The Joys of Rereading

About this time of year I often reflect on what I did differently throughout the past year.  One of the things I observed was my choice to do a significant amount of rereading.  Rereading simply means to read something again.

Sir Francis Bacon, the English author and philosopher (1561 – 1626) had some wise words to say on reading:

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention

In my thinking there are great advantages of reading something for the second or even third time. Rereading provides us with:

1) Deeper Clarity – Rereading allows us to “see what we may have missed” or misinterpreted.

2) More Available Comparisons – The passage of time has allowed us further life/work/reading experience so we can make better comparisons.

3) Comfort and  Appreciation of the Familiar – Rereading a favorite book is like enjoying a favorite meal. It just feels right.

4) Increased Likelihood of Reviewing “The Other Parts” – These are outside of the main text of the book – prefaces, table of contents format, acknowledgments, author bios, bibliography  or footnotes.

One of the books I have recently reread is Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren’s  1972 version of How to Read a Book. Of course, if you have read this book already, you would likely understand the value of number (4 above.  Which of course, my rereading recently got me doing in earnest.

Some good sources for selecting books are the BBC 100 Top Books and if you desire to read “classics” you might investigate the list that Adler gives in his 1972 version. The list appears in Wikipedia under the description of How To Read A Book.

Since I’ve only read 47 of the BBC list I still  have a long list of books to get to yet. I will however, try balancing the yet unread with the joys of rereading.



Filed under Books to Read, Knowledge, Philosophy, Thinking

2 responses to “The Joys of Rereading

  1. Fred

    I think Terry has contributed something really valuable here for all of us by extolling the benefits of re-reading. In my mind, when we read we are actually “rewriting” what the author wrote into something that makes sense to our own psyche. It’s hard to truly do this with only one reading. Subsequent readings would allow us to much more readily translate the author’s original meaning into realms of thought that really resonate with our own inner intellect, since the first reading would have only laid the groundwork. I also like Terry’s quote of Sir Francis Bacon, who I think is one of the greatest minds of all time. We do need to tailor our reading according to the literary genre or our own tastes. With Miller’s superb, fascinating history of World War II, I skip all over the book, and inevitably I’ve probably read the book 3 times in this way as I inadvertently re-read the same passages again. Reading is one of life’s supreme joys and Terry has heightened our enjoyment by pointing out the benefits of re-reading.

  2. We are a not-for-profit educational organization, founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery–three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos, lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

    Three hours with Mortimer Adler on one DVD. A must for libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.

    I cannot over exaggerate how instructive these programs are–we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

    Please go here to see a clip and learn more:

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