Revisiting Old Favorites

SundaySalonThere was a time when I did almost as much rereading as I did first-time reading. I loved revisiting my most beloved books. Rereading certain books was almost a ritual for me. For example, These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder was a must-read when I felt sick or just down. There was a period several years ago when that book lived by my bed. It was a comfort.

Somewhere along the way, even before I began blogging, I fell out of the rereading habit. I think it started with the realization that I had missed out on so many fine new discoveries when I was reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles or Gaudy Night for the umpteen-zillionth time. Today, my shelves are filled with books I’ve never read, and I feel I must read them to justify acquiring them, but those dear old friends that I’ve loved for years remain untouched.

A few years ago, I discovered audiobooks and started “rereading” with my ears. I love listening to audio of books I’ve already read, but it’s not the same as reading them in print. It’s nice, but not the same.

But how to make time for rereading? Recently, I’ve started taking old favorites to work to read over lunch. This seems to solve three problems. (1) It gives me a set block of time for rereading; (2) I’m not in danger of leaving my current read at the office (which I did with Armadale before the read-a-thon); and (3) The noise in the lunchroom doesn’t distract me from understanding what I’m reading because I’m already familiar with the story. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up books in the evening that I read parts of during lunch, only to realize that I didn’t understand a word I read.) So far, it’s working pretty well. I’m almost done with Northanger Abbey and plan to start The Mill on the Floss this week. I’m not sure how it would work for something really long complex, like Bleak House or Jude the Obscure.

I’ve also got a couple of rereading projects in the works that I’m very excited about. A few weeks ago, I was chatting on Twitter with Eva of A Striped Armchair and Maree of Just Add Books about how we were longing to reread The Lord of the Rings. I first read those books when I was 14 and then revisited them at least once every five years. It’s now been at least seven years since I read them, and I miss my friends from Middle Earth. So we decided to reread the series together this January. Raych of Books I Done Read saw us chatting about it a few days ago and decided to join us. We’d love for others to come along! (First-time readers would be welcome.) 

Maree and I may follow that up with a reread/first-read of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. The Dark Tower series, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is an epic fantasy series comprising seven novels; it has some elements of horror, but it’s not the kind of thing people think of when they think of Stephen King, even though his fans will recognize bits and pieces of most of his books within it. I’ve read all seven books, and Maree has read up through book 3. (I’m astonished that someone could stop at the end of book three; that book ended with a cliff-hanger that is rivaled only by the end of The Two Towers. I couldn’t sleep properly until I got my hands on the next book. Because …  Blaine the Mono!! And riddles!!! And Frodo’s in the hands of the Orcs!! Sooo stressful! But I digress…. calming down now.)

So, do you do much rereading? How do you fit it in? Are there any books you reread regularly or books that you have been hankering to revisit?


Notes from a Reading Life

Books Completed

Currently Reading

  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (reread)
  • The Regency by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (audio)
  • The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry.Working through this very slowly.

On Deck

  • The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
  • Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum (audio)
  • The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (reread)

New Acquisitions

  • The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton. For the January Classics Circuit tour.

Books to Remember

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30 Responses to Revisiting Old Favorites

  1. Annabel says:

    Like you Teresa my shelves are overloaded with new books, and I’ve not made time to re-read a book for ages, until recently. My book group chose a book I’d read many years before (The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster), and I found re-reading it was a joy.

    I’m tempted to join in your LOTR re-read … It would be my fourth read, but the first for over 20 years – I could only manage one book per month though.

  2. adevotedreader says:

    I’m a big re-reader, so I just ignore the guilt about all the unread books I’ve hoarded. I find great books are worth more than one read as they have lots to say eg I’ve just re-read All Quiet on the Western Front. Plus, there are books that feel like friends- it’s always a pleasure to revisit them!

  3. Jeane says:

    I used to re-read a lot, too, until my shelves started overflowing with TBR’s. Now I only re-read occasionally, but I agree with you- re-reads are a nice fit for distracting situations with short time frames!

  4. I prefer to read new books, but I often reread The Count of Monte Cristo and Wicked. I’m also hankering to reread The Lord of the Rings– I read them the first time when I was eleven, and nearly everything went right over my head.

  5. Great idea to allocate a specific time and place for rereading. I too have struggled with that and I think I will adopt your plan!

  6. softdrink says:

    I’ve never been a re-reader…I find all the new (to me) books too tempting!

  7. Jenny says:

    I’d love to join in rereading Lord of the Rings – I’ve just been thinking about that trilogy and wanting to give them another go. :)

  8. Priscilla says:

    I already have plans in the works to have a re-reading “challenge” for myself next year. Like you, I notice that many of my old favorites languish untouched on my shelves. I’ve already made a list of the books I hope to include. My plan right now is to re-read at least one book a month, starting in January. I have an ulterior motive, though: to get rid of books I don’t absolutely love. I have been working do hard to de-clutter, and that’s my last area, and the one that needs the most work. I used to think I wanted rooms full of books, but when I look at the ones that have been sitting on my shelf untouched for years, I wonder: what’s the point?

  9. Christopher Lord says:

    I have about a 50/50 ratio of rereads to new reads. The thing about rereads: they seldom disappoint. Even if, with a book such as Michener’s The Drifters (reread this fall), when it isn’t as good as you remember it, you at least remember enjoying it before. And learn a little about your former self. Contemporary books are so often disappointing; I almost never feel that, however, about 19th century British novels. I reread the Dickens canon every few years, not so frequently with Eliot and Hardy, and I haven’t made it through Trollope or Collins’s lesser works yet for the first time. The last time I read Jude the Obscure, though, I couldn’t help but laugh at the insane ending, much the way Oscar Wilde reacted at the end of Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop. I hope to make it through James before I go, many years from now.

  10. Rachel says:

    I’d love to reread more but I feel guilty because of all the unread books I have and think I should read those before I start reading stuff I’ve already read many times over. I’d love to sit down and reread Jane Austen in her entirety or the Bronte sisters’ novels, or even my childhood favourites, but somehow I just never find the time. Perhaps if I stop buying so many books the pressure will lift and then I’ll be able to go reread guilt free. There is a real pleasure in re reading a well known and loved story. I know whenever I feel sad I have a hankering to reread Jane Eyre or Emma. They lift my spirits.

  11. Kathleen says:

    I do reread and really enjoy seeing what I think about books the second or third or fourth…time around. I recently reread Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier and was not disappointed. I still enjoyed the book immensely but had different reactions to the characters this time around. I like your idea of scheduling time in for the rereads and lunch hour is a good one that would work for me as well. I tend to read stuff in my Google Reader but I could definitely slot in some time for rereading. Now as for what I would reread? I’ll have to ponder that!

  12. Eva says:

    Oh! We’ll have to make a button if we want other people to join in the read-a-long. ;) lol

    Until I started blogging, probably 30-40% of books I read were rereads. I still want to get back to that someday. *sigh*

  13. Nicola says:

    I regularly re-read Austen and Bronte. You mentioned The Mill on the Floss. I must re-read that. I loved it even more than Middlemarch.

  14. Maree says:

    Yay, buttons! I’m really looking forward to it :D

  15. Teresa says:

    Annabel: We’re still in the early stages of LOTR planning, but I’m thinking one a month (or read them all at your own pace by April) would work well.

    adevotedreader: If there’s something to feel guilt about, I’ll find it :-) But I agree that I often get more out of a great book the second time. And do join us in the LOTR readalong!

    Jeane: It’s the overflowing shelves that got me out of the rereading habit.

    Literary Omnivore: I still have to read Monte Cristo for the first time (It’s actually on my shelf!)

    rhapsodyinbooks: I hope it works for you!

    Jenny: We’d love for you to join in!

    Priscilla: Once I realized how little rereading I was doing, I pretty much stopped holding on to books once I’d read them. I think I’m wanting to do more rereading partly to have an excuse to hold on to the ones I can’t part with!

    Christopher: I do like to read a mix of old and new, but you’re right that rereads don’t tend to disappoint. I do sometimes wonder how many of my old favorites would be favorites if I read them now for the first time. I reread Tess two years ago and still love it, but that love is tightly wound up in the memory of that first read, which left me shattered.

    Rachel: I’m wanting to slow down my book acquisitions partly because I think I’ll be more inclined to rereading if I don’t have so many unread books in the house.

    Kathleen: Rebecca used to be one of my regular rereads, and it does hold up. I’d like to read it again!

    Eva and Maree: I am button-illiterate (also button lazy), but if you can put one together, that would be cool!

    Nicola: I liked Mill on the Floss more than Middlemarch, too, but it’s been so long since I read either, I wouldn’t be able to explain why. I just don’t remember getting as emotionally involved in Middlemarch.

  16. Care says:

    I’m not a rereader. but I’m willing to try. I’ve got to figure out what entices you strange people! All my re-reads have been disappointing – it ruins the book for me. But I also have to admit that I’ve only reread a FEW so maybe I chose the wrong books. Some books should just keep that first-love feeling.

  17. Kailana says:

    I always mean to re-read, but I never actually do so!

  18. Great post and a good question for discussion. I hardly ever reread because there are so many books out there that I haven’t read, many of them recommended or well critiqued. There are only a few books that I’ve read multiple times; in fact, only one that I come back to time and time again over the years: A little-known book called The Lost Legends of New Jersey. It’s amazing, and I have a sense of nostalgic comfort reading it every time. Other than that, it’s new material all the way.

  19. JaneGS says:

    Speaking of rereading (via audio) long complex books, I just started listening to Vanity Fair on CD in the car two days ago and am loving it. Of course, it’s 23 CDs long and since I no longer have a commute since I have a home office, it’ll probably take me years of errands to get through it. I predict I will get impatient, listen for awhile, and read the bulk of it…but this will get me going. It’s been awaiting a reread for a very long time now!

    I don’t have much reading time. About 15-20 minutes before dinner, about an hour after dinner if I opt not to watch part of a movie, and about 20 minutes before I going to sleep. More on weekends, but that doesn’t even always pan out.

    I always take a book with me to appts, etc. so that I can read while I wait.

    These Happy Golden Years was comfort food for me for the longest time. I still love it.

  20. Teresa says:

    Care: Ah, my rereads just take me back to that first-love feeling. :)

    Kailana: Same here, these days. That’s why I had to make a plan for it.

    jamey: I’ve never even heard of that book. But I get having one or two that get reread the most.

    JaneGS: Would you believe that I was just thinking today that I’d like to revisit Vanity Fair? I love that book. However, I want to reread some of my favorites from college days first, and that will take a long while. (I first read VF about 5 years ago.)

  21. My problem is I belong to just too darn many book groups! Three face-to-face, and three online, and I’ve been MIA for one of them for months (Dickens — just can’t get into The Pickwick Papers right now). I miss rereads too, but I try to revisit my old books on audio, in the car and on my iPod. I was inspired to revisit Rebecca after Amanda and Trish did a joint review. I like your idea of rereads at times with a lot of distractions — I took my daughter for a haircut yesterday and it was so loud I could hardly pay attention to my book. Very annoying.

  22. Rebecca Reid says:

    I love rereading and I just put them in my regular pile of books to raed. Not rereading anything right now, but plan in December, maybe. How fun to revisit old favorites!

    I read the first of the LotR as a teen and did not like it. But my husband and I read Silmarillion together and then I read The Hobbit (which I also didn’t like much) but I’m hoping to someday get to the entire trilogy.

  23. Kristen M. says:

    I haven’t been re-reading much over the past year or two but I have a few authors and series that I’m wanting to revisit soon. I’m definitely going to make an effort to re-read more next year. I’ve also been using re-reads to clear my home shelves a bit. Some books were more appealing to me when I was younger but now they just don’t satisfy me anymore.

    I might join your LOTR re-read too. :)

  24. Teresa says:

    Karenlibrarian: I keep wanting to join some of the online book groups (Slaves of Golconda is the one that tempts me), but I don’t for the very reason you mention!

    Rebecca: I can totally understand LOTR not being everyone’s thing. I’m impressed, though, that you read the Silmarillion without having read the main trilogy!

    Kristen: Yeah, I have a feeling if I reread more, I might find I don’t want to hold on to some of my keepers that I’ve been carting around from house to house.

  25. litlove says:

    I hardly ever reread as I find myself a little uncomfortable with that feeling of knowing too well what is about to happen. But there are some books, particularly golden age crime, that I do read again when tired or poorly. And that is very comforting! Oh and my blog post may have misled you – the Patrick Leigh Fermor is called A Time for Silence. Just so’s you know!

  26. DKS says:

    Middlemarch! I read it years ago, admired it, but can’t remember exactly why. I’ve been making plans to go back to that book for about two months now.

    There are some books that I reread regularly, out of order, that is, I leave them lying near me and often stop to read a page, or half a page, or a paragraph, because the words are familiar and revitalising. The problem though, is that I end up remembering individual scenes, but not always the connective vibe of the thing. Because of that, there are other books that I won’t let myself reread like this. It has to be cover to cover.

  27. litlove says:

    Duh! How would it be if I actually got the name of the book I was recommending right? So sorry – it is in fact, really, honestly A Time To Keep Silence by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Sigh.

  28. Teresa says:

    litlove: Thanks for the correction on the Fermer title! What’s funny is that I just went to my wishlist spreadsheet and saw that I had it right there, so you didn’t lead me astray. I was just careless when assembling my post. I’m correcting it now, just in case someone else is interested :-)

    DKS: I feel the same way about Middlemarch. I know I liked it, but don’t remember why. As it happens, I’m rereading Mill on the Floss now, which I think I liked better than Middlemarch, but I’m fuzzy on the details about them both.

  29. Dorothy W. says:

    I’m like you and have done a lot less rereading in more recent years. Perhaps as we grow up and get older we become more and more aware of all the books there are out there and it becomes harder to spend time rereading. But I agree that it’s very satisfying. I have done some rereading of things I enjoyed as a kid — a great thing to do when I’m busy and stressed, I think.

  30. Ann says:

    I’ve always been a great re-reader. I have books to which i return at particular points in my life and they have never failed to sustain me. Now, however, faced with the need to think carefully about how much I read I am seriously looking at the books on my shelves that I have there ‘just in case’ I should ever want to read them again and thinking that maybe I should let them go and concentrate on new reads. If I can replace them with audio copies it won’t be so bad, but otherwise……..

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