Posted by: susanideus | August 7, 2009

Once More

Are there books you re-read?  Do you keep certain books on hand just so you can read them again when the mood strikes?  Are your bookshelves bulging?

I began thinking about this when I read an article recently in Newsweek, Now, Read It Again by David Gates.  He favors Dickens, books on baseball or mountaineering, and various mysteries for his repeat reading.  In his experience, he has found the authors most likely to be re-read are Dickens, Shakespeare and Jane Austen.  I have no quarrel with those, having gone back to several selections in this group myself.  As a matter of fact, I have most of Jane Austen on my iPhone right now.

There are other books I favor for a return visit.  Recently, I read Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams for a second time. Now I know I read this book carefully before because it was the resource for a weekend seminar on writing that I attended several years back.  But, you know, I’d swear there were things in that book that weren’t there before.  How could that be?  I have the same heavily annotated book I used for that weekend.  The same thing happens when I re-read any of Anne Lamott’s trilogy of books on faith, and always when I delve into her Bird by Bird time and again.  Do I have little editing elves amongst my books?  No, it’s just that I am a different person in a different place in
my life when I peruse familiar pages at different times.  One point or statement or description may “speak to me” today whereas if I read the same thing a month ago, I might not have experienced the same spark of interest.  That’s the beauty and the fascination of re-reading.  A good book, a book that is special to you, holds a certain magic.  Books grow
with us, change with us.

Speaking of growing, I think I mentioned bulging bookshelves.  Mine are, and I have books packed away due to lack of space.  This will, I hope, become even more of a problem in a few years.  That is to say that, when we retire, my husband and I hope to be rather mobile, having only a small home base to come back to.  Books, in quantity, are not very mobile, at least not in a travel trailer or the like.  So I’m looking at big time down-sizing.  Some books I know I’ll never get rid of, but as for the rest, it will be a struggle to decide.

Of course, modern innovations such as the hand-held electronic readers will help.  I mentioned having Jane Austen on my iPhone.  I’m saving for a Kindle (not pushing a brand here, just the one I’m most familiar with).  Imagine 350 books in a hand-held device!  I’d have no worry about room for books as I travel.  Now if some one could just come up with a solution for copious amounts of yarn…but that’s another discussion.

Gates mentioned in his article that some folks think that re-reading old books is a bit sinful, as in self-indulgent, when there are so many new books out there and so many new subjects one should learn about.  He mentioned stock trading and steroids among others.  Whatever…  I’ll admit I’m always on the lookout for new books–those by favorite authors, a new memoir I don’t want to miss, a new author that looks interesting.  But re-reading a favorite?  That’s like coming home to a roomful of your best friends, always welcoming, always comforting, just sassy enough to keep you on
your toes.

Here’s to best friends and favorite books!!



  1. I love to re-read my favorites, especially the ones I’ve marked up. Just seeing my underlinings and notes on the pages reminds me of what I was thinking the last time I read this. Bird by Bird is one of those re-reads for me, too. And I don’t know how many times I’ve read Refuge–glad that you and I could read that together on that wonderful weekend we shared at Round Top a few years ago!–Hugs, Susan

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