I’m in the process of re-reading my favorite book, Jane Eyre. I try to re-read it once a year. I’ve been doing that since I was a senior in high school, and I’d read it a few times before that, too, so I’m guessing I’ve read this book about 9 or 10 times. Why do I keep going back? What’s the point, since I already know how it ends? It’s not just about Jane Eyre. Why re-read any book?
1. Love of the story
I’m of the firm belief that a truly great book makes you want to re-read it. You’re sad when it’s over, and you can’t help but think, “Let’s do that again!” For me, that most often means it was entertaining, moving, and compelling, and I loved one or more of the characters.
2. It fits your mood
Do you have a favorite movie that you watch when you’re in a particular mood? For example, I watch White Christmas every year to put me in the holiday spirit. I watch P.S. I Love You when I’m feeling sad. Books are like that. I read The Mark of the Lion series when I want to be not only entertained, but touched. I read The Nanny Diaries when I want to laugh. I read The Brothers Karamazov when I want to challenge myself.
Like that stuffed animal you’ve had since you were five or that t-shirt you got you on vacation, there are memories attached to books. Jane Eyre was already my favorite book, but my enjoyment of it grew when I studied the Brontes at Oxford. Now, when I read it, I like to imagine myself back in Oxford, sitting in the Bodleian library. When I get to my favorite line (“Reader, I married him.”), I think of when I saw that line written in Charlotte Bronte’s hand on the original manuscript in the British Library. I read Pride and Prejudice because it reminds me of my best friend, and it makes me feel closer to her even though we live in different states.
No matter how many times I read Jane Eyre, I’m convinced I will always find something new. I’ve made something of a game of it now. I try to focus on a different aspect every time I read it. For example, this time I’m trying to really pay attention to the imagery, especially Bronte’s descriptions of places and weather. I’ve already found some gorgeous lines to add to my mental collection of favorite parts of the book. I love that!
Sometimes I come across a note that I’ve made in the margin, or a post-it, or an underlined section. Even though I wasn’t looking for it, I find myself touched again by something about that part.
Do you have any book(s) you like to re-read? Any special memories attached to books?
Patricia Meyer Spacks wrote a book called On Rereading, which is all about the year she spent rereading books. She discovered some pretty amazing things about why we love to hear and enjoy the same stories over and over again. I haven’t read it, but it’s on my list. You can read a review of the book here.