Some people like to read a book once, and then they're done. The plot is resolved and they know whodunnit, so it's time to move on to the next book. Other people reread a favorite book every few years, and still others keep it on their shelves in case they may want to read it again someday. Are you a frequent re-reader, an occasional one, or are you "one and done"? How do you decide what to reread, and when?
Extra Credit: What was the book you reread most recently?
I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I'm a lifelong re-reader. On the one hand, that means that the books I buy are not a waste. Once I buy a book, I am almost certain to read it more than once, probably three or more times over a period of decades. In fact, aside from a basic collector's mania, that's why I buy all the books I read, and have borrowed a total of one book (I think) from a library in the past two decades. I figure, if it's worth reading, it's worth owning, so that I can read it again at a moment's notice. I mean, really! If I'm thinking about the Harper Hall Trilogy at three in the morning, I can go right to the shelf my Pern books are on, and start reading it again. Well, actually, I think the Pern books are in a box at the moment because I pulled them from my closet to put in the library. But the point stands.
But with a world full of books, a large subset of which are fantasy and sf and other stuff I might enjoy, why do I read a few hundred books over and over instead of sampling the whole range of what's available? This is where the embarrassment comes in, because the truth is, I'm not all that well read. A friend asks me what I think of Neal Stephenson or China Miéville, or recommends Charles de Lint or whoever, and I have to admit I haven't read anything by them. Heck, on our first date on New Year's Eve 1985-6, my last boyfriend before I met John bought me Dune and ordered me to read it. Later he also told me to read some Zelazny. I never did it, just as I never read David Copperfield, more because my mom kept saying that I should than because of any distaste for Dickens. When it comes to trying new authors, I am debilitatingly resk-averse.
So when I do find a writer whose work I enjoy, I tend to go overboard. I have over six feet of Madeleine L'Engle books, collected over the past 35 years. I have all of her novels, a reasonable chunk of her memoirs and religious essays, and some of her poetry. I have all of the McCaffrey Pern books except for one or two of the recent ones by her son. With a favorite author I know I will probably like the work, so I buy the books. Most of the time that works out, so I read it again.
Am I missing out on a lot of good books I would probably enjoy? Almost certainly. On the other hand, I really enjoy nearly everything I buy with my limited funds, and get good value by rereading them, usually when another book in the series comes out, but sometimes just for the heck of it. And I do occasionally try something new, that long-discarded copy of Dune notwithstanding. I think there were three Harry Potter books out the night I encountered them for the first time. I read the first five pages or so of Sorcerer's Stone right there in the bookstore, and then bought it. Within a week I had all three titles. Since them I've discovered...um...well, John Scalzi, I suppose. He's one of the few "favorite" writers whose books I pick and choose from rather than buying them all. And I do at least look at books that might be the next big discovery for me personally.
So what have I reread lately? Most recently I've reread several books by Patricia C Wrede, who used to write lots of witty and helpful posts on the old AOL sf and fantasy writer's message boards. Some of my books by her date back to the 1970s and early 1980s. Many of them were in boxes, inaccessible for over a decade until we went through boxes this summer. Now I can reread those old titles, which seldom turn up in bookstores, even used.
Yeah. I think I'll reread The Harp of Imach Thyssel next.