Reading a Book for the Second Time

Do you read books more than once?  If so, is there a difference in how you approach a book when you read it for the second time?

Some of my favorite re-reads

When I read a book from which I want to learn and retain information, I read carefully, taking note of important points on every page.  But when I read a novel, especially a compelling plot-driven story, I read to find out what happens next.  I blow by subtleties like symbolism, descriptive scenes, well-written dialogue, or nuanced character development like I blast through a swarm of gnats on a bike ride.

Once in a while, however, I’ll read a book for the second time.  That is a completely different experience.  Knowing the whole story frees me to enjoy all the finer points of the story-telling.

Watching my grandson, Oliver, grow and develop is like reading a book for the second time.

When my own children were young, I approached their unfolding stories like a plot driven parent.  What would happen next?  Where they suitably prepared for the next chapter?  I was focused forward and did not always appreciate the page on which we were living.

I’m processing my grandson’s story completely differently.  I know the general plot; I know what to expect next in his development, and so I’m not in such a hurry to get there.

I suppose that would be a good approach to life in general.  I know how my story ends – in the arms of my Savior, Jesus.  I know that I am in his loving care no matter what negative or confusing plot twists he allows in my life or in the lives of those I love.

Lord, help me to “read” each day in the story of my life joyfully and attentively, confident of the ultimate happy ending in your eternal presence.

Are there any books that you have read more than once?  What are you reading (or re-reading) this summer?  Do you read novels like a plot-driven page-turner or a serene sentence-savorer?

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”  The end of the story, from Revelation 21:3

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About Judy

At heart I am a student of truth, an observer of culture, and a communicator. Jesus is my teacher and my Lord. In pursuit of these passions, I read as much as I can, serve as Teaching Director for a Community Bible Study group, and write a blog in an attempt to synthesize it all. I take great delight in my relationships with family and friends, and I also enjoy long walks, bike rides and cooking. And did I mention that I like to read?
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25 Responses to Reading a Book for the Second Time

  1. Judy says:

    I am so enjoying all of your comments and book recommendations! Thanks!

  2. Maria Tatham says:

    Great job, Judy, on lots of levels!
    Usually I reread a novel to revisit its special world. I’ve reread Woman in White this way more than once. I’ve also reread Mansfield Park, but to enjoy certain dramatic scenes again, and to try to understand why this book is so unsatisfying (to me).

  3. SLIMJIM says:

    I don’t often read a book twice–the few I have read was because I thought they were super good. But good posts on this…maybe I should do it more often! I try to read a book once and highlight and note everything on the margin–that way when I thumb through it again it will be beneficial for what I might have forgotten.

  4. mybroom says:

    Peace Like a River – Oh to write a book like that. G

  5. Great post! I was just talking about this with my adult class today, if they every re-read books. I usually don’t, since I’m a slow reader, but certain books I can read again and again: things like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I’ve read Lord of the Rings about 20 times in three languages and I could never get tired of it.

  6. marneymcnall says:

    Hey Judy, love this post. Rereading books is like visiting old friends. A comfort. The Bible I reread and will till the end of my days. Always something new to learn.

    I’m currently rereading Timothy Keller’s Counterfeit Gods. Excellent book. Only complaint: too short! In fiction, I’ve reread a couple of the Scottish writer, Dorothy Dunnett’s books in the Lymond Chronicles. Loved Checkmate. I intend to reread War and Peace. It’s one of my favorite books. A new translation came out a couple years ago.

    • Judy says:

      Hi Marney,
      Ok, I guess I’ll have to read War and Peace since it’s been mentioned several times:) One of the benefits of hearing from fellow readers and writers is getting ideas of what to read next! I enjoy Keller’s books too, although I haven’t read Counterfeit Gods. It’s on my shelf awaiting its turn:)
      Thanks Marney, and thanks for your excellent 4th of July post today!
      Judy

  7. Larry Who says:

    On my return from the grocery store, I heard a talk show host interview 94 year old Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was the hero in Laura Hillenbrand’s novel, “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.” This is an awesome book which I will reread next. It just may be a book that I will read many times…not as long as “War and Peace” though.

  8. Judy says:

    Thanks to you all for reminding me of wonderful books (that I have a sudden desire to re-read) and for suggesting some that I haven’t read. I usually have a non-fiction in process on the table in the family room (The Blue Parakeet by Scott McKnight and/or When the Kings Come Marching In by Richard Mouw sit there now) and a novel at my bedside (just finished The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan).

  9. qathy says:

    I have read many books twice. I have read War and Peace five times. I absolutely loved it every time, and every time my perspective had changed. When I was sixteen, I wanted to be the lovely petted and pampered Natasha. When I was fifty, I finally understood Natasha’s parents. A book of 1200 pages can easily be a new experience every time, even after five times.
    I read Shogun three times, and loved it every time, too. What an amazing story and what rich characters.
    You may be shocked that I have read Atlas Shrugged four times. Despite its godless outlook, it was a prophetic voice in its view of what America is becoming as citizens more and more adopt the moocher outlook Ayn Rand knew was coming. She had lived through the Russian Revolution, so she knew whereof she spoke, and lo, it is happening.I first read it when I was eighteen, and at that time, I actually thought that, despite excellent writing, it was an empty, dark, disturbing story. When I began to observe political and social trends in the country, I reread it. Again, and again. Most recently, I reread it in 2009, and shuddered at the things that were imaginary in 1962 that had become realities in 2009,
    I have read Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees twice, as well as Louise Erdrich’s Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse. Kingsolver’s characters are unforgettable. Erdrich’s diction and wordpainting take my breath away.
    I have read the Bible straight through four times. I read from it every day, and my whole day is immersed in it, so there are numerous texts I have read hundreds of times, but I still like to read straight through every so often. It is easy to lose the context if I am not reminded that there is a context. I think a lot of very bad theology is rooted in texts extracted from their living connections in the Bible and pinned like a dead butterfly to somebody’s wishful thinking about the Bible. I do not want to make up teachings; I want to discover them.

    • Judy says:

      Wow – War and Peace five times! That is one I haven’t read. I too read Atlas Shrugged as a young adult and it made an impression on me. May even have read it a second time somewhere along the way. I completely agree with the importance of reading the whole Bible, often. “…bad theology rooted in texts extracted from their living connection in the Bible and pinned like a dead butterfly to somebody’s wishful thinking about the Bible.”. True and well said! Thanks

    • Tricia says:

      Wow, Tolstoy would be impressed. :) For me, I faithfully read and reread famous speeches and essays…American, European, World….Presidential speeches (even though we know most credit goes to the ghost writers), Nobel Laureate acceptance speeches (remarkable people creating remarkable works)….and famous closing/trial arguments. Books…well I am self exiled to many favorites -The Divine Comedy, The Iliad, Odyssey, One Hundred Years of Solitude (favorite line, “The world is a f….d up place when men travel first class and literature travels coach); Alll and I mean allll of Shakespeare and Gibran, encores of Steinbeck, Twain, Paradise Lost, Leaves of Grass…, Frankenstein when I want to cry lolol, Henry James and Flaubert when I want to feel terrified or condescended by language….,Uncle Tom’s cabin believe it or not because I’ll never tire of teaching others why it makes no sense for African Americans to attempt to insult another African American with the the label “Uncle Tom.” Anyone who ACTUALLY read the book would understand that the slave was not at all a “complicit” victim of institutionalize slavery, but instead felt the greatest duty to God before anything. For him, (and the author), Christianity trumped everything, and I’m always inspired by Tom’s faith against the most horrible of circumstances for a human being to endure. Hmm, the Old/New Testament many times. I’m about to revisit the OLD and NEW with my son who is a senior in HS….it is required reading for his AP Lit class. My mother read Shogun when I was a few years old and I read it at age 7…we all watched Chamberlain on TV too. :) lol NOW, I’ll have to read based on your recommendation and your impressions, “Atlas Shrugged.” It portends to doom same as Brave New World. Thanks! And to the blog’s author….the way you draw connections between the development of your grandchildren and stories…superb! You remind me to savor every second of anything worthwhile we are blessed to experience twice…like falling in love.

  10. Rick Alvey says:

    Great post Judy! I don’t often reread books but do frequently go back and reread portions I’ve highlighted to let them soak in. I remember a seminar on Spiritual Formation with Richard Foster and John Ortberg – two of my favorite authors – and they specifically mentioned not always jumping for the next new book but rereading those books that had a big impact on you. My favorite would have to be The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. Thanks!

  11. Caddo Veil says:

    What a wonderful post, Judy! Such a great message, and reminder, that we should savor each day–since we do indeed know how our stories end, with Jesus! I read the “really good” writers to savor the phrasing and imagery, how they paint their characters. In the old days when I read “thrillers”, I just read for the plot. The books I’ve read repeatedly would be the Bible, Alice In Wonderland, Lonesome Dove, Gone With the Wind, When the Legends Die, To Kill a Mockingbird. Wow, I’m thrilled to see one of your readers mention the Mitford Series by Jan Karon–I LOVE those books! Exquisitely well-written, and great stories and characters!! God bless you–have a great Fourth! love, sis Caddo

    • Judy says:

      I would have guessed you are a “savorer.” i’ll have to check out When the Legends Die – not familiar with that one. Blessings beck to you, Caddo!

  12. Dan Barnum-Steggerda says:

    The Mitford Series by Jan Karon…I realize that this series, perhaps, lacks some theological depth, but I love their simplicity and the joy that Father Tim and Cynthia find in everyday life in the little mountain town of Mitford. I’ve read these books and re-read them numerous times. I do so much “heavy” theological reading and reflection everyday, that these books provide and remind me of Jesus’ suggestion to receive and view the Kingdom of God as a child. I would commend The Mitford Series to all!

  13. Larry Who says:

    “…Are there any books that you have read more than once? What are you reading (or re-reading) this summer? Do you read novels like a plot-driven page-turner or a serene sentence-savorer?…

    I’ve read many books more than once. Probably, the two books I’ve read more than any other books are “Tramp For the Lord” and “God’s Smuggler.” The first contains stories about Corrie Ten Boom and the latter is a biography about Brother Andrew. My reasoning for reading these two is they inspire me and I can start on any page and enjoy myself. They are old friends.

    The other books I’ve reread often are Michael Connelly’s mysteries. I enjoy them but I use them to learn how to write. He is my writing teacher.

    I love plot-driven page-turner books that fly, but I have to like the characters. If the characters aren’t interesting, I look for another book. Like Revelations in Writing, I have a KIndle and constantly download free books, mainly mysteries.

    I recently read “Before the Poison” by Peter Robinson. Great book, but a bit different for him.

  14. Love this, Judy! Thanks – I was just thinking about reading Randy Alcorn’s novel, Safely Home, for the second time. It’s a life-changing story that puts this life in proper perspective.

  15. I just finished Blue Like Jazz for the first time. :) I have a long lineup on my Kindle, as Inspired Reads keeps sending me free and sale books…

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