Dissection and Digression: Reasons To Re-read

Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Minifig Transformation was an ill-advised sequel. (Photo credit: Profound Whatever)

I finished a book the other day. Actually, I finished it again. I’ve read this particular book—Duma Key by Stephen King, if anyone’s interested—about half a dozen times over the last couple of years.

And it’s not the only one. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, It, the Harry Potter series, every goddamned Terry Pratchett novel under the sun…there are some pieces that I keep returning to.

Now, I could tell you that I do it because those books are ones I like, and I’m trying to figure out why. That is a part of it. When something makes me sit up and take notice, especially on a first reading, I tend to re-read it, just to figure out why. Why does this one make me feel…well, anything? After all, it’s all make-believe. It’s words on a page. So why did it make me laugh? Cry? Why did it make me angry? I’m always looking for the wires behind the smoke and mirrors. Looking for the structure and effort beneath the seamless glide of the prose. Like one of those smug assholes that exposes magic tricks, except hopefully less people want me dead.

Another reason is that re-reading good books makes them new again. You pick up on nuances you might not have on that first read, when you were too busy trying to figure it all out. You notice things, characters, plot threads, all of it. Maybe not on the second reading, but on the third, the fourth, the fifth. Get to half a dozen and you might really have an idea what it’s all about.

Those are two good reasons. They’re reasons that I can write about on this blog, where I offer my dubious advice. But, if you’ve ever re-read a book, then you know they’re not the only reasons. Or even the biggest ones.

Re-reading a book you love is like having a conversation with an old friend: comfortable, relaxing, and full of meaning. And inside jokes. Those are fucking everywhere. You can lose yourself in it, wander along those familiar paths, and still find something new.

It’s like putting on your most comfortable sweater and sinking in for an afternoon of relaxation.

In the end…it just feels good.


Sidebar: starting Friday and continuing for two weeks, the posts here may go up later than usual as I’ll be on vacation. But I’ll still be posting, so drop on by. Brave NaNoWriMo test monkeys, I’ll have some special posts just for you. And for those of us who prefer to watch the madness of the word-herders from the sidelines this year, I’ll have some for you, too. Stay tuned! November’s going to be awesome.)

5 thoughts on “Dissection and Digression: Reasons To Re-read

  1. I love to re-read, too. It’s like hanging out with an old friend you haven’t talked to in a while, warm and comforting. 🙂 And you’re right — even on the sixth read, you’ll still usually notice something you didn’t notice before.

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