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December 22, 2007

It sometimes seems to me that readers are divided into two camps when it comes to re-reading. At least that’s what I’ve been able to gather, listening in on conversations when the subject has come up. For some people, it seems there’s no point in re-reading a book: you’ve already read it, you know what happens. For others, re-reading is like visiting an old friend.

I re-read. I re-read a lot–that’s why I have dozens and dozens of keepers, books I’ve held onto because I know, someday, I’ll want to read them again. Some books I’ve re-read so many times, I can’t actually read them any more–I know them too well.

If I know how the book turns out, why would I read it again? There are a few reasons. For one thing, I’m not the same person I was the first time I read it. For another, some books are about the journey, not the destination; what happens matters a whole lot less than how it happens. Finally, there is the comfort of knowing how the story turns out, the pleasurable anticipation of “the good parts”.

A good book has a lot going on, more than I can absorb in a single reading. In subsequent reads, a good book will surprise me by showing me the things I missed the first time ’round. Things that seemed throwaway will be revealed to have significance; unimportant things will turn out to have deeper resonance. For me, that’s the richness and delight in re-reading.

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