A Case for Rereading

It’s hard to beat the shiver of recognition when you read words you’ve read before, almost like hearing a friend’s voice over the phone for a first time in a long time. As writers, reading is essential and it can be hard to make time to reread a book, but I’m learning how important it can be. A mentor of mine, Dave Griffith, once told me he rereads Great Gatsby annually because of the lessons the prose taught him. I’ve also taken a fiction class where the main text was a collection of Chekhov short stories. Reading, rereading, and dissecting the structure and plotting taught me a lot.

Sometimes rereading is a completely emotional experience, rather than one you’re trying to learn lessons from. When I was a kid I reread my favorite books all of the time. I loved Garth Nix, C.S. Lewis, Phillip Pullman, the Babysitter’s Club series, and Beverly Cleary (especially the Ramona books). Recently I stumbled back across The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and couldn’t resist reading it in a sitting. Rereading a book reminds you of when you first read it, much like hearing music can bring you back to an old time. For me, this is especially true with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Every year from fourth grade on, I’ve reread Hitchhiker’s Guide in memorial to sci-fi loving brother who passed away when I was young. Beginning in front of the bulldozer in front of Arthur Dent’s house, Jesse and I can reunite for two hundred or so pages.

If you’re anything like me, your “to read” list grows as fast as a kid’s Christmas list. There’s not enough time for every book (even if you ignored those pesky interruptions like your paying job or those wonderful insertions like friends and family). I challenge you, though, to think of that book you should reread, for craft or for guilty pleasure. What book would you pick?

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