An American Editor

May 3, 2011

Do You Reread Novels?

Filed under: Books & eBooks,The Business of Books & Publishing — americaneditor @ 5:00 am
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I recently wrote that most novel readers do not reread novels. One commenter challenged that assertion as odd, as she often rereads novels, even rereading some of them multiple times. So let’s do an admittedly unscientific poll of An American Editor readers.

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when answering the questions.

  • First, this is limited to fiction in the novel form. Poetry, short stories, and other forms of fiction that are not book-length novels should not be considered when you decide on your responses.
  • Second, think about rereading over your entire adult reading life, not just in recent years. I’m excluding childhood and teen years because I think many of us did reread novels in those years. For example, my children read, for example, Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, and my neighbor’s children read Rowling’s Harry Potter books multiple times. I remember reading the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift novels multiple times in my youth.
  • Third, the questions need to be considered broadly. By that I mean if you have read 1,000 novels over your adult reading lifetime and have reread only a dozen of those novels, then you should consider yourself as not being a rereader and answer the first question no. I suspect all of us have a few novels that we have reread, such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. To be considered a rereader, the percentage of novels that you reread should be a significant portion of the total number of novels you have read during your adult reading life.

Now, to the questions:

8 Comments »

  1. There are many novels that I have read numerous times during my life, books such as the Good Soldier Schweik I have read at least 20 or 30 times, as well as most of Kafka’s work, which I have read dozens of times. Further, I also reread quite a few thrillers that for one reason or another appealed to me, these would be in the dozens as well.
    As I am 68 years old, and have been a fervent reader for most of those years, and have a collection of at least several thousand books, both paper and electronic, I can say that I have read an enormous number of books, and as I say, any that I particularly enjoyed or liked, I will often reread a number of times.

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    Comment by Tony Cole — May 3, 2011 @ 5:13 am | Reply

  2. Normally I never re-read novels , but I have recently, one by mistake, as I got it out of the library and was twenty pages in until I realised it was familiar and one other because I loved the language. This probably applies to books read as a child, when we did re-read them, especially Treasure Island.
    I’m finally getting to grips with Blogging. I hope to get better – oldstick.

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    Comment by oldstick — May 3, 2011 @ 6:46 am | Reply

  3. I love long books if I fall in love with the characters and the story pulls me in. I write long-ish books for today’s market: 100,000 words on average. So many publishers define a novel-length book at half that. The great thing about ebooks is that a skittish reader won’t turn up their nose because the book LOOKS too big.

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    Comment by kristualla — May 3, 2011 @ 11:13 am | Reply

    • I prefer the longer books. If the characters are well-created, I don’t want to let them go. That’s one of the things I dislike about short stories: just as I am becoming involved with the characters, the story ends. I also must admit that with what publishers charge today for hardcovers, when I buy a hardcover that is 176 pages long and costs $29.95, I almost feel as if I have been taken to the cleaners. I’ll buy the book anyway, but I do get, momentarily, that feeling.

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      Comment by americaneditor — May 3, 2011 @ 11:42 am | Reply

  4. “An unliterary man may be defined as a man who reads books once only. There is hope for a man who has never read Malory or Boswell or Tristram Shandy or Shakespeare’s Sonnets: but what can you do with a man who says he ‘has read’ them, meaning he has read them once, and thinks that this settles the matter? … We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness.” –C.S. Lewis, _On Stories, and Other Essays on Literature_

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    Comment by Helen — May 4, 2011 @ 1:12 pm | Reply

    • Call me unliterary, then.🙂 I see no value in reading a James Patterson novel more than once, if even that much. OTOH, I have read Sinclair Lewis several times, but C.S. Lewis barely once.

      There are books worth reading more than once, but they are few and far between. Of course, before calling one unliterary, there needs to be agreement on what books are worthy of rereading. I am pleased to read that C.S. Lewis has his list; sadly, it doesn’t match mine. I wonder if C.S. Lewis ever read Sinclair Lewis or Ernest Hemingway once, let alone repeatedly. And with 1 million books being published each year, I wonder how he would manage to read them all so that he could determine which were worthy of his blessing and rereading. Or did he simply choose a few and declare them must reads?

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      Comment by americaneditor — May 4, 2011 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

  5. Oh, wow, I’m surprised to find myself in the 30% minority here. But then I don’t holiday in the same place every year either. Life’s too short.🙂

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    Comment by Vicki Tyley — May 10, 2011 @ 10:00 pm | Reply


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