Choose a book. Read the book. Choose a new book. This is the normal reading cycle. Reading a book once is a gratifying experience. However, when a book truly speaks to you, rereading has benefits you might not think about.
When I talk about rereading I don’t mean immediately. If, for whatever reason, we choose to revisit a book it’s usually because it had some special effect on us. In reading a story the first time we focus on the lives and events of the characters. The plot carries us along, bringing about strong feelings about the events portrayed within. By rereading a book we are less concerned with the immediate plot and are free to take a broader view.
Delving into a familiar story can have various effects on the reader. Firstly, we catch subtle points we may have missed the first time. If a plot is exciting it’s conceivable to focus so hard on the outcome of events we miss something the author is trying to say.
Secondly, our reaction to the book may be altered. I read a book as a child and enjoyed the story and characters for the places it took me. Revisiting the book both impressed and shocked me at the same time. It impressed me how progressive the author was with women and minorities, yet still managed to include casually racists phrases. Not unexpected for a book from the 1950s, but reading it at seven-years-old I didn’t grasp the significance.
Lastly, rereading can offer comfort in trying times. People often rewatch films and television programmes because they find them reassuring. The same is true with books, only more so. Returning to a favourite book is like meeting an old friend. You may not have seen them in a while, but when you do you are taken back in time. It refreshes and relaxes to experience books we’ve read in a new light.
Reading new and interesting books is a great thing. However, rereading is a powerful way to go beyond the surface of a story. It shows us how we’ve changed and grown. Often in ways we don’t expect.