My husband doesn’t ever want to see a movie a second time. If I pop in an old classic, he will walk in the room and declare, “Seen it!” and then go upstairs to play Halo. Actually, I’m pretty sure he’s not a movie fan at all. He commonly tells our friends after a night out at the local AMC theatre, “Well, I just paid nine bucks for a nap.” I give him points for going with the flow to make me happy.
I love movies and I like to watch the same ones again and again. The first time is purely for entertainment. The second time, I’m looking for elements I originally missed, and the third time I actually start to appreciate the work of the people behind the scenes.
I read books the same way. It’s actually become a problem around the house because I can’t seem to let go of any of my books and we’re running out of space. I don’t enjoy checking books out of the library because I never want to give them back. After the first reading, the characters become my friends. I put the book on a shelf and walk away but then I start to miss my friends. I start reading a new book and become distracted by my new friends for a while and even start to forget about the old ones on the shelf. Eventually, I have to dust that shelf and before you know it, the old book is back in my hand and then back on my night stand for another read.
For a writer, there are benefits to re-reading a good book, especially a book that has inspired you in a profound way. The second reading can be done with a critical eye to see how the writer achieved making a connection with you, the reader, allowing your own writing to grow. I’ve noticed since I’ve made writing a priority in my life, I look at things from a writer’s perspective. Certain subtleties that I once might have overlooked now catch my eye. While watching a sitcom on TV, I now take note of clever or stale dialogue. When reading a book, heavy on location description, I find myself skimming over an entire paragraph and nod my head. That paragraph could have been left out.
Taking note of these strengths and weaknesses in the works of others may seem arrogant, but only if I don’t apply what I’ve learned to my own writing. I invite you to take some time to revisit an old friend. Even if you’re not a writer, you may find that the life you’ve experienced since your last read brings a fresh perspective and you’ll enjoy the book even more.