The benefits of re-reading books

Have you ever re- read a book? Maybe you read it a long time ago and chose to revisit it or it’s just one of your favorites?

I love to read but like some, or most people, my “to- read” list overwhelms me. I recently found myself in this overwhelmed state. I’d been looking for spiritual books that I hoped would help me in coping with my mother’s recent passing. I had a few books in my arsenal: Women Who Run With the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I started to read both but abandoned them and decided to return to an old favorite, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. It’s one of my favorite books from one of my favorite authors.

This is my third time reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I can’t say exactly what caused me to read it again but I guess you can blame the desire for nostalgia and longing for “home.” If you’ve never had the chance to read it (which you should!), it chronicles the life of Oscar de León, an overweight, Dominican boy from New Jersey who is a sci-fi aficionado and believes his family is cursed. Díaz tells the story of Oscar’s life with the use of Spanglish, magic realism, sci-fi references and snippets of Dominican history. I could always relate to some of the key details in this book– my family emigrated here from the Dominican Republic, I grew up in New Jersey and was raised hearing and witnessing a lot of the things Díaz describes in this novel. It’s always made me feel like part of my community. But although I’m only halfway through my third re- read, I appreciate its genius even more. I take my time to research references that I didn’t understand before or make notes of words I don’t know. Some of the historical references are easier to grasp, thanks greatly to maturity and following the news as an adult.

I also find myself relating to the character Lola more. In the story, her and Oscar’s mother is fighting cancer and they are her main support. Before, I couldn't personally relate to their experiences in dealing with their mother’s fight against cancer but I can now. I see myself in Lola’s references to the loss of her mother’s “supernatural” strength and the complexities in their relationship. Although my relationship with my mother doesn’t compare to the hostility in Lola’s relationship with hers, I share Lola’s pain and concealed confusion.

I suppose I’ve always known that re- reading books is a great idea. As a child, my mother re- read Tikki Tikki Tembo more times than I can remember and the Amelia Bedelia series remains one of my favorites for that same reason. In fact, the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report: 6th Edition shows that parents find themselves re- reading books like the Harry Potter series and Goodnight Moon more than once or twice (see graphic above)!  

What books have you re- read or plan to?