Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rereading for Fresh Perspective

“A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.”

These are the words of Vladimir Nabokov, reminding us that not only is it ok to re-read old favorites, it's downright necessary to becoming critical readers. This is comforting to me, since lately I find myself in the habit of re-reading old familiars rather than exploring something new. It's always slightly embarrassing when someone asks me "What have you read lately?" and my only answer is, "Ummm... nothing new."

This isn't to say there aren't plenty of new books and authors that seem interesting to me-- there certainly are. But I find myself being more drawn to books that fall into two categories: books I was forced to read in high school and college that I didn't particularly enjoy, and books that I did deeply connect with and am feeling nostalgic for. The former, I consider giving them another chance. Maybe with a fresh perspective and more life experience, some of them won't be completely boring and unrelateable. I'm about to start Like Water for Chocolate again, which is one I did not care for in the slightest when I read it in 11th grade, and I am hoping that this time around, it'll be less groan-worthy to me. In the case of the latter, I approach these books with caution, partly looking forward to visiting an old favorite spot, and partly worried that through the eyes of an adult, these old favorites won't seem as appealing (like when I realized what a rude jerk Mr. Darcy is).

But usually I discover that these old favorites are something better than just appealing. I discover that they're relateable in a completely new way. Let's take an old childhood favorite as an example-- Harry Potter. As a kid, all I wanted was to have magical powers and go off to Hogwarts with my wizard buddies to fight Death Eaters. As a teen, Harry, Ron, and Hermione's crashing and burning young romances sounded horribly familiar to me. As an adult, I can read these books again, and it's like reading an entirely new book. I feel and pick up on things that I would have completely ignored ten years ago. This time, this series was about the deep parental love and protection that Harry's mother and nearly every parent in the series (yup, even the Malfoys) had in order to do whatever was in their power to save their children and their society at large. When Harry's mother tells him he's been brave, I completely lose it and start sobbing. That, I can assure you, is a very recent development.

Are there any books you find yourself gravitating toward time and again? When you wait a while between readings, do they feel the same or is it like reading a completely different book? Do they take you back-- or do you pull the story forward to you?


Anonymous said...

I've read the Harry Potter books more than once and enjoyed them each time, always finding things I missed before. I rarely find that age improves books I didn't like high school.

Anonymous said...

The fault in our stars by john green. Oh that book!

Dorcas Poopkenpoch said...

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Linda K. said...

Another reason for re-reading: I found myself re-reading "Under the Dome" after watching the first episode of the TV mini-series. My sister and I started comparing notes and agreed that a re-reading was necessary because so many "liberties" have been taken with Stephen King's original story. What's up with that?

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