Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Days 252 to 256 - Re-reading Novels

I've been thinking recently about re-reading novels. Some people swear by it, but other people find it's a terrible waste of time when they already have so many new books on their list that they want to read. I do understand where they are coming from - my "To be read" list on Goodreads is becoming increasingly lengthy and I fear it may take me the rest of the year to complete.

But when I'm lazing about the house or I'm unwell, a lot of the time I like nothing better than to read something that I've already read. Sometimes I wasn't even too keen on it the first time around. I just like to read without thinking too hard. Part of the problem is that I'm a very fast reader. One of those tiny category romances takes me a couple of hours so I can read four or five of them in a day when I have the flu and if I were to buy new ones each time I'd go broke.

I also like to re-read novels I loved. I've read the Count of Monte Cristo about 10 times, I've read all of Georgette Heyer's Regency novels and the Rumpole books at least twice and I've read all the Jane Austen novels more times than I can count. I think that this is actually really helpful. Each time I read through I pick up different things - bit of language I hadn't noticed before, how sentence structure is used to convey a particular emotion, depths of character that I may have missed before. As a writer, I think re-reading is a very useful exercise in that it helps us look at the words and not just the plot.

Plot is great. It's what keeps the story moving. However, when you boil it right down to the essentials almost every plot has been done before. It's the writing that keeps it fresh, the way the writer weaves the words to create the picture. And that's what re-reading teaches - the ability to look beyond themes and witty dialogue and fast-paced action and see the structure lying beneath.

What do you think? Do you re-read? And why/why not?

Word count - 147


  1. I re-read everything. I carry books from place to place in my house, reading as I go, putting one down and picking another up. It's part comfort, part rediscovery.

    I make time for new stories, too, but we aren't friends, yet, if that makes any sense . . .

  2. I definitely re-read the novels I loved. Like you said, you often pick up things you didn't notice the first time around. It's a wholly enjoyable experience because you know what's going to happen, so you just immerse yourself in everything and I think you take your time a bit more to appreciate the little things in it - the first time around I'm always rushing cause I have to know what happens!

    I love reading new books too, of course, but some days you just want that familiarity. A bit like a hug.

  3. I've read every book I own at least twice, some ten times over. The good ones never get boring, even if you do know how it ends.

    I find it interesting to go back over a favourite after a long time. I tend to notice little bits here and there that I hadn't previously and it's amazing what things you pick up the next time around - the author's affinity for certain words, the way some characters begin to annoy you, whether the way the story comes together changes with fresh perspective...

  4. I love to read Leslie Thomas again. The "Virgin Soldiers" was great. Currently I'm reading Moby dick which I'm pretty sure I will not read again, (that is if I manage to finish it).

  5. Sarah - That makes complete sense! Books are like people. When you just meet them, the exterior may seem inviting but then next thing you know they're advocating for mandatory detention of all kitten owners or saying children should be locked in cupboards where they won't be a bother to the adults. You never can tell till you've spent a couple of hours with them :-)

  6. And Katie, Mal and Quiet - I agree with all of you. Again, it's like people. You don't always have to go out and get new friends, sometimes it's nice to be around the ones you've known forever.