A while ago, we posted a blog on the importance of re-reading books and other materials. Two of the key takeaways were these:
- “While many students are given credit of some sort for reading books during the school year (or completing a summer reading assignment), they are rarely, if ever, given credit for re-reading material. Yet some of the greatest insights into literature can only come about on a second, third, or fourth read. And, some of the students’ most important personal developments can be attributed to the material they loved again and again over the years.”
- “Re-reading presents a different intellectual challenge than reading a book for the first and only time. During the first pass, a child tries to grasp the characters, the sequence of events, and how they relate to each other. Upon re-reading, he is able to read more deeply — since he already knows the story, he can focus his attention on picking up clues to the author’s craft. He notices how the book is structured, how events or dialogue that take place in the first chapter don’t become important until later in the book. He sees how the author uses language to foreshadow what’s to come. He understands how the book’s themes play out through the different characters’ actions. From an understanding of how books work, he has a foundation on which to build an understanding of how people and societies work in the real world. He has time to linger and reflect.”
On May 2 of this year, The Washington Post published an article that added a new dimension to the ongoing discussion: the importance of re-reading books in the age of COVID-19. Its main thrust was that in a time of such uncertainty in all other aspects of our lives, returning to the familiar world of a previously read story offers us a reassuring stability.
“Like a well-loved blanket and a favorite set of jammies, familiar books, worlds and stories may be exactly what you need when everything both changes by the minute and remains relentlessly the same. … our cognitive energy is a finite resource, steadily being used up by every piece of “new abnormal” we have to manage.”
Vice president and editorial director of Penguin Random House’s Berkley imprint, Cindy Hwang, also notes that “We’re now seeing readers turn to the comfort of familiar, escapist fiction at a time when our future is uncertain.”
In addition, there’s been a boon in fan fiction — stories written by devoted fans of a particular TV series or movie franchise — during this time. That’s because, while the individual stories may be new, most of the worldbuilding, or backstory, has already been established, and the universe in which the stories reside is therefore familiar to the readers and comfortable for them to navigate.
It’s important to give in to the comfort, to allow yourself to go back and reread something that intrigued or amused or made you feel safe or loved the first (or second, or third) time around. In these uncertain times, it’s more than just an indulgence, it’s a necessity for good mental health. And who knows, you might see something in a different light or learn something new while you’re at it.
Let’s hear from our readers: What are your favorite books, the ones you return to again and again? What about them do you find comforting or helpful? And have you been going back to them since the pandemic began? Leave your comments in the section below.
 Wendell, Sarah. (May 2, 2020). “For a lot of book lovers, rereading old favorites is the only reading they can manage at the moment.” The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/for-a-lot-of-book-lovers-rereading-old-favorites-is-the-only-reading-they-can-manage-at-the-moment/2020/05/01/19c3cd4c-8bbe-11ea-ac8a-fe9b8088e101_story.html