The Pros and Cons of Rereading Books

Rereading Books

Reading is generally fun and rewarding, and one of the main aspects of it that most people appreciate is the huge variety of topics, styles, and amazing stories that books are written around. There probably isn’t a single topic you will be unable to find a book about, and when it comes to the level of creativity that fiction writers display, the sky is the limit. 

Well, even though the variety is attractive for some, others prefer or have to stick to the same books they keep reading over and over again. Rereading books is a pretty common occurrence in the readers’ community, but is it really worth it to keep reading the same book several times when literally millions of other titles are available in bookstores?

Should you reread books?

Rereading a book is definitely not a crime. There are many reasons why reading a book can actually be a beneficial thing, but it depends a lot on the reasoning behind the decision to read a book twice.

Some might argue that some books simply cannot be read just once, because they are either too complex, or the story is built in such a manner that you only fully appreciate them after you’ve gone over them more than once. How complicated or how complex a book is can dictate whether you are fully able to understand it in depth, or how many times it needs to be reread to be fully comprehended and appreciated.

In a discussion with the whole team at Basmo, we also found that rereading books can also be justified by how much we like certain books. A book that brings you immense joy or that you simply associate with the memories of a happy time in your life is, of course, also worth a second read. 

Books, just like certain songs, have this amazing ability to take you back in time. Listening to a song you haven’t heard in years or rereading a book long after the first time you went over it can have an amazing effect of reminding you exactly where you were, what you were doing, and how you felt back when you first enjoyed them. 

And, of course, rereading books is also a good idea when you are studying. You are likely to retain a lot more information the second time around, and that can help you tremendously if you are going to get quizzed on a certain book.

What are the benefits of rereading books?

Since we are all well aware of the countless benefits reading has for our bodies, souls, and minds, it’s only natural to expect rereading books to come with some added advantages. 

Let’s see what the most notable reasons for rereading books actually are and how you can take full advantage of this activity. So, why is rereading important?

Better comprehension

Like I mentioned before, some books are too complex, long, and complicated to be fully understood on the first read. On your second read, since you will already be familiar with the storyline, the characters and how the author’s writing is affecting the reading experience, you are very likely to understand a lot better certain details of the book. 

Knowing how the book ends, what the outcome of the story is, will certainly help you identify important clues you may have missed the first time around, which will, in the end, allow you to gain a much better perspective on how the author built suspense, constructed the storyline, and how the book can be perceived.

Better retention

The old saying “repetition is the mother of wisdom” is as true as it gets when it comes to reading. One of the most effective ways to retain more information while reading is to simply read the material you are trying to learn or remember more than once. 

Regardless of the reason you want to remember more of what you read, whether it’s for school, a book club assignment, or simply because you want to, rereading a book will have a positive effect on the amount of information you will be able to retain.

Recapture the magic

The beauty of rereading a book is that it somehow combines the old with the new in a very magical experience. While rereading a book 10 years after the first read will inevitably put you in a position where you have a completely new perspective on what you are reading, it can also take you back to the moments when you first read it. 

This time-capsule effect will be an exhilarating experience, as you will be able to remember things you didn’t even know that are stored in your brain. This mix of old and new information will provide a unique reading experience that is hard to beat.

It has a calming effect

Just as binge-watching the same TV shows over and over again, rereading books that we once loved has a calming effect and can even be therapeutic to a certain extent. The familiarity of the story, of the characters can bring us comfort, alleviate anxiety symptoms, and bring us an unmatched level of satisfaction. 

Even though for many readers, the thrill of not knowing what is about to happen in the book is part of the fun, the exact opposite is true for others. Knowing exactly what to expect and not having to worry about the plot leaves some readers simply able to enjoy the writing and the experience the book offers.

Getting out of a reading slump

Reading slumps are usually a reader’s worst nightmare. Being unable to read or not knowing what book to choose next is an unforgiving experience we all have to go through at some point.

Getting out of a reading slump is something as easy as simply rereading a book you know you love. This way you will ease the transition from the book you just read to the next one, through a familiar, enjoyable, and still rewarding read. This will get you back in the game and will help you start your new book with a different mindset.

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Why should you not reread books?

While the positives of rereading books clearly outweigh the negatives, these should also be taken into account. Here at Basmo, we found several disadvantages of rereading the same books over and over again.  

Here are some of the most important drawbacks you need to be aware of in case you have the habit of constantly rereading certain books. 

It is time-consuming

Obviously, rereading brings certain aspects of the books to light, even though you missed them the first time around. Unfortunately, there’s clearly a limit on how many new things you can learn from the same old book. 

Not reading enough new books will leave you stagnating, meaning that you won’t benefit from some of the main advantages of reading. Learning new things is obviously important, and from this point of view, sometimes rereading a book can be considered a time-consuming, wasteful activity.

It keeps you from getting your TBR list done

Spending most of your time rereading books you enjoyed in the past will negatively affect your progress towards the end of your TBR list. That is clearly not ideal, as all those books are part of your reading list for a reason. 

You might not like the book as much the second time around

Also, if a couple of years pass between the first and second read of the same book, chances are you are not going to find it as charming the second time around. Things change, your perspective changes, and sometimes a couple of years are enough for you to change your taste in books completely. 

Even though a book brings you immense joy when you first read it, you may be surprised by how dull it is when you read it again 5-10 years later. And let me tell you, that is not a nice experience.

The gain-loss phenomenon

A theory expressed by David Galef in his book Second Thoughts says that there needs to be a certain balance found when rereading books. This balance refers to the ratio of what you gain and what you lose through the second read. 

What you gain is possibly a new perspective, new details you missed the first time around, and probably a better overall understanding of the book. What you lose is the excitement of not knowing how the story will unfold, the experience of discovering something new, and as he puts it, certain sensibilities are dulled the second time around.  

How to reread a book?

Well, first and foremost, you need to know that in order for your rereads to bring any value to you other than the emotional experience of reliving old times, you need to read actively or critically. You need to make the effort of paying extra attention to what you are reading and try to always acquire new information and different nuances, and perspectives while you reread. 

Other than that, how do you reread books in a way that constantly brings value? By following a couple of simple rules.

Choose books that are worth re-reading

It all starts with the books you want to reread. You might be tempted to read again easy, fun books that simply bring you joy. While that is fine on occasion, constantly doing this will have a negative impact on how you evolve. 

Try to find a balance between rereading books that you simply want to reread because they are fun and those that are worth rereading because there’s more you can learn from them.

Don’t read everything

The second time you read a book, you will be surprised to learn how much of it you actually remember almost word for word, especially if you particularly liked the book when you first read it. If you realize that certain paragraphs are already firmly stored in your memory, it’s fine to skip them and move on to things you can’t remember that well.

Pay attention to details

Try to pay more attention to details the second time you read a book. If it’s a book that you enjoyed reading, one with an interesting story that kept you on the edge of your seat for hours, chances are you missed a lot of details. That’s because you were in a big hurry the first time around, to find out how the story ends and because of the excitement. 

You can afford to go slower this time and pay more attention to things you may have missed.

Focus on the language, the words

Since we’re on the topic of slowing down, a great deal of benefits will also come from paying extra attention to the way the book is written. Analyze the wording, the phrasing, the writing techniques the author used, and how all that matches or creates a contrast with the actual theme of the book. Doing this analysis may reveal a couple of very important aspects you completely missed the first time you read the book.

Use a reading app like Basmo 

A particularly helpful tool when it comes to rereading is the already pretty common reading tracking app. Basmo, for example, this tiny little wizard that can be easily installed on your phone or tablet comes with a ton of benefits to readers in general, but also has a couple of features that particularly go well with rereading.

Taking notes: taking notes while reading is a thing to do in general, but can be especially helpful when rereading books. Simply open the app while a reading session is ongoing, and you will be able to type your thoughts and ideas easily and safely. 

Creating reading lists: If you’re generally a rereader, having reading lists is absolutely essential. Basmo allows you to create, edit, and manage with incredible ease countless lists. You can personalize them to categorize the books you plan to read by genre or the number of times you reread them. 

Keeping track of the books you want to reread: Keeping track of the books you tend to reread will soon prove to be somewhat overwhelming if you don’t use a reading app like Basmo. With Basmo, you can easily move the books from one list to another depending on their status. On top of this, the journaling feature allows you to simply jot down when each book has been read so you know when it’s time for a reread.

Re-evaluate your emotions and experiences: Basmo comes feature-packed for mindful reading. You can track your emotions after each reading session, you can use Basmo to keep a reading journal where you are free to expand on the things you feel whenever you read, and the app will also generate interesting statistics regarding the way your feelings change from one book or one reading session to another. Feel free to use this information to decide which books are worth rereading.

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How many times should you reread a book?

While there is no clear rule about the number of times it is acceptable to reread a certain book, the rule of thumb is that no book should be reread any sooner than six months after the last time you’ve read it. 

Again, this is just a recommendation, and the ultimate number of rereads depends on you and the books in question. Some pieces are simply timeless and can easily be reread time and time again, while others become dull after a couple of repetitions.

Final thoughts

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