Monday, February 1, 2010

On re-reading

I have so many books on my to-read pile and on my list of what I want to read that I do not normally go back and re-read anything, however one of my book groups will be seeing the movie version of The Lovely Bones this week and then discussing the book afterwards. I read this book several years ago – possibly when it first came out – and I remember liking it, but since it has been a while a thought I’d re-read it so that I can better compare the two versions and intelligently participate in our discussion.

I was blown away.

Of course the story told in this novel is wonderful, but the writing! How could I have forgotten how beautiful it is? This time around, I became involved in the story, to the point of literally not putting it down all day until the last page, and just felt for most of the characters in a way that I don’t remember feeling the last time I read it.

So I began to wonder why I had such a change in perception. I suppose that because I am older now with young nieces and nephews I was more affected by this particular story and how I want to keep them as safe as possible; I have to think that certain books would have different meanings to people depending on what stage of life they are in when they read them. Also, I believe that I read this time around with more focus, paying attention to what was happening rather than quickly reading it to get on to the next book; I did read it fairly quickly this time, too, but I seemed to get so much more out of it because I was thinking about what I read as I was reading it.

It would be so interesting to re-visit some other books I’ve read in the past to see how I feel about them now, but alas, there are just not enough hours in the day.

Have you re-read any books that you enjoyed the second time around? Have there been any re-reads you disliked?


  1. I love rereading. Absolutely love it. If I had time and didn't feel the crunch of so-many-books-so-little-time, I'd reread everything immediately after I finished it. And then the next year. For two of the book club books (Oliver Twist and Archbishop) I did that and it really helped me to see the book as a whole rather than just as the story. I think I must be a pretty poor reader because I don't retain details well. And rereading helps with that.

    The most disappointing rereads are the ones I enjoyed as a young child. So dated now, I can't stand them. First example: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Ugh.

  2. I also enjoy rereading. I would more if it weren't for the time constraints I feel now. There are some books that are classics that I read in my teens and loved them but as I've re-read as an adult, I didn't like them as much, i.e., Wuthering Heights, Tess of the D'Ubervilles, Tom Sawyer. I understand why they are classics and still around but I've grown different eyes, I suppose. Life experiences changed things a bit for me, perhaps.

  3. I don't often have the chance to reread books. I'm constantly distracted by all the new books I'd like to read. I have, however, started books and been unable to finish them, only to come back to them later to find that I find it much more gripping than I did before.

    I think there's definitely some truth in that, often, how we feel or the stage we're in in our lives affects the way we read and react to a book. That's why, unless I absolutely hate it, I'm leery of saying that I didn't like a book. Sometimes, it isn't the book, it's the reader.

    I've had "The Lovely Bones" on my shelf for ages. I suppose I'll get around to it eventually. The list never ends....

  4. J.S. -- I think I started and abandoned Jane Eyre at least five times before I finally "got it". Atonement by Ian McEwan also took two or three tries before I was able to finish it.
    Rebecca -- I don't retain details too well either, that is why I try to read books for discussion as close as possible to the discussion date so I don't forget anything (or don't forget too much). And who is this Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle of whom you speak?
    Julie -- I didn't read many classics when I was younger so they are all new to me. But I would think something like Tom Sawyer, with a younger character, would read differently as an adult.


What do you think? Good or bad, I'd love to hear from you (but be nice - I'm sensitive!)