If given the choice to re-read a book I’ve read before or pick up something new, my answer would instantly be the latter. I would read the same book multiple times as a kid, but as an adult, 99% of the time I go for something new.
The last book I deliberately picked up for the second time was Losing My Religion, by William Lobdell. I initially read it in 2012, liked it enough to rate it Highly Recommended, checked it out of the library a few years later for my husband to read, and when he was done I felt compelled to crack the spine again as well.
Did you catch the word deliberately in the last paragraph?
I deliberately read Losing My Religion for the second time. However, last week I read something I thought was brand new to me, but it turns out I also read it eight years ago. The book was The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield.
Do you want to know how I realized I read this book for the first time back in 2007? Was it because I recognize the characters, or the plot? Did I guess the ending far in advance? Nope.
What tipped me off was an old blog entry: for the past few weeks I’ve been going through my archives post-by-post. I’ve never taken the time to do this before and some posts are badly in need of editing. I’m deleting short, inconsequential posts which would have been social media updates if social media had existed back then. I’m repairing and deleting dead links. (Yes, this process is taking a long time.)
While reading The Thirteenth Tale last week, I came across a blog post from January 2008 where I named it one of my two favorite fiction reads from the previous year. Yes, that’s right – not only have I read this book before, I named it one of the best books I read in 2007.
I’ve never had a great memory. I received high grades in school because I paid attention, took good notes, and studied those notes before a test. Like many people, the information I learned quickly left my head when I no longer needed it.
I’m not particularly worried about it – my memory doesn’t seem to be deteriorating in any noticeable way – but I sometimes find examples like this a bit disconcerting. Since I was still reading the book at the time I discovered the blog post, I expected it might help boost my recall of the story, but it didn’t. I continued reading the book and it felt brand new to me the entire time.
I’ve told people over the years that this blog has acted as a public diary for me. I don’t write in a paper diary, so this website has collected a lot of my actions and thoughts over the past 13 years. This space is a record of my life.
What has this experience taught me? Re-reading books isn’t such a bad thing after all. I can’t see myself reading the same book every year, but I’ve read a large number of good books in my lifetime which would probably seem brand new to me now. I need to remember that and not automatically discount them just because we’ve crossed paths before.
Do you like to re-read old favorites or do you prefer to pick up something new?