Monday, April 12, 2010


Betsy Bird’s 100 Best MG novels countdown has been mentioned here a couple of times. #1 revealed today.

While reading through the comments I noticed one person said the #1 book was one she rereads, adding, “I rarely reread any book.” Oddly, this was the third time in about as many days that I’ve run across such a comment about rereading.

I reread a lot. A LOT. This is a carryover no doubt from my youth when I spent more time rereading than reading new books. As a result, I was poorly read by the time I went to college. (Cathleen Schine has a lovely essay on her very similar youthful reading habits in the NY Times.)

Rereading is my best medicine for getting out of the writing doldrums. I may not finish an entire book, but I’ll reread enough to absorb the writing and once again fill up my head with language I love and admire. And sometimes I do finish the book and go on to another favorite by that author, immersing myself in his or her voice.

Story hardly matters when I reread. A return visit is all about “the how” of it. Marveling at an opening and the immediacy of mood, admiring the deft passing of time, savoring a word.
Of course I read new (to me) books, lots of them. I’m always thrilled to find a new book and writer I love; even so, it’s rereading that fuels the writing fire.

Currently Rereading: The Truth of the Matter, by Robb Forman Dew. Anyone else rereading something?



  1. I always get so much out of rereading and yet I rarely do it. I was so glad the Hamline reading list made me go back to my childhood favorites, but honestly it had been so long it was like reading for the first time.

    I do think one could read Charlotte's Web on an endless repeat. Others that would go on my list are Middlemarch, To the Lighthouse, and Annie Dillard's An American Childhood.

  2. I rarely do either, so thanks for the nudge, Marsha. But I picked up Eve Bunting's WW II English boarding school novel published in 1995 - Spying on Miss Muller at the library over the weekend. Everything about it is grand, including the title. I loved it back then and now am appreciating the strong first person voice and the clever plotting. For years I have also admired the breadth and depth of Eve's writing career.

  3. I was a chronic rereader in my youth--the binding on my copy of Witch of Blackbird Pond disintegrated from overuse--but now, not so much. When I reread adult books, they're funny ones--Nicholson Baker novels, Anne Lamott or David Sedaris essay collections. And I reread poems all the time.

    Never thought much about it before, but I guess I reread for comfort, a healthy (and less messy) alternative to taking to my bed with a box of brownie mix and a spoon.

  4. I have reread The Chocolate War and Go Ask Alice so many times I want to barf. I used to teach them--they were always the two that remained on the list semester after semester (for about nine years). Though I do still love The Chocolate War, and got a deeper appreciation each time I read it. But I think I may be done with those two for a while.

    I had to reread them as opposed to skimming or reviewing my notes, because I have such a lame memory. In fact I'm sure I reread things all the time but just can't remember that I read it before. I'm like this with movies, too, but surprisingly not with my students' packets!

  5. As a teen, I kept a list of how many times I reread each book, maybe to see which one was the "winner." It was an odd compulsion, but I still love to reread old friends.

  6. I love to reread books that have become old friends, like To Kill a Mockingbird. But I've been rereading books for craft lately. I'm rereading Huck Finn to see how a master writes in first person without using the word 'I' constantly and without all that naval gazing.