Why Do We Re-Read Some Books?

If you guys are anything like me, you’ll have a weekly shopping binge, the scientific term being Retail Therapy (Rifai, 2018) and you’ll end up buying at least one new book, because it was on sale or the cover was pretty or some other garbage excuse.

And then when you bring it back to your room, all your other untouched books on your shelf just go:

So you cave into their judgmental stares and promise you’ll read at least one book in the next two weeks….and you pick up the same tattered, old copy of Howl’s Moving Castle yet againThe funny part is that not every book you have read can be re-read. There are only a select few favorites that have the honor of being re-readable, and often, they aren’t even necessarily the best of books. There’s just something about them that makes us fall back to them every single time. 

So why do we re-read these few books? What is it that makes us ignore all the 10000 unread ones on our shelves?

1. Nostalgia

The one thing about picking up your old, favorite book is the sense of nostalgia that hits you when you flip through the yellow and perhaps dog-eared pages (casual reminder that dog ear-ing a book’s pages is HARAAAAAAAAM).

Many of us have a certain sadness attached to growing up and when we go back to our old books, in a sense we relive our childhood or how we were in the past. 

2. The Book Is Unique

A lot of times, our favourite books are our favourites because there’s literally no other book like it. You’ve perused countless “If you’re a fan of X, you’re sure to love these!” lists, but none of those books just cut it. None of them gave you exactly what you wanted (which in my case was a huge flying castle, a spineless yet handsome wizard, and most importantly- a plucky, calm-yet-rage-filled heroine banging on the door of said flying castle with her walking stick).

3. Commitment Issues

Let’s face it, some of us are lazy and some of us have….commitment issues.

The thought of starting a new book and reading it through to the very end is way too daunting. So we run to our old books like the cowards we are. Plus, when we reread, we can do whatever we want- we can either read the whole thing or just skip to our favorite parts, because we already know the story.

4. New Experience

Sometimes reading books from our childhood can be a whole new adventure – we’ve all grown up and changed in so many ways. Our perspective on life is especially different. Revisiting our childhood favorites is a nice way to compare how we’ve changed as a person over the years. Its interesting to see how differently we now feel about so many things. Sometimes we also find new meanings and layers in our favorite stories now that we are so much older and *ahem* wiser. 

5. Calming Effect

To top it all off, some of us just instinctively reach out for our favorite books because in times of stress/sadness/other negative emotions. Our old favorites just have the uncanny ability to calm us down. We know what the expect from them, we know they will make us happy and not let us down. A new book might turn out be bad (just like our ex) but our favorite book is our best friend. It will always be there for us. 

There is no harm in having those few books that you always re-read, especially when in need of comfort. However, lets try to not make this a habit and forget that there is more to reading. If you’re like me, its time to probably push yourself a bit and address the millions of poor books on your shelf patiently waiting for your attention.


By Shamra Rifai 

your friendly neighbourhood grammar nazi

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