Re-Reading Books

Recently I came across a piece called Good Readers and Good Writers by Vladmir Nabokov, thanks to my English teacher hubby who’s teaching it in his high school English class.

One of the points Nabokov makes is

“Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader. And I shall tell you why…

When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation. When we look at a painting we do not have to move our eyes in a special way even if, as in a book, the picture contains elements of depth and development.

…at a second, or third, or fourth reading we do, in a sense, behave towards a book as we do towards a painting.”

So this got me thinking, it’s time to re-read Lolita. I encourage you to take a second or third look at your favorite book too!


16 thoughts on “Re-Reading Books

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with this. I own 1000+ books and have read most of them at least twice, with some volumes clocking in at 5 or 6 reads. It is a wholly different experience every time.

    • 5 or 6 reads?! That’s crazy impressive. Do you re-read in its entirety or choice passages? I’ve started this running Google document where I save all my favorite passages from books, so whenever I’m craving any particular one, I can do an easy search and find and pull up my favorite quotes. I’m counting that as my re-reading for most of my beloved books.

      • I only ever read books from start to finish. I feel too guilty otherwise. I do keep quote books, where I hand write my favourite passages and quotes from all types of books, etc. I like doing it the old school way.

  2. I love this post. I mostly feel guilty about re-reading, thinking about all the books I’m missing out on reading for the first time. Now I know it just makes me an “active and creative reader.” 🙂

    • I’ve never been a re-reader but now that I’ve found the perfect justification, I can’t wait to go back to my favorite books. Though I don’t know about going back to Possession like you did. I wonder what it would be like to go back to books that you didn’t like at all to begin with? That seems just active and painful.

  3. I remember reading this in college. Although I wouldn’t give this one a re-read there are several other great literary works I have read 100 hundred times over like The Great Gatsby, Love in The Time Of Cholera, To Kill A Mocking Bird and A House On Mango Street.

    • Oh man, I remember the first time my mom made me read The Old Man and the Sea, it was pure torture. I should really go back and re-read considering Hemingway is now one of my favorite authors! Thanks for the thought.

  4. I am listening to Fahrenheit 451, a book I read years ago. What a great audio book! I read The Great Gatsby at least three times…in school and then again when my children read it in school. Some books are definitely worth a reread! Next on my list…Lolita!

  5. Pingback: A Vacation in Paris with Girlfriends | Books Outside the Box

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