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Rereading makes for ‘Goodreads’

Posted: March 16, 2017 1:53 p.m.
Updated: March 17, 2017 1:00 a.m.

If you’ve never heard of it, allow me to introduce you to Goodreads. It is a website, mobile app and Facebook page devoted to the love of reading. Via the website and app, you can share what you’re reading with others, review the books you’ve read and more. Goodreads’ Facebook page celebrates reading in all kinds of, usually fun, ways.

A couple of weeks ago, Goodreads asked the question, “Why do you love to return to your favorite books?” The website had just created a new feature devoted to rereading. Goodreads now helps members keep track of how many times they’ve read a particular book and includes the rereads in reading challenges.

Goodreads also looked at the most re-read books on the site. No. 1 was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, followed by The Hunger Games, The Girl on the Train, The Fault in Our Stars and Twilight. The longer list also includes The Catcher in the Rye, The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Kite Runner, Animal Farm, Romeo and Juliet, 1984 and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

I have read some, but not all of these. The only ones on the list I’ve read more than once are The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring (as part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s entire Lord of the Rings trilogy). In fact, I reread those about once every three or four years. I also reread my collection of Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein stories and several other authors’ works.

I went ahead and answered Goodreads’ question about why I reread on its Facebook page:

“For me, it’s a chance not only to enjoy a story I’ve read before -- getting to meet favorite characters and visit favorite places again -- but to discover things I may have missed the first, second or even third time. I always find something ‘new’ or rediscover something I’ve forgotten.”

I provided the example of a four-book science fiction series by Tad Williams called Otherland. Williams -- who some might recognize as the author of Tailchaser’s Song -- wrote the Otherland series in the late 1990s.

What I told the Goodreads community is that because it had been so long since I had first read them, rereading them was almost like reading them for the first time. As I’ve been going along (as I write this, I’m in the middle of the third book), there are parts I’m remembering from the first time. In a lot of cases, though, I’m reading scenes as if I’ve never read them before -- which is kind of neat since I’m rediscovering what an amazing set of worlds Williams created within his story.

“If we, as a society, can rewatch movies and TV shows, certainly we should be rereading great books,” I concluded.

While I sometimes enjoy rewatching favorite movies, I rarely, if ever, even like watching re-runs of TV shows (the Star Trek franchise will always be an exception). I think I can handle rewatching movies because -- even if they’re part of a franchise, like The Avengers or something -- each, essentially, stands alone. They are single stories, encapsulating a a single sliver of time for those characters.

TV shows, especially if successful, are long, drawn-out, ever-evolving stories. I have no problem watching shows for years “as they happen,” but have never found myself pining to rewatch seven or eight seasons worth of character growth.

Go figure.

Books (and I am talking books; I rarely read novels online now as my eyes continue to age) are even more static than movies. They are set in ink on paper. They are the truth of whatever world, characters and events that author has created for that novel. They may change later, in other books -- and reading those may alter how you see those characters when you go back -- but at that moment they are as the author wrote.

The flip side to this is that (unless accompanied by illustrations), books force you to see the characters, settings and action in your mind. I’m sure my visions of Middle Earth or Hogwarts or Frank Herbert’s Dune are different from another reader’s.

But my visions of those places also change each time I reread those books. I pick up on details I’d somehow ignored or the nuances of a particular character’s behavior or emotions I hadn’t noticed before.

As a writer myself, these “rediscoveries” help me with my own craft, even for journalism.

Of course, they also simply add to my enjoyment of the experience of going to another place through books.

I’m always looking for new books to read. But I’ll always go back to my favorites every now and then, too.

They are old friends and it’s great to be able to visit with them again and refresh myself with the things they have to tell me.

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