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To reread, or not to reread?

Updated: May 11, 2023

I have a vague memory when I was younger of watching a movie. Specifically, the Never-Ending Story 2. (Perhaps 3?) There is a scene in which a child steals a book from a bookstore, for a second time, after a lecture by the bookstore owner about which books are safe.


“But, I’ve read this one before.”

“Have you?”

“Yes.”

“But are you the same? Is the book the same? Books change.”

Or something like this. (I can’t find the clip on YouTube… crazy right?)

The protagonist steals the book, and everything works out, because “Hollywood,” but it does beg a very natural question. What is it like to reread a book?

People have poor memories. While the book in any direct sense cannot have changed, the book will not be the same as what we remember it to be. Characters might feel different, we might even side with a different perspective in arguments than we remember siding with the first time, wondering why we missed a sentence here or there. Or… Maybe everything is exactly the same as you remember it. The options are surprisingly wide.

Maybe we changed. Surprising I know, but people change as we go through life, rather a lot. What we want, what we expect, and what we believe all shift through time. What if nothing changed about the book at all but we are not even close to the same person?

When we are asking if we should reread a book, we are pressed with the question of why? As noted in other posts we only get to read a few thousand books in our lifetimes if we are average readers. Maybe twice that for fast readers or people with a lot of extra time. Should we reread a book we haven’t picked up in two decades? One decade? A few years ago?

I have been tempted to reread some books that made me start reading fantasy novels when I was a child. The Crystal Shard, By R.A. Salvatore. I remember getting the book at Christmas, I remember reading it, I remember loving it and thinking, this is the best thing I have ever read.

I reread that book perhaps three times in my youth and then read dozens of other books by the same author. I stopped reading them some time ago, for no particular reason but life and time, but every time I have an inkling to revisit then, I stop myself. What if they are not as good as I remember? What if they are bad? Would I want to risk ruining a memory? For now, the answer is a definitive “No,” I do not want to possibly ruin a memory, so I have not reread them. Am I wrong? I don’t know. For now, I still have a long “To read list,” and I don’t want for pages to flip through so I will stay in the quantum uncertainty of good book vs bad book.

Do you reread books? Why? Have you recaptured what you were looking for?

Whether new, or old, remember how good it is for you to read. Go grab some pages.

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