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The Struggle to Balance Rereading With the TBR

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Jen Connic

Staff Writer

Jen has more books than she'll ever read. A seasoned journalist, she has fought against fake news at Storyful, wrote snappy social media posts for and helped launch the Patch local news network. She loves good stories, doesn't matter the genre and can't stop watching true crime shows on Netflix. Jen always believes the Mets will win this year and that Dave Grohl is a national treasure.

I was working through my bookshelf looking for titles for a different column when I realized I hadn’t reread any books recently. It might be years since I’ve reread a book, and that’s abnormal for me.

I have certain favorite books that I normally revisit on a regular basis. I would read The Great Gatsby every one or two years. I’ve read Lamb more than a handful of times, especially when I need a laugh. All the President’s Men brings me inspiration when I need it.

I might also reread something because a friend or colleague mentions how much they love it, reigniting my own love for the book. I went hunting for The Night Circus months ago after a friend had mentioned her love for it. I couldn’t find my copy, though, ending my last attempt to reread something fairly recently.

Why would I keep these volumes on a shelf if I wasn’t going to revisit them at some point? I don’t believe in having books just for the sake of having books, which might surprise people if they look at the height of my to be read pile. I love having my books around me, but I love having them there so I can read them.

It’s mainly that to be read pile that is drawing me away from rereading my favorites. There are just too many new (at least to me) books to be read, and I feel like I’m abandoning my old friends for the new (shiny) ones.

The Daunting TBR Pile

Struggling with my feelings about how I’m not rereading nearly as much as I’d like, I asked people on both Facebook and Twitter if they’re revisiting books. I ran a (completely unscientific) poll on Twitter and found more than 60% of people were rereading at least sometimes.

I found I wasn’t the only person who finds they have too many new volumes to read to go back and reread things.

Author Craig Pittman said he used to reread more out of necessity, but now he’s surrounded by too many new things to read to revisit other books.

Rereading Brings Comfort

A lot of people who responded to me told me they do reread, at least sometimes. They reread because it’s something comforting to them.

“Sometimes it’s a comfort food sort of thing,” one of my friends wrote on Facebook. “The Martian is one of my favorites for this. Sometimes it is because I think I can get more out of it with another read.”

Another friend also highlighted the “comfort thing” for rereading books. “Sometimes I love the story or the character or the language,” she wrote. “They are like old friends I want to revisit.”

One of my favorite things about rereading is finding something new, and one of my Twitter followers also highlighted how they learn new things with each read.

Or they’re trying to remember the details of a much-loved book.

Rereading Classics & In a Different Format

A lot of people also told me they are rereading classic books like The Great Gatsby, The Harry Potter series, or Moby Dick or other books from their childhood like Little House on the Prairie. Or there’s a classic author people revisit often such as Jane Austen or Charles Dickens.

There is, after all, a reason these books and authors are considered classics. As so many people mentioned, these are the kind of books that can bring us comfort.

But the thing I found most interesting was how people choose a different format if they’re going to revisit a book. Such as if they read the pages of a book, they may listen to the audiobook version when they revisit the story. I’m not an audiobook listener, so it never dawned on me to revisit something via an audiobook.

Need to Find a Strategy

My experiment made me feel a little better in that I’m among many people who want to reread books but often cannot find the time because of the to be read pile.

I suppose it’s a matter of finding a strategy to find time to reread beloved books so I don’t lose them to the dust. I’ve just figured out how to mix in library books with the books I’ve purchased, so I haven’t figured out a plan for rereading yet.

Of course, having too many books I want to read isn’t really a bad problem. It means there are so many good things out there to feed my brain, both new and old.