Thursday, June 14, 2012

To Reread, or not to Reread, that is the question

I am not a re-reader. Once I finish the book, that is pretty much it for me. But I recently watched an interview with Shelby Foote and he said rereading was when you got to study what the author did. You know by now where she is going and you get to see how she gets you there.

Anna Quindlen said the same thing. She is a big fan of rereading. I could probably count on two hands the number of books I have found compelled to read again.

One is Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman. Another is To Kill a Mockingbird. One summer I reread all of the Annie Dillard books that I own: Teaching a Stone to Talk, An American Childhood, and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I have read William Zinsser's On Writing Well multiple times.

Within the past few years I also reread Travels With Charley by Steinbeck. That is the book that made me want to be a writer. I was afraid to read it again - the last time was in high school - because I didn't want to be disappointed or finish it and say, "What was I thinking? This is the book I based my entire life on?"

Fortunately it was just as compelling as I remembered it.

I feel like rereading a book you loved the first time is risky business. The emotions that you felt may be entirely missing the second time and that would be so disheartening. It is like visiting the house you grew up in now that someone else lives there. The images that you hold dear are superseded by the green carpet and the yellow wallpaper that the new owners have installed in your bedroom.

How do you feel about re-reading a favorite book?

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