- This is in answer to:
- What book could you read over and over? See all answers
- July 7, 2010 by jennish
- Rereading is my Life.
I used to read all of my books over and over. I remember my mom asking me once, "don't you ever get tired of reading the same story again and again?" I was literally dumbfounded by the question. It didn't occur to me that once I finished a book, I was done with that story. I'm still not sure I like encountering stories that way. This is why I like to read so slowly and I don't do well with the way I have to read for school. I like reading for the whole experience, not the end result. When I get into a book, I get REALLY into it. I pause multiple times per page to reflect on things, and let my mind wander. I pause to create a good visual of the scene in my mind, to ask questions, to fill in holes with my own logic or by using what has been supplied by the author to create an educated guess. I look up words, phrases, historical events, etc. that I don't know. I reflect on some connection between the book and my own life, or, equally interesting, a marked difference. I compare the way the narrator or main characters apparently think and behave with the way I think and see my own behavior, with the apparent thought patterns, world views, and actions of others in my life--both people I know well enough to compare, and people about whom I am filling things in like I do for some characters in the book. Books are like different worlds to pop into - and I mean that sincerely, even though I know it sounds ridiculously cliche. They can affect my mood, my thoughts, the way I see or think about things after I put them down, the way I think about the things I brought into the reading experience (or whether I think about those things at all; I have read the Harry Potter series several times, because during a particularly difficult time in my life, entering that world helped me forget about all of the weight that I couldn't shrug off in my own world).
I used to have a really nasty habit of not finishing books I was assigned in literature classes. Believe me, I realize that this is an unthinkable admission for a graduate student in English (don't worry, my focus is not literature). I would take too long, run out of time, and fill in with extra research, skimming certain parts, and taking copious notes in class. I kind of became an expert at it, in a way. I usually added a bit to class discussions (paying careful attention to what other students' responses could tell me about what I missed, focusing on larger conceptual statements rather than details), and even wrote "A" papers over books I didn't finish. I skimmed the unread part for quotes and all. I find this somewhat horrifying now, because I can usually pick out people who are doing this in class, and it annoys me (not to mention the papers - it takes a lot of research and effort to successfully do this, mind you). This all seems quite ridiculous to me, because I should certainly have had time to finish the book if I were doing so much extra work on the paper, right?
Well, in my first year of graduate school I tried everything I could think of to speed up my reading. I have a lot of essential practices to help me stay on track and get to the end before class time, but part of the problem is that I LIKE to read this way. I like the way I understand the text after experiencing it more slowly and with more involvement. I can speak about it confidently, whereas when I've skimmed something I never feel like I'm sure where I read what, whether it was this reading or that, whether I read it or just thought it, etc. I feel like I've developed a unique relationship to the text when I've approached it that way, and I feel closer to the kind of mastery needed to integrate multiple perspectives and issues into a discussion or piece of writing. Often, I won't feel quite like I can get to work (or return to work) on a project until I've reread a significant amount of material to get me back into the proper frame of mind.
Just like the experience of books when I was a kid, where returning to one I'd already read was returning to that world, that experience, returning to texts now is my way of returning to a particular state of mind, a framework for approaching a question or problem. I support rereading, and the more important the text, the more important to reread.