I have made it a policy here on the site not to post reviews for books that I read in the past. That is, while there are many books that I read before starting this site and before starting weekly reviews on the site, I only intend to post reviews for those books if I actually sit down and re-read them. In some cases, like for books that are a part of ongoing series, that means that reviews for the older books will likely be posted eventually as I re-read to get caught up for a new release (like we did for the Stormlight Archive books). There are a lot of books that I would like to add to the review collection that I’ve already read, but with a reading list as long as mine is, it is increasingly challenging to justify spending too much of my time re-reading books.
Some books are absolutely worth re-reading. I try to read The Lord of the Rings every ten years or so, and I should really re-read The Wheel of Time, since I haven’t read that epic since middle school (I was finishing the series just as the last few books came out, which was fortuitous timing – my dad had been waiting for the conclusion since the series first started coming out). The Chronicles of Prydain also frequently make my re-read list, because I read them at several inflection points during my childhood. Yet there are other books that I’ve read, especially classics or oft-referenced pieces, that it would be good to have reviews for but I would have a hard time justifying (or enjoying) taking the time to re-read when there are so many other, new books that I could be reading. While considered a classic, I did not find The Prince to be much of a page turner.
Over the past year or so, I’ve found that I can comfortably manage an average of a book per week. Since some books take me considerably less than that, the pace allows me the flexibility to read longer, thicker texts that take significantly longer than a week without missing reviews (which I try to keep scheduled at least a few weeks out – hence why the “What I’m reading” information will almost never by synchronized with the weekly book reviews). In practice, this usually means I end up reading a little over 52 books each year. That means that if I were to stop adding books to my reading list, it would still take me over two years to finish everything that’s on there, but in reality it grows by more than enough books on average to keep it from growing very much shorter.
So when does it become appropriate to re-read books? When and how can I justify taking the time to re-read something that I’ve already read, when there are so many new books out there waiting for me to read them? Alternatively, how can I justify not taking the time to re-read certain books, since we will derive different things from books depending on the context in which we read them and the knowledge base we have at the time? It’s really a question of opportunity cost (as so many decisions in life are). Going forward, I think that I will mostly base my re-reading on books that I find myself frequently references here on the site in my posts and other book reviews.
I don’t know that there is a right answer, but for now I think it’s important that I keep reading new things as much as possible (and by new I mean new to me, not new to the world). Perhaps in another ten years I’ll find that it’s worthwhile to slow down my intake of new books, and instead take the time to go back and do more re-reading. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter too much, as long as we keep reading.
2 thoughts on “Re-Reads”