I’m a big re-reader. If there’s a book I love, I can read it over and over again. That’s one reason I have such a huge book collection. They’re all “keepers” that I plan to re-read someday. You can tell my favorite books because they’re the ones falling apart. I’ve tried to cut back on my book purchasing since I’ve run out of bookcase space. Instead, I get most of my books from the library. But if there’s something I love at the library and know I’ll want to read it again, I’ll get a keeper copy. I don’t want to risk not being able to get it from the library someday. I even get paper keeper copies of e-books I really love, since you never know when something might go wonky with electronic files or the e-book supplier might go out of business and you can’t access your library anymore, etc.
Most of the time, re-reading is about either re-experiencing the things I loved in the first read or discovering new things. Generally, my first read is purely for story, and if I’m really into it I may miss things as I eagerly plow through the story to find out what happens. It’s on subsequent reads that I pick up on details, since I’m reading more leisurely and don’t have to be so anxious about what’s going to happen. I’m savoring instead of frantically turning pages. Or, if I just enjoyed the book a lot, it’s fun to spend more time in that world and with those characters, and it’s about the experience rather than finding out what happens next, the way it is on the first read.
I’m currently re-reading a book I know I’ve read more than once, but it’s like reading it for the first time because very little about it is familiar. I read it in the early-mid 90s, but haven’t read it since then. There are little bits and pieces that ring a bell, and I think I know what the big twist at the end is going to be, but I’m not sure if that’s because I remember it or if it’s because the book is doing a lot of foreshadowing. Otherwise, it feels new. I remember the experience of reading this book. I know where I was and what I was doing when I read it, and I remember discussing it with someone. I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about it, so it didn’t stay fresh in my head. I think that big gap since the last time I read it means that my mental imagery from reading it has changed. I’m a different person now than I was in the early 90s, and I’ve had a lot of experiences since then that may have changed the images in my head that are conjured up by the words. It doesn’t “look” the same, and so it seems like a different book. It’s kind of nice because it’s like getting a brand-new book that I’m guaranteed to like, since I know I liked it when I first read it.
I’m the same way about movies. I have “comfort views,” the movies I’m guaranteed to like, and I enjoy experiencing them again. When I do movie nights, I tend to alternate between new-to-me movies and movies I’ve seen. I’ve been burned more than a few times by a new movie that sounds good and isn’t what I wanted it to be at all, so when I’m in a delicate mood, I go with something I’ve seen since I know how it will hit.
When I was discussing re-reading with some writer friends a while back, I had the theory that writers who like to re-read are more likely to be plotters, while those who don’t like to re-read are more likely to be “pantsers” who just write without outlining ahead of time. A lot of pantsers don’t like to plot because once they’ve done an outline and know how it ends, they’re done with the story and don’t want to write it anymore. It seemed likely that these same people wouldn’t want to read a book they’ve already read, either. In that particular group, the theory held out, but I don’t know if it holds true among a larger sample size.
Now I need to look at my bookcase and see what other books I could re-read without remembering them. Not that I don’t have a huge to-be-read stack of books I haven’t read, but sometimes you want something you know you like, even if you don’t remember it.