Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Reruns tend to bore me. I change the channel if an episode I've already seen airs, and I don't enjoy watching most movies more than once. With tens of thousands of books to choose from each time I get the hankering to read, it's a wonder I would ever think to reread one. I don't do it often, but every now and again I feel the urge to revisit an old favorite.

As a reader, rereading a novel is like slipping into a well worn pair of jeans. It's effortless and comfortable. I know my way around the story. I don't have to expend much mental energy remembering character names and setting details. My mind paints a picture the moment I open the cover, and characters spring to life, fully envisioned.

Sometimes I choose to revisit a book based on the mood I know it will evoke. For instance, I just finished rereading a dear old favorite, Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught. While there are many things I love about this novel, the emotional punch in the gut McNaught delivers in the last quarter of the story is amazing. I suppose I must sometimes crave that vicarious agony, because I spent the first three quarters of this read-through waiting to see if that twist still pulled the rug out from under me. It did.

As a writer, I now approach rereads with a student's eye. My favorite novels become textbooks, and familiarity with the material allows me to zero in on points of craft: What details does this author incorporate to evoke setting? How do dialogue and narrative balance in this passage? What particular word choices in this sentence give it such exquisite lyricism? This last read of Almost Heaven also marked a bittersweet rite of passage, in that I found redundancies which should have been cut. Good news for my editorial sense, but it took the tiniest bit of the magic away, as well. Growing as a writer is not without some cost to being a reader.

How about you? Are there any favorites you come back to time and again, or do you never touch the same book twice?


  1. I know what you mean, it is hard to reread something when you constantly have a list of things yet to be read, but I do have a few favorites that I revisit: Persuasion by Jane Austen, Villette by Charlotte Bronte and Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. I don't think I'll ever get tired of them. I've never read Almost Heaven, but I'm adding it to my TBR list now. Thanks =)

  2. I reread, and yes it is so much like slipping into a well-worn pair of jeans! What comes to mind are my favorite authors--Diana Gabaldon, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Tolkien.

  3. I mistakenly reread Northanger Abbey recently thinking I had never gotten to it. It was interesting, doing it unawares, because the resonances were deep but I had forgotten most of the characters plot points. I can't remember the last time I intentionally reread, but there are a bunch of favorites on my list that I plan to, one day. Ethan Frome just got added! Haven't read that one since high school.

  4. I, too, do not like to revisit movies, television shows or books. But there are exceptions. I've read Tolkien five times. Casablanca is such a perfect story to me, with great one-liners. Then there's Gone With the Wind - who can watch that only once? And each time, your mind is comfortable in the setting, so you are allowed to see new points, hear new lines, notice nuances missed before. I don't like to revisit books or movies, but every once in a while, there's one that matters enough to invite back again.

    Hope Clark