasure to give it to me! I would do what I did with GSaW…put it on the Wish List my family uses for the holidays, and add it to my price drop watchlist at eReaderIQ. I have enough great things to read. 🙂

        If you do find a workshop or start a group, I’d be interested in hearing about it! I’m sure there will be interesting discussions online as well (Goodreads, for example), but it is different in person. Would people protest a discussion group of GSaW in a public library? Well, I know people protest TKaM, but I guess I wonder how big an objection there would be…

  2. Lady Galaxy Says:

    Totally unrelated to anything, but today marks the 20th anniversary of the first time I ever used the Internet!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Wow! I have to ask, though…how do you know the date? I’m not sure when I first did it…but I was on GEnie, and pre-AOL, so probably the late 1980s, maybe early 1990s.

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        I’ve been keeping a journal on my computer since I got my first Mac Color classic, and I decided to go back through and reread them a day at a time in 5 year increments, so I’m rereading what I did on “this day in history” in 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010. I was taking a graduate level class in computers, which in those days consisted of simply learning how to use a mouse, how to cut and paste, stuff that kids already know by Kindergarten now. Here was my comment: “I started my computer class today, and I don’t think I’m going to learn anything new. Just as I feared, I ended up helping others.

        “I did get to surf just a tiny bit on the Internet, but I must say I was disappointed. Too many advertisements. I wasn’t expecting that! Of course, I probably spent 15 minutes total on it, so that is hardly indicative of what it will be like. I almost bailed out, but I think I can stand 7 more days of it for 2 hours of credit.”

        The professor quickly realized that I knew more about the computer than he did, so he asked me what I wanted to do. I needed the 2 hours of credit, but I didn’t want to waste my time, so I noticed that Photoshop was on the hard drive and asked if I could experiment with it. Fortunately, the university had a license for the “computer in a box” tutorial for Photoshop so I worked my way through that while the other students were learning the basics. Then I got to use my newly learned skills to put together the class booklet using a digital camera for the first time to take pictures and crop them to insert beside the text written by the other students. I got to use the scanner to make scans of some of my very old family photos to save to disk. I was so grateful to him for allowing me to go on independent studies and still earn the credit towards the final step on the pay scale.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        xThanks for writing, Lady!

        Impressive on your part, and kudos to your professor!

        I used to keep a diary on paper, many years ago. It’s one of the things I should digitize at some point. Knock digital wood…I do worry something might happen to it, even though I keep it in an inexpensive, stand-alone fireproof box (about the size of a shoebox). I could scan it with my Xcanex…maybe another argument for eventually retiring. 😉

  3. Harold Delk Says:

    Interesting poll. Two quick things: a few years ago we were traveling through Kansas in our RV and stumbled upon The Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego. Stopped in and enjoyed it for a couple of hours; a most interesting place. I’m thinking you would find it interesting.

    I often “reread” a book in a different format. As example if I’ve read the p-book I may read it on Kindle or as an Audible book. I’m currently listening to Ulysses on Audible and not really caring for the interpretation by the narrators as find it too distracting … they seem to be trying to capture the spirit, but it’s not a book that lends itself to the spoken word. I know you have mentioned often you’re not fond of the audible narrations either. I usually like Audible and don’t find the narration bothersome unless it interferes with my interpretation. We listen to books as we drive … novels, Great Courses, and old lectures by Alan Watts of course. Oh, I ordered a Fire phone yesterday and it’s to arrive today; may only use it as a wi-fi device or may buy a sim card and try one of the monthly el cheapo services to see if it has value as a phone. With the purchase extending Prime for a year it cost $79.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Harold!

      As you probably know, Harold, I’m a huge Wizard of Oz fan….but I’ve never been to any of the museums.

      So, you’ll be the other person in the world with a Fire Phone. 😉

      • Harold Delk Says:

        Fire Phone arrived yesterday; not really sure about it as a fully functional phone. Quite quirky, but lovely screen. It feels a bit odd in my hand, but I’ll use it for a while.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Harold!

        My Fire Phone is my everyday phone. I think the biggest tip I’ll give you is flicking it. For example, with it in your right hand facing you, and held perpendicular to the ground (the screen is held like it would be mirror into which you are looking), quickly rotate it towards your thumb when you are on the home screen. If you flick it in the other direction, you’ll get other choices.

        When in doubt, just flick it. 😉

      • Harold Delk Says:

        Thank you; I’m trying to get into that habit, but find it counter-intuitive for some reason. I’m left-handed so life is rather like a mirror when reading directions. (Mirrors do, however, make me reflective.) I really WANT to love it. It is only day one so I’ll no doubt get used to it … it took me weeks to switch from a mouse to a Wacom tablet … and from the old PC world to the Apple world. I shall keep you posted in a few weeks.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Harold!

        Interesting! I’m ambidextrous, but tend to describe things in the blog for right-handers. Why? There are more of them, and left-handers are already skilled at adapting right-hander instructions, while the reverse is not true. I think I do typically flick left-handed, but it varies.

  4. Phink Says:

    Boy, you hit the nail right on the head when you talked about perhaps the time investment is the reason more don’t re-read. I have re-read very few books more than once and never read a book 3 times in my life. However, that will change in the near future with the Potter series. I am on the 6th Potter book re-reading them all and am thinking I am going to slowly re-read the series every 5 or 6 years or so.

    I have also re-read my 26th favorite book of all-time ‘Gone with the Wind’. If I were allowed (under my own rules) to re-judge a book then it’d moved up to somewhere in the top 20 after the second reading but I only rate a book after the first read and it gets a rating up to 10 (based on 5-6 categories) with digits to the hundredth place. That is how I do my all-time rankings. I have also re-read the first book I ever read #6 overall, ‘the Guns of the South’ by Harry Turtledove. I recently re-read #8 Jurassic Park and remembered how boring all the technical details were in the beginning of the book. Want to know how it feels to be eaten by a dinosaur? It describes it in this book during one scene. I don’t think it’d be much fun LOL. I decided a month or so ago I want to re-read everything in my top 20 list within the next few years. It’s hard though because it does take up so much time. Take #15 ‘Lonesome Dove’ for instance. If I remember correctly that audio book is about 45 or 46 hours long. I think ‘Gone with the Wind’ was 47 or 48. I guess I should say re-listen in some instances.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      I’m glad you rank them, but it’s not something I can imagine myself doing. If I did, I think I would re-judge them…often. 🙂

  5. Karin Says:

    I have re-read a few books over the years: Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter. I re-read Chaim Potok’s books when he died. When I do re-read books I feel as though I am wasting my time. I always feel like I should be reading that classic I haven’t read yet or that new blockbuster everyone is talking about.

    My Mom grew up during the depression, and they were very poor. She had a total of 4 books in her possession. She read those books multiple times. I think about how lucky I am to have access to so many books.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karin!

      Excellent point! I know how fortunate I am to have essentially an unlimited supply of books to read, so I have the option of not re-reading. If I could only afford to own a few books, I suspect I would read them over and over again…even with supplementing from the public library.

  6. Zebras Says:

    So many books, so little time! I am always thinking I’m going to re-read more of my favorites, but I get so excited about new stuff, it doesn’t happen very often. As a child and a teenager, I re-read many things. Gone With the Wind at least 8 times! But that may have been a product of limited funds. I’ve noticed that children like to re-read and re-watch many of the same things, and then I think we grow out of that when we are older, and want constant new stimuli.

    Thanks to the commenter who suggested you read Nevil Shute’s Trustee From the Toolroom. Right now, he is the only author on my list of books I’m willing to purchase because I get so many from the library and KOLL and Kindle First, I can’t keep up, so I moved that one to the top of the list, and I really really enjoyed it. I think he can write about tying your shoe, and you would enjoy reading it!

    While I’m being so talkative, moment of silence for my Echo, it died in a tragic moving accident, and lost a fight with a bread machine!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      Oh my gosh, I’m sorry to hear about your Echo! I would contact Amazon…who knows, they might replace it or offer you a discount on another one.

      I am so pleased that you found an author to read from one of my posts! That by itself makes all of the time and effort used in writing this blog worthwhile.

  7. Alisha Says:

    I re-read a select few books. The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Slaughter House 5 (I have a so it goes tattoo), It, and Lonesome Dove. Those are tried and true comfort reading. I’m sure I’ll re-read other books in the future but not as much as these! Oh, I read through the Bible every year.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Alisha!

      I think Lord of the Rings is probably one of the most re-read books…with its length and complexity being contributing factors.

      I have also encountered people who only read the Bible, and it wouldn’t surprise me if is the most re-read book in English.

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