Way back when I set my reading goals for 2018, not only did I set an overall goal for the number of books read, but I also gave myself other small challenges I could do along the way. One of these goals was to re-read two of my favorite book series, Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter and The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.
My motivation behind re-readings these books was mostly because it had been a while since I first read them, and I thought it would be fun to take another look at my old favorites. In other words, I wanted to be able to enjoy them again. And I certainly did! Re-reading these two series reminded me of how much I love them, and I still had fun with them the second time around.
As I was re-reading, however, I began to think… is there more to re-reading than just entertainment? If the twists and turns of a story are what make it so entertaining the first time around, then what’s the point of going back and reading it again? You know everything that’s coming, so why bother when there are so many brand-new stories to be read?
There are plenty of good reasons to re-read your favorite books though, and they go beyond entertainment. Of course, movies and TV shows can fall under this umbrella too, but since I re-read books most often, I’ll be using them as my examples today.
Have you ever watched a movie with someone who seems to know everything about it? They’re the ones pointing out each little detail, like the way that a character speaks or what props are in the background of each scene. They’ve probably seen the movie dozens of times (or read the IMDb page on it, but that’s beside the point) and have picked up on the things that most people wouldn’t notice the first time around.
Re-reading books is the same way. The first time you read it, you’re likely absorbed by the story – and that’s a good thing! When you read it again, however, you know what happens and you can focus your attention on other things – the details that you didn’t notice before. Literary devices like foreshadowing can become clearer upon re-reading.
For example, when I re-read The Lunar Chronicles, I noticed how Meyer foreshadowed a plot point that happens in the third book, Cress, all the way back in the first book of the series, Cinder. It helped me appreciate the story more, knowing how much work Meyer put into making sure all of the pieces fit together just so.
This can be especially helpful for writers. As the saying goes, the best writers are often the most dedicated readers, and it holds true for many of us. We learn how to write by reading from other writers, and I would argue that re-reading helps us more than anything else. While we often read as a reader for the first time, we tend to read as a writer every time after that. We analyze the author’s technique and look for ways that we can apply it to our own writing.
To use another example from The Lunar Chronicles, all of the books use a third-person perspective, but the point of view switches between characters often. I’ve often struggled to write in third-person, because it often feels unengaging to me. I don’t have this problem when reading The Lunar Chronicles, however. While I was re-reading, I was also looking at how Meyer kept her narrative interesting while still using a more detached point of view. I hope I can apply this to my future projects.
Noticing new things goes beyond technique, too. Re-reading can reveal that quote that tugs at your heartstrings, or the little details that make your favorite characters so interesting. In the end, it all helps you appreciate the story more. It pulls you deeper into the story that you loved so much the first time around, making it even more enjoyable.
Now, on a more serious note… We all have bad days sometimes, right? Even if you’re someone who has their life together 99% of the time, there’s still that 1% that is plain awful. They’re the days that make you want to curl up into bed and pretend nothing happened.
Everyone has different ways of coping with crummy days – sometimes we watch corny TV dramas and eat a delicious snack, we spend time with the people we love, or we listen to our favorite song. Re-reading the books that we love can also be a comfort during these times.
I remember a particularly bad day a few years ago (give or take). I don’t recall why I felt so awful, but I do remember it being late at night and crawling into bed with a book I hadn’t read since middle school: Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements. I read the entire book in one night, and by the time I finished, I felt better – well enough to go to sleep, at least. Things Not Seen made the day (er, night) a little less bleak and lonely.
For me, re-reading books brings me comfort because I know everything is going to turn out okay. I know how the story ends. I know that, even though the main character has the odds stacked against them, they’re going to overcome these obstacles and come out even stronger. It’s comforting to read something without surprises, but even more than that, it’s encouraging to see our favorite characters overcome challenges. Sure, our situations may be entirely different, but we can still identify with the characters’ hardships. We can still have hope that we will also overcome our own challenges.
Though re-reading books may seem like a waste of time to some, we should reconsider. Re-reading gives us a deeper appreciation for what we already love by showing us things we’ve never noticed before. It also can be a comfort on our worst days, when we need some encouragement. Whether you last read it three years or three weeks ago, it’s never a bad time to re-read your favorite book.