Rereading Books

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I was reading the new Ken Follett novel, Never recently and while it was interesting, it was moving too slowly for me. When a book isn’t working for me, I don’t hesitate, I set it aside. I set the Follett novel aside and began reading a book on the history of Ireland. We are planning a trip to Ireland this summer and I felt I needed to know something of the history of the place I am visiting. Still, the Follett novel had me wanting to read some spy novel just for fun.

Coincidentally, I introduced the boy to the film The Hunt for Red October not too long ago, and through that film, Jack Ryan and his exploits. I remember when I first read Tom Clancy back in the late 1990s. I found a tattered copy of Debt of Honor at the Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood and I tore through that book faster than I had any book in quite some time. It ends in a cliff-hanger so I immediately read Executive Orders. Once I finished that, I went back to the beginning and red the other Jack Ryan novels.

It occurred to me that maybe I could re-read the Jack Ryan novels–at least the first 8 that Clancy wrote himself–to satisfy my spy novel craving. It got me thinking about re-reading books in general.

I wrote about this several years ago, giving the reasons why I occasionally re-read books. Looking at that post, my reasons still hold up. I re-read a book when I’ve really enjoyed it. I sometimes re-read when I don’t remember much from the first time around. Then, too, re-reading often brings out additional context because I’ve read more widely since the previous reading. Re-reading a book because I enjoyed it is often the case with fiction; re-reading for memory or context I do mostly with nonfiction.

The book that I have re-read most is Isaac Asimov’s memoir, I. Asimov, which I have read 15 times. I used to read all 3 of Asimov’s autobiography volumes each April, starting with this one. It has been nearly 12 years since I last read that book, however. I re-read less than I used to.

I’ve re-read the complete Foundation series at least 5 times. I’ve read my current favorite novel, Stephen King’s 11/22/63, seven times, most recently in 2018. I’ve read my favorite presidential biography, John Adams by David McCullough, three times.

I’ve read Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle twice, and I would read the books again, if I saw an official announcement that book 3, The Doors of Stone had a release date.

I’ve read my favorite essay collection, One Man’s Meat by E. B. White, five times. That is my go-to book when I get stuck and can’t figure out what to read next.

Only once have I read a book and then immediately re-read it. That was Bruce Springsteen’s memoir, Born to Run. I read it while on vacation in Florida in December 2016, and when I finished it, I went right back and read it again.

As for Tom Clancy, I have read the first three Jack Ryan books twice. So if I do end up reading them again, it will make for a third time.

Sometimes I feel guilty about re-reading books. The time I spent re-reading a book is the time I could be spending seeking new territory, so to speak. But then I remember that I generally re-read something I enjoyed, and I can’t complain about doing something that I enjoy now, can it?

Written on February 15, 2022.

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