Rereading; Or, Ignoring Mount TBR

Amanda Nelson

Staff Writer

Amanda Nelson is an Executive Director of Book Riot. She lives in Richmond, VA.

I recently reorganized my bookshelves into “read” and “not yet read GUILT GUILT GUILT.” Much to my shock and awe, slightly less than half the books I own are unread- that’s one floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and one half-that-size-hobbit-type-shelf. How could I have let my collection get so out of hand, you may ask. It’s the rereading.

For most of my reading life, I’ve not been a rereader. So many books, so little time! I can’t rifle through Anna Karenina again when there are 4,596,398 (roughly) pages of Dickens to get through before I kick it. Not to mention all that Proust (stab stab) and the entirety of Henry James and don’t forget Steinbeck (most of his books are wee little things but there are SO MANY).

I chalk some of this up to a combination of societal influence and personality. I am already a completer. Crossing things off a to-do list gives me a eyebrow-raising amount of exhilaration that most people don’t experience unless they are jumping bodily out of airplanes or finally hanging mistletoe from the back of their belt and shaking their rump in front of their boss’ face. When combined with our mission oriented society, this foible of my nature meant weekly trips to the bookstore because I’d already read everything in the house, including all shampoo bottles and cat food ingredients lists.

Then I started blogging. People began asking me my opinions on books I hadn’t read since freshman year of high school. The blogosphere is already a mountainous TBR pile, and mixed in there were tomes I had vague recollections of face-hearting, but I couldn’t ACTUALLY remember anything about them. So I tentatively began picking them up again. There have been heights of joy (rediscovering The Great Gatsby) and depths of regret (I still hate The Catcher in the Rye, that was a bloody time waste- I COULD HAVE BEEN NAPPING).

My discovery: rereading is a mirror. The thoughts you have about something you loved/hated five years ago (or even last year) will show you things about how you have and have not changed- it will give you clues about the permanency of facets of yourself. Are you the sort of person who will always find Vronsky unsympathetic, forever and ever amen? Do you still think we’re living in 1984 like you did at 16? Find out- give them a reread. Let the TBR shelves groan. I don’t know why you’re a reader, but I’ll bet “completing a list of reading someone else think’s I should” is ACTUALLY. Well. At the bottom of the list of reasons.