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6 Reasons To Read A Book More Than Once

March 4, 2014
Nick Charles with Asta instead of his wife Nora

It’s no mystery why it’s a good idea to read some books more than once.

First of all, you don’t need a reason to read a book more than once.  When I was a kid, reading a book was the only form of entertainment you could do twice.  You could go to see a movie once in the theater, and the next weekend it would be gone forever, replaced by another movie.  If you missed a television show, you waited six months for a rerun, and then that show was most likely gone forever.  There was no cable, no internet, no tablets.  But books?  If you liked a book, you could read it as many times as you wanted.  Sometimes we read a book more than once simply because we could.

But in these modern times, there are other reasons to read a book more than once.  Even with so many other forms of entertainment, even when there are so many books out there that it’s impossible to read them all, sometimes it’s still better to reread a book that you’ve already read before.

SIX REASONS TO READ A BOOK MORE THAN ONCE

1.  Every other book you try reading sucks

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

Sometimes you need a sure thing when you’re reading a book.  Whether you’re waiting for good/bad news in a hospital or sitting at an airport, you want something that you know will get your mind off of whatever you don’t want your mind on.  That is NOT the time to experiment with an unfamiliar book or author.  There are times you need a sure thing, and The Godfather is my sure thing.

Yeah, the movies (the first two) are okay, but the book has so many sub-plots that you can randomly pick a page and find something interesting.  It’s not a perfect book (a couple sub-plots are out of place and stupid), but it’s very readable.  And I turn to it when I need to know that I’ll enjoy what I’m reading.

2.   Just because you like it

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

I read The Three Musketeers a couple times when I was in middle school.  It might have been the first novel that I ever read twice, but I’m not sure.  I liked it.  That was the only reason I reread it.  Just because… I liked it.  It might be the best reason.  But it’s not an interesting reason.  The Three Musketeers is the only classic literature on my list.  I have fond memories of the 1970s movies with Michael York as D’Artagnan and Raquel Welch as Constance, and those movies spurred me on to read the book.  Even without the movies (and the Classics Illustrated comic), I would have loved this book.

3.   To relive the experience

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

I accidentally found this novel during a low point in my teen years (I won’t go into what was going on).  This book was lying around the house (I don’t know who bought it), and I liked the title because people often commented that I was thin, and it wasn’t meant as a compliment.  I realized as I read that the thin man was the murder victim, but I liked the mystery novel anyway.  The Thin Man got me through a really bad weekend.  I don’t want to relive that bad weekend by reading The Thin Man, but I like remembering the joy of an unexpected great book.  That doesn’t happen very often.

4. To win a contest

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

When I was in ninth grade, I got into a reading contest with another kid to see who could read The Lord of the Rings the most times.  I had read it three times, and he had read it four times, and every time I read it again, he’d read it again just to stay ahead of me.  The fourth time I read it, I skipped The Fellowship of the Ring (I claimed to have read it over a weekend). And the fifth time, I just lied and carried The Two Towers with me while I read something else.  It may have been the first time I had ever lied about reading a book that I hadn’t really read.  But it wouldn’t be the last time.

I always vowed that if I ever got into another reading contest, it would involve a short book and not a trilogy.

To be honest, I might never read this again.  I read it several times in junior high/high school.  Back in the 1970s, the rip-offs hadn’t been written yet, so there was nothing else quite like it (as far as we knew).  TLOTR was a trilogy to be savored.  It was a trilogy before trilogies were common.  It was a trilogy that made sense as a trilogy.  It even had a prequel.  Any youngster reading The Lord of the Rings might not see anything unique in it because it’s been copied so many times in so many exciting ways (from a youngster’s point of view).

Referring to people younger than me as “youngster” probably makes me sound older than I really am.

5. To avoid reading anything by James Patterson

James Patterson writes too many books, so any time you reread a book, it keeps you from buying a James Patterson book (or a book with written by somebody else with James Patterson’s name on it).

6. To find details you didn’t notice the first time

Some people read books a second time to catch details that they missed the first time.  That’s a great reason to read a book more than once, but I’ve never done it.  I usually don’t care if I missed details the first time I read a book.  I might notice details the second time I read a book, but that’s never the reason I reread a book.  I hope I’m not being disrespectful to people who reread books for this reason.  It’s not a bad reason.  It’s probably a better reason than trying to win a contest.

BONUS BOOK to read more than once

The Bible– by God

When God writes a book, it’s probably a good idea to read it.  Maybe it’s a good idea to read it more than once.  Any of the above reasons would be ideal for reading The Bible more than once.  I would have included The Bible as the example for all six reasons, but it wouldn’t be fair to the other books.  No human author can compete with God, not even James Patterson (I hope James Patterson isn’t thinking of writing his own version of The Bible, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.).  So I hope God understands why I didn’t include The Bible as an example for any book that’s worth reading more than once.

*****

But enough about me!  What books do you turn to when you need a sure thing?  What books have you read more than once and why?

35 Comments
  1. I’ve always thought that if a book isn’t worth reading twice, it wasn’t worth reading once. Books I’ve read multiple times include LOTR, Great Gatsby, everything by Salinger, Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman, Silverlock by John Myers Myers, and Lizard Music & Borgel by Daniel Pinkwater. All are books I’m likely read at least one more time point. It’s interesting to see how you experience them in different ways or get different things out of them when you read them at different stages of life.

    • “I’ve always thought that if a book isn’t worth reading twice, it wasn’t worth reading once.”

      If that’s true (and I’m not saying it isn’t), then I’ve finished reading a lot of books that weren’t worth finishing once.

      • Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. It’s not correct to say I’ve always thought that. Rather, that is something I’ve come to think, and have thought for a long time. It ties in with the realization that many books aren’t worth finishing. While I’ve always preferred the type that are worth reading more than once, I’m done with the type that is not. Those are the ones I put down unfinished, or never pick up to begin with.

  2. Love reason #5… Funny. I will reread series from time to time, especially ones from authors I love like Sherrilyn Kenyon, J.R. Ward, Deborah Harkness. After a while they can get so long you forget details from earlier books. Sometimes you just need something that you know you are going to love or that will put a smile on your face. Other times it is just nice to revisit characters or worlds that have become almost like family or home to you.

  3. Happy to find your blog! While my own writing focus is largely on food, I’ve started offering fiction and nonfiction book giveaways. In crafting reviews and discussing books, I am happy to learn from folks who have been at this longer than I! 🙂

  4. The only books I have read more than once are The Adrian Mole Diaries by Sue Townsend. They are brilliant and funny. I think that there is way too much good liturature in the world to read much of anything twice. And are you telling me James Patterson did not write the bible? You are shitting me. Please don’t shit me.

    • I was pretty sure James Patterson didn’t write The Bible, but I’ve learned recently that I have huge gaps in my knowledge, so maybe he did really write The Bible, and I just didn’t know. That would be embarrassing if I was the only person who didn’t know James Patterson wrote The Bible. Now I’m starting to doubt myself.

      • Now I’m embarrassed. I looked it up at church and James Patterson did not write the bible. Some of the writing is pretty questionable I thought maybe he wrote it. Good thing no one can see this but us right? Huh? Right?

  5. My favourite re-read is Pratchett’s Thief of Time. It’s guaranteed to make me laugh every time. The Harry Potter books also have remarkable re-read value, though I haven’t done that in a while.

    I recently gave Patterson a try. Yes. No comment.

    • Was it a book that James Patterson wrote, or was it one that somebody else wrote? A friend of mine told me that the James Patterson books that he doesn’t write are better than the ones that he does write, but I’m guessing it probably depends on the co-author.

  6. The books I go back to in times of need are Bryce Courtenay’s ‘Power Of One’ and Pride and Prejudice. I so agree with you on James Patterson. I almost expect him to write his version of Indian Mythology any day !

  7. First of all, your reason #5 is brilliantly put, I have the same issue with Stephen King (no offense to anybody who reads his books). Sometimes I just re-read a book because all the shelves in all the bookstores are stacked with Mr. King.
    When I think about it, I already re-read all the 50 ish books that made it onto my ‘shelf of endurance’.
    When I have a bad time and need a laugh, I re-read the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. It’s not great literature but it’s light hearted and an easy read.
    My most favorite re-read book though is actually a children’s book – The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

  8. I heard someone say that if a book isn’t worth reading twice, it’s not worth reading once. I disagree with that, since a lot of books I like reading once, but don’t want to read again. Still, I do like rereading books, especially Lord of the Rings and the Bible, although I agree that doesn’t fit into the same categories as well.

  9. Mythoughts76 permalink

    Other than the Norah Lofts books about life in England during various time periods (I was drawn to memorize the facts of the lives people in general lived in certain centuries),I don’t usually reread a book. I find it boring to re something I already read.

  10. shawneemckee permalink

    I agree with your James Patterson reason. His books are too concise (two page chapters, really?) and I never have any idea of what’s happening in each scene. :/

    • Two-page chapters? I wonder who wrote the two-page chapters, James Patterson or the co-authors?

      • shawneemckee permalink

        Probably the ghost writer or coauthor. I haven’t read any of his early stuff, when he actually did it himself.

  11. This is a great post. I rather dislike re-reading books, as there is so much out there, but I’m not afraid to put a book down either if it isn’t doing it for me. Love the inclusion of the Bible! My favorite, non-God written book to re-read has to be Kim, by Rudyard Kipling. I’ve actually re-read it too.

  12. The James Patterson comment made me laugh out loud! I don’t normally reread books, but I would definitely suggest rereading ANYTHING you were assigned in high school. Honestly, my brain couldn’t comprehend how great Shakespeare was at 14 or The Great Gatsby at 16. All the books I thought were just tolerable are actually brilliant.

    • You’re probably right, but I had to read Willa Cather in high school, and she was probably brilliant and maybe I’d appreciate My Antonia, but I… I… I don’t know if I want to take that chance.

  13. I’m planning to re-read books that I have completely forgotten about. Everyone keeps raving about Jane Eyre, and I can barely remember what it was about…so recovering lost memory is my big reason for re-reading 😉 Other than that, I haven’t given much thought to re-reading, thinking that I should be exploring new books instead. But you’ve listed good reasons here, and I’ve never thought about having a go-to book when I’m down or just wanting something to make me happy. I’ve always avoided reading when I’m distressed, but I think it’s a nice idea to have a few comfort books on hand.

  14. I like to re-read classics occasionally, BUT! I recently re-read The Three Musketeers after having it on my favorite book list for years, and I found I didn’t like it much anymore. Seemed disjointed and overly romantic. Like my marriage.

  15. iamatripathi permalink

    Reblogged this on Ashni Tripathi and commented:
    Finally, I have a valid argument to why I’ve read The Godfather and Lord of the Rings so many times.

  16. The Lord of the Rings was never intended to be a trilogy but was sliced up into three volumes because of the limitations of the original publisher. Additionally, LOTR was not the only game in town. When it first was being published, those of us studying Medieval literature recognized JRRT as being a well-qualified Medievalist. Just like Tolkien, you too can read the early literature which became the basis for LOTR. For instance, read JRRT’s edition of Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight.

    On a snide note: Harry Potter is a prime example of an unimaginative, highly repetitive rip-off of so much of the literature that has delighted readers for hundreds of years. But judging by the sales of the Harry Potter books, reading or even rereading is certainly not a reflection of the quality of the text.

  17. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid- Bill Bryson. I love him, and no matter how many times I read his account of Iowa in the 50’s, it still makes me laugh.

  18. shanzehnauman permalink

    exactly!! the point I’ve always been trying to make..

  19. The more I like a book, the more times I’m going to read it. There are books that yield more every time I re-read them–there is so much there to find. I figure that if that author has poured his life into putting all those layers of substance into his/her book, it makes sense to take the time to appreciate it. I’ve read many books many times but the ones that come to mind are 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird (just finished re-reading that today), and Til We Have Faces by CS Lewis (the most amazing example I know of finding more every time). I’m glad you included the Bible–it’s a book that will reward the reader of repeat readings the most!

  20. My New Years Resolution this year was to only re-read books I’ve read before. Not much of a challenge for me though because re-reading is one of my favourite ways to read.

    Stephen King’s The Stand is always like greeting an old friend and is my most regular go-to.

    Sometimes though, during a re-read I’ve forgotten how much hard work some books are. Am currently slogging through the Thomas Covenant series by Stephen Donaldson. Sheesh. I remember them being more fun the first time round!

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