Editor’s Note: We here at 5 Minutes for Books are pleased to welcome Carrie back! Carrie left our team almost 2 years ago, but it’s a testament to her prolific reviewing that she still has the 3rd most reviews on the site (after Dawn and me). I’m happy to be working with her again, and I know you will all be pleased to hear her thoughts on the books she’s reading.
I’m a big fan of C.S. Lewis. I think he was a pretty wise fellow who made a lot of good sense. One piece of advice he dropped was to re-read books. He said, “It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” I came across that nugget last year through a bloggy friend of mine and I decided to take it to heart. At the beginning of this year I decided to make a more concerted effort to re-read books which have spoken or ministered to me in some way. After all, I think we all agree that books have an impact on our lives. (That’s why we’re here, reading this site, correct?) We recognize that books have intrinsic value, but I’m feeling more convicted we do not act out that believe when it comes to our actual reading habits and practices.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of good books out there! There will never be enough time to read all of the ones that we want to read. We should therefore be careful in our selection of the books which we do pick up to read and make the most of them. I’m a big fan of book blogging because it forces me to think through what I’ve just read and pick out passages for practical application in my own life. Book blogging clears my head a bit, I guess you could say, causing me to focus on the most important things I wish to walk away remembering. I also have come to the conclusion that it’s good to make lists of the books which I have found to be the most impacting. Recently, for example, I made a list of Top Ten Spiritual Growth books which have greatly impacted my Christian walk. After I made the list I realized that it didn’t do me very much good to make the list and then forget about it. Rather, if those books were so very valuable to me, I should probably be spending more time keeping company with them and have purposed to do just that! I like the following quote from Gail Carson Levine:
“There’s nothing wrong with reading a book you love over and over. When you do, the words get inside you, become a part of you, in a way that words in a book you’ve read only once can’t.”
I think that’s a very true statement. When you spend time with a book that has greatly impacted your thought processes, your emotions, and has in some way changed you, you really must spend more time with it. The words then get into us and we live differently because we have been affected (hopefully by truth). Books that leave us in a different state of mind than when they first found us, have great value and meaning. Just as you would want to foster a relationship with a human if you felt a connection, so it must be with a book. (Human relationships are massively important but for purposes of this post, I’m focusing on books, k?) Books have been known to shake up the world by shaking up individuals and so it is right and proper that we would choose them wisely, well, and would want to know them as best as we can.
Beyond “simply” taking the time to re-read books we have enjoyed, it can also be of great benefit to re-read books that we were not terribly fond of at first. Maturity, time and space can change the way we think about certain great works of fiction. For example, I recently re-read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and almost did a complete about-face in my opinion of it. I ended up appreciating Twain’s wit and finding value in Tom himself, thanks to my now-broader literary experiences as well as the friendships I’ve developed in the book blogging world.
While it is fun to explore new titles and incorporate new reads into our reading mix, I think there is something to be said for visiting with old friends as well. (Anyone else singing the Girl Scout song, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”?!) To set a book down because we’ve “already read that” does have a mark of immaturity about it, if that book has great literary value and/or changed the way we’d been living our lives. Dive back in! Old friends aren’t boring if we take the time to foster and grow them. (Switching to people-talk now!) In fact, my best friend is the one who has been around the very longest of all of my friends! Every time we get together it is fresh and exciting. We have the bond of shared stories, but we have grown in wisdom and understanding so we can add things to the relationship each time we get together. So, like people, books have more to share. One reading of a great book simply isn’t enough! Go back for seconds! Thirds! Fourths! The only weight you’ll gain is in wisdom, knowledge and appreciation for the finest things the literary world has to offer you. Where is the downside to that?
As I’ve moved through the first half of this year, I’ve already seen the benefits of spending time with “old friends.” I re-read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (as mentioned), Pilgrim’s Progress and a short book (which I highly recommend to mothers of littles) which had me re-evaluating what Me-Time needs to look like. I intend to keep on doing re-reading books. Purposefully doing so has been quite the eye-opening experience. It’s great to pick up a new read and expose the mind to something unfamiliar. But it’s also fantastic to sit back and share a cup of coffee (or your beverage of choice) with an old one.
Have you found value in re-reading books? Is it something you’d like to do more? Join in the discussion.
Carrie is forever trying to find the balance between old and new-to-her books. She blogs about both at Reading to Know.