On Rereading

In my early years as a reader (through high school, say), I reread constantly.  There were books I read over a dozen times--not on any regular schedule, like annually, but whenever I was in the mood.  Robert Heinlein was a particular favorite.  His rationality and structure served as a calming influence on my poorly organized mind.  For all I know, Door Into Summer served to send me into my career as an engineer.  I'll just have to forgive Heinlein for that.

But, in my older years, I had a greater goal orientation in my reading, as if I had to get through some chunk of the literature.  Rereading seemed like it was retarding my progress in comprehensive understanding.

I've recently found myself rereading more.  That's partially because I've been disappointed in a number of the books I've picked up, particularly novels. OK, particularly science fiction novels, my supposed field.  So much so that I was beginning to worry that I had lost my taste for reading.

So I decided to reread a book that I'd liked in the past.  Now, this can be dangerous, if you pick the wrong one.  My tastes have definitely changed since my adolescence, so Heinlein just wasn't going to cut it.

I pulled out an old paperback of Death of an Expert Witness, by P. D. James and took it on a weekend in Maine.  In the morning and in the evening, I was back in reader heaven.

I really don't remember what I've read that well, so rereading a book is pretty much like reading it for the first time--except that I'm sure I'll like what I'm reading. I won't find myself choking on the prose or getting irritated when a promising plot falls apart halfway through.

Dalgliesh and his team:  rationality and structure.  Architecture, the 39 Articles, a good claret.  My poor overheated brain is thanking me.  It's a relief to realize that I still like reading after all.