Like many, I’ve had a lot of time to read during this pandemic.
And when everything first shut down, I was more than ready to dive into my fresh lineup of great reads — from Ursula Le Guin’s “The Beginning Place” to Phillips Roth’s “The Human Stain,” to Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want To Talk About Race.” I’d never really had that much free time to read before, and I devoured those books within weeks.
I love finding a new book to read. But I also often think about all of the books currently on my bookshelf — am I ever going to read these again?
So when I finished the last new book I bought, I headed for my book shelf and chose one I’d read a few years ago: David Foster Wallace’s series of essays, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.”
This time around, the book felt different. The writing felt more personal and approachable — probably because my life is much different now than it was when I first read it. Plus, I’m about the same age now as he was when he wrote most of the essay’s featured in the book, which added another level of connection and understanding.
After finishing that, I started to wonder why I didn’t reread books more often. I think I’ve just always felt like when I’m done with a book, it’s on to the next one and there’s no looking back. I’ve had that attitude since elementary school when I was forced to do summer reading.
Rereading a book is kind of similar to rewatching a movie for a second, third or even tenth time. Many of us rewatch movies without even thinking about how many times we’ve seen them before. And even if you know the plot by heart and can recite lines from the movie verbatim, you can still experience the movie in a different way every time you watch it.
You’ll likely even catch something new that you never noticed before because there’s so much to dissect and learn. Yet somehow, I’ve always held that mindset with movies but not with books.
Another book that had a totally different impact on my second read was “Our Band Could Be Your Life” by Michael Azerrad. When I first read it in 2013, I didn’t know much about many of the bands the book focused on — The Minutemen, Big Black, Mission of Burma — and read it mostly for the chapters about old hardcore punk bands I loved in high school. But when I was done reading it for a second time, I felt much more connected with the bands, understood their mindsets a little better and saw their struggles through a new lens.
I found that many parts of the book that had seemed unreal when I read it in college were now relatable and understandable — which no doubt has to do with the experience I’ve gained in underground music scenes since then.
It was interesting to read about the personalities of the people involved in these bands and think of people I know who embody those characteristics. It never really hit me how truly influential these bands were, not just for underground indie musicians, but for mainstream artists, like REM. While reading, it almost felt like taking in this information for the first time, and afterward I felt like maybe I wasn’t meant to have understood the book in this way until this point in my life.
I love finding new books to read, and now I’ve realized that revisiting books I’ve already read can feel like I’m reading them for the first time. It helps me fully appreciate and extract greater meaning from the book, especially when I think about how much time, effort and research the author put into writing it, and how much I’ve grown as a person since last reading it.
Now I often think about books in the same way I think about movies — there’s always something new to learn.