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Why rereading and revisiting favourite novels is worthwhile

A woman reading in front of a window surrounded by piles of books

I’m a committed re-reader of my favourite novels. Some stories inspire my writing. Others provide solace when I’m down. And there are plenty that I treat as old friends.

It’s the same with favourite movies. Revisiting these imaginary worlds can provide stability when everything seems topsy turvy. Sometimes they’re just the best thing on a channel or platform overwhelming with titles.

Re-reading enables you to appreciate details of a story that you may not have noticed the first (second/third) time round. Usually there’s a gap between readings – sometimes years. In that period you will have changed; grown as your life experience broadens. This growth lends itself to discovery of underlying (or more adult themes if you were young on your first reading) and to relate more to a character’s struggles.

As you age and grow as a reader, your ability to analyse a text also grows. Grown up you may become more adept at discovering viewpoints, recognising symbolism you may have missed earlier, and understanding the arc of a character’s development.

Sometimes you may just want the nostalgia of visiting a known world full of characters and beloved locations.

Be warned. Rereading may also expose deficiencies in writing and stereotypes or platitudes you either didn’t notice in the first reading or you no longer agree with. If your favourite novel was turned into a movie, you may also find that the written version seems dated or overly wordy. Film scripts do not (cannot) include every scene that the author lovingly crafted for their reader (Lord of the Rings, I’m looking at you).

Which novel or novel series have you read more than once?

I confess, some of the books on my shelf are decades old and have been read so often, I now reread the e-version. I’ve read them more than twice too. Thomas Covenant Chronicles, whole set, printed version several times and e-version also several times. Lord of the Rings at least twice (and the movies enough to spoil the written version quite a bit). The Crystal Cave series by Mary Stewart, half a dozen times at least (everything I think about the Arthurian Legends is shaped by this series). The Belgariad (David Eddings) also half a dozen times at least (but probably not again because the stereotypes jolt me out of happy reading land now.)

I’m actually thinking of opening up my Kindle and starting on Thomas Covenant. With nine very thick novels in the series, that would be the next six months of reading material taken care of. A decision not to be taken lightly, especially when my "to be read" pile beckons.

Disclaimer: the image used above was created with Adobe Firefly (AI).

Rereading and revisiting favourite novels

1 Comment

Dec 14, 2023

Interesting topic Leslie. I have read LOTR several times, plus Arthur C Clarke's Childhoods End. Ilke Tampke's Songwoman I've reread, but the most notable reread goes to Janny Wurts' Wars of Light and Shadow, a total of 10 thick books. I have lost count of the times I've reread this series over a period of 30plus years, and each time I read the story I find all sorts of details - some of them very important - that I previously missed. Wurts' writing is thoroughly supported by a back story and historical context that's epic. Like an iceberg there's far more that's not visible in the the printed text. I am waiting for the release of the 11th and final…

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