When we go on driving holidays my husband is the kind of person who can’t bear retracing his steps on the return journey. Even if it means going out of his way and adding hours to the trip, he insists on taking another route home. His reasoning is that he’s already ‘been there, done that’ and he wants to see something new.
I’m a bit like this when it comes to books. As an English major I’ve read many of the classics and loved most of them. I’ve also read a lot of popular fiction and have many favourites.
These days I’m pretty fussy with what I enjoy, and it’s getting harder for me to find books I want to finish. I start a lot of new books but get about halfway into them and realise they’re not for me (this may also have to do with my diminishing attention span thanks to technology).
When it’s time to choose my next book, I always consider picking one of my old favourites from the shelf, but I rarely do. My biggest fear is that I won’t enjoy it and my good memories will be ruined.
Only a book lover can understand the trauma of having to re-evaluate a favourite novel that’s been glowing in your memory for years. It’s like losing an old friend.
The thing is, it’s been so long since I’ve read many of my favourites, that I probably wouldn’t remember them anyway, but I still can’t shake that ‘been there, done that’ feeling. Instead of covering old ground, I feel like I should be striking out into unchartered territory and experiencing something brand new.
I really do want to enjoy these books all over again, but sometime in the distant future. In my heart I feel like I have plenty of time to get re-acquainted with these old friends, but rationally I know this isn’t the case. Time moves fast, and I’m reading less than I used to. There’s a good chance I’ll never get to re-discover many of my favourites if I wait, but there are also a lot of great books that I haven’t yet found.
Should I devote my limited time to finding new favourites or dive into something I’ve enjoyed before? It’s the classic readers dilemma.
Here are some of the pros of revisiting loved books:
- You Know You’ll Enjoy It
In most cases, the books you loved in the past are the ones you’ll love again. Re-reading a book you’ve already enjoyed is like eating a favourite meal or falling into the embrace of a long-time lover. The thrill of the new might be gone, but the pleasures of the familiar have their own special charm.
- You Pick Up the Nuances
There’s something so satisfying about re-reading a favourite and discovering things you missed the first time around. It’s just like finding a new and interesting facet to someone you thought you knew well. Whether its symbolism, hidden clues or a better understanding of the characters and themes, developing a deeper appreciation of book is a great reason to re-read it.
- You Bring a New Perspective
Re-reading books allows you to see how you’ve grown and changed since the first time around. Books deal with all the important issues, and the way we react and interpret them really reflects who we are. It’s like holding up a mirror, and taking a second look in the mirror helps you develop a better understanding of yourself.
For the same reason, it can also be interesting to pick up books you didn’t enjoy in the past and give them another chance. The more you grow and change, the more you can relate to a wider range of experiences.
I think it’s time for me to dust off some of my old favourites. What about you?