Reading Once Or Twice?

A little while back, I tweeted about the fact that I rarely ever re-read books. I have done it in the past, especially when I was really young, but it just doesn’t happen anymore. A lot of people shared my experience, in that they usually always wanted to go on to reading something else, and a lot of people said they loved going back to those old favorites.

The original tweet went like this:

I hardly ever read a book more than once, and the last time I did it was years ago. How do people find the time to read a book 5-10 times?? Have you seen the amount of books out there?! We’re responsible for them getting read, step up

I’d like to point out that though I meant every word, this was also an attempt at humor. Also, I need to highlight that this isn’t something I do on purpose. I don’t actively decide that I’m never reading this book again. I like books, I have a lot of books. It just kind of… doesn’t happen.

But then something interesting happened, because someone actually challenged my view. This isn’t a direct quote, but basically they said that:

You miss things by only reading once. You need to go back and revisit stories to truly grasp them, to truly understand. It’s not enough to only read once.

This sparked an interesting discussion, because it went beyond simply saying that reading twice is fun. The person in question is a teacher of literature, as far as I could gauge, and likely dives deeper than most of us when it comes to reading. They pick things apart, annotates, really studies the writing, and obviously therefore thinks you miss out if you don’t do those things.

Like me, who only read books once.

As the discussion moved on, the person also made a good point about how we read:

Reading shouldn’t be a chore. You don’t have to rush through a book just to finish. If you don’t like it, put it away. Read what you want, how often you want, and as many as you want.

Again, this isn’t a direct quote. But you get the gist, as do I. Of course reading should be a pleasure. It should be a reward, something you truly enjoy, something you can hide away and do when you really need some quality time alone.

But then again, I like to read a lot. And yeah, maybe I plow through a bit, especially if I’m not completely gripped by the plot. Because that’s another thing, I very rarely don’t finish a book. I just can’t do it. I need to see it to the end, unless it’s completely unreadable. Which means that maybe I skim some boring parts.

The pleasure for me is to keep reading, to experience new stories, new worlds, new characters. So I want to read many things, and obviously I can’t argue for how it feels to read a book many times (since I don’t do it), but haven’t we both read the same story even if I’ve only read it once and you’ve read it seven times?

Won’t the story be the same?

This is the idea that made this so very interesting for me, and also why I’m writing this. If I was to re-read something, what would it be? The way people spoke about it, was as if they absolutely had to re-read their favorites. When I try to think of which books I’d like to re-read, the list is either too long, or it’s empty. There are no definite must-read-again titles that pop into my head.

My wife brought to my attention that this might have more to do with who I am as a person. I don’t really have any favorites when it comes to anything. No favorite movie, song, band, place, and I don’t get excited about a lot of things. (What she really meant is that I’m passive and boring.)

But I think it’s all about what we like to do as people. My aunt and her family goes on holiday to the same country, same place, every year. They’ve done that for twelve years, because it’s easy, safe, and familiar. I could never do that, I’d go insane from boredom.

Like I said, I don’t know a book as well as someone who’s read it 6 times. But I’ve read 5 other books.

What’s more worth to me? What’s more worth to you?

I’m going to revisit an old favorite, because I’m intrigued by how people talk about it. It sounds exciting to revisit an old story and “come home,” as a few people put it. I haven’t decided what it will be yet, I tried thinking back 15 years to see if I could remember what I’d read, but I couldn’t think of anything.

As of now, it’ll probably be the first Harry Potter or The Hobbit, and I’ll write about my experience when I’m done. I’m looking forward to it.

I’m excited to go back.

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