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Why reading a book 100 times is a great idea (theguardian.com)
240 points by benbreen on Feb 10, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 170 comments



Worth noting that Hopkins rereads his scripts because he is acting on them, in both the specific and general sense of "act," and not necessarily for the casual reader's pleasure. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that a professional musician plays a piece > 100x before he performs it on stage, or that a translator ends up reading the source material > 100x before she translates it.

I do agree that rereading a book you enjoyed is valuable, but if you're not a professional "actor" on the artwork, or you didn't passionately love the book, I think it's preferable to wait between rereads, longer than would make possible 100 rereads in a human lifetime. You're a different person than you were 5, 10, 20 years ago, and you'll experience the same book differently as a different reader.


> You're a different person than you were 5, 10, 20 years ago, and you'll experience the same book differently as a different reader

I think this is often the point of reading a book multiple times, other than for sheer enjoyment. Sometimes we read a book and enjoy it, and upon re-reading it discover that there are parts of the book that we really hadn't understood at all.

These layered depths of meaning often characterize great literature, which is why at least a few re-reads of a book can be surprisingly illuminating.


On a side note, I've always admired how some kids' movies can have subtle plot points or references meant for the adults watching.


Indeed. Tons of kids' shows have adult-themed subtext sprinkled in. Kids wont catch it but it makes the shows more bearable for parents.

Spongebob has some good ones.


I've read Neuromancer about once a year since my late teens. It only took me about 10 years to realize there's actually some pretty good comedy in there...


I'm almost finished writing my first book, an introductory programming book. I have kept all of the drafts I've printed out as I've gone through the revision process, and the stack of drafts is a couple feet tall now. It's kind of crazy to look at that stack and realize that by the time the book is published, I will have read the book about ten times. Reading it that many times makes me understand some aspects of the book deeply, but it also blinds me to some aspects of the book.

I can't wait to get back to working on projects. Writing about programming has made me clarify my understanding of many subtle aspects of programming, and of Python. I can't wait to apply my deeper understanding to a number of projects. I'm also looking forward to reading other books again, after a year of reading mostly my own writing.


Some advice if you already haven't heard it:

When you're done with the first draft. Take a break, like 2-4 weeks, enough to forget it before you start rewriting. It cures you from the "blindness" and let you see it with fresh eyes

Anecdotally I've had the same experience when I go on long vacations and come back and look at all my code. "OMG What is this? It's clearly not as easy and understandable as I thought. Must rewrite immediately."

Not to mention stuff you wrote years ago shudder


As a fiction writer I can say the experience is much the same, though there's the additional thing where you get really, really tired of your own voice. Or at least I do. Does that happen in non-fic?


I don't get tired of my own voice, because much of the text is informational. One of my long-term goals as a technical writer is to include more of my voice in my technical writing. That's the kind of technical book I've enjoyed the most over the years - writing that is clearly informative, but also conveys the author's personal experience with the subject. I hope my book does well enough to justify a second edition, and I'll revise the book to have a little more voice where appropriate.

One of the hardest parts for me is when the deadlines are pressing enough that the revision process feels like work. If I can go totally at my own pace, I just enjoy the entire process. But sometimes I have to push and write even when I'd rather do other things. Even then, though, the process is really satisfying. I want people to know how to program because it gives them some power. Basic competence in programming takes away the sense that what we're doing is "magic", but leaves people with a sense of joy at taking on hard challenges and making something that works.

I might go back to some non-technical writing at some point as well. Writing a 200-page non technical book sounds pretty appealing after working through a 500-page technical book! Might be a nice sense of balance to do both kinds of writing, in the long run.


YMMV, but if I get tired of my own voice I find I'm usually doing something wrong. I re-wrote my first novel (http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Theorem-TJ-Radcliffe-ebook/dp/...) dozens of times, and likely read it over a hundred, and I could tell what passages needed work by how I reacted to it when re-reading. If it felt stale, if my eyes glazed over, if I wanted to skim ahead to find where something interesting happened, then the reader would likely to do the same.

One my first readers commented that she found the final version of the book vastly more readable than the earliest one she read, precisely because the voice was livelier and more varied. In the earlier draft she found it "sounded" too much like me all the time, and while my natural voice is not totally boring, too much of any one thing gets dull after a while. Readers invest a lot in our writing, and deserve to rewarded for it in as many ways as possible, from the ideas and characters we show them to the pleasure of the words flowing through their brain.

In non-fiction I've not found this to be such a big problem, although I'm looking less for artistic effect there and much more for clarity, although I don't think I've written anything over 100K words in non-fiction (plenty of things in the mid-10K range, though.)


Yeah. I've written a few non-fiction humor books that don't make me laugh but others enjoy. It's similar to how I can't tickle myself. The only way I can enjoy my writing is if I forgot that I wrote it.


nice! I wrote my first book last year and loved the process and results (The Dread Space Pirate Richard on Amazon). now I have two more books underway in my free time. one is a sequel to that, so fiction. but the other is technical on the topic of software performance and scalability. there are similarities and differences between writing fiction and non-fiction/technical, and I like both.


I love books a lot, and I like to think that I like them "deeper" than most people– I reread almost everything I like at least 2-3 times. But yeah, 100 re-reads is something you only do if you're goddamn hell bent on deconstructing it. (I haven't yet found a book I feel that strongly about.) Otherwise you're probably better off reading more books and getting more context.


I've read Catch 22 at least 100 times. For a while it was the only book I owned(well, had in my possession). It's easy to just flip to any chapter and read it as almost a short story. When you're no longer caught up in the plot books seem a lot more enjoyable. It's also nice to never get that feeling at the end of a good book where you miss it.


I just realized that now that it's been a few minutes since I read the article, my take-away was actually "there is a lot of value in re-reading books", rather than "you should read some books literally 100 times". I'm not sure which was supposed to be the take-away, but I think the former makes more sense than the latter! So yeah, re-reading books you like 2-3 times is a great and enjoyable exercise.


Doing it for professional reasons aside, I do get why reading something (good/deep) for 100x might be very interesting.

If you repeat the same word lot's of times, it starts to loose meaning to you after saying it 20x or 30 times. Then you keep going and it comes back. But it's different. Maybe like... "a Rose is a Rose is a Rose...".

In literature, repeating things definitely gives it a different meaning.

And then there are books/texts that are very dense. Like Wittgenstein's Tractatus.. that one you'll read a 100x if you want to understand it.


> You're a different person than you were 5, 10, 20 years ago, and you'll experience the same book differently as a different reader

Besides, good literatures are of multi layers. One might miss some the deeper layers in the first few reads. There are also some subtle points the authors try to convey. They usually requires multi reads for most readers to get them.

My wife reads some classic novels many times. I think I am a very good reader. But she has much deeper understanding than I have, explaining to me what other meanings a plot conveys, why a sentence is constructed this way rather than another, although they sound the same for normal ears, etc. in literatures both in English and in our native languages. She always finds something new each time she re-read a classic.


My g/f is currently reading a lot of classics for the first time, and talking to her has reminded me of how little I have left of some of them after a decade or two (or three...) A good book is worth coming back to a few times at least, over the course of a long lifetime.


In my opinion, once a year would be the upper limit on rereadability of a work.

I'm a fast reader, not so much in the speed reading sense, but in the sense of a hunter on the Serengeti plains. I don't need to be fast, just determined enough to get the kill. I used to read in every available free moment, and that was before ebooks.

My thing is that I'm the info-sponge. I started reading Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone when I was 16 -- for context, I've wanted to be a writer since I can remember -- and thought it was simple so I put it down and forgot about it.

At 26 I picked up the book again -- a new novel I started skewed itself YA, so YA I started reading -- and remembered it, so was skipping 5 pages at a time until I zeroed in on the page.

The book I've read most for enjoyment is Mort, which I read once when I was almost a teen, once when I was fifteen and again a decade later. I don't know how I could do that many rereads, because a reread to me already has this sense of Deja Vu where it's like a clone of me is sat in the room reading the story to me, as I'm remembering me reading the story and not just reading the story.

It's entirely different from the perspective of a writer. I've reread my own work a dozen times with ease, but only what I'm working on. Going back to old discarded and forgotten works is like visiting my own grave. So I don't know how much value there would be in reading something a hundred times.

I mean it's easy to say for a script, which works out to about a page (250 words) per minute. So a two hour movie is 120 pages, or 30,000 words. I mean even then you'd be looking at an almost two week endeavour at a normal reading pace. Now the bible, you'd be looking at a year long endeavour. About 31 weeks of continuous reading. No sleeping, no eating, just reading, just stupid.

All it produces is the same as being able to recite the lines of a TV show seconds before the actor on screen says it. Your comprehension isn't any better, I still missed jokes in Simpsons episodes I've seen too many times to count, because I lacked the capability to understand better than my maximum present ability.

So if you speed read everything, maybe rereading when your comprehension is low just adds detail like when a video stream improves in quality. However, I read with a near 100% comprehension level so rereading doesn't even feel like diminishing returns, it just feels like meaningless grunt work. If you had a clean floor and then mopped it, what improvement would you get via mopping it again? After that, you won't even see an improvement from the 3rd mopping to the 100th, and I'm sure several times in between you're going to be wondering why there's suds streaks everywhere.


I've read Go, Dog, Go about 100 times to my daughter and she still yells for it almost every night, we have hundreds of books, come on!


Since having a kid I relate to Calvin's dad in Calvin and Hobbes a lot more.

Dad: "Anything but Hamster Huey! It's the same story every day!"

Calvin: "I WANT HAMSTER HUEY!"

... (later)

Calvin: "Wow, the story was different that time."

Hobbes: "Do you think the townsfolk will ever find Hamster Huey's head?"

[0] http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1992/10/06


Does your kid enjoy Calvin and Hobbes?


I remember going through that stage with my kids. To keep myself stimulated I'd add an extra bit here, a funny voice there, kept what worked and kept building and building on top of the actual text in the books. It was like a performance after a while, and of course, my poor wife would never do it "right" when she read it.


When I'm not sure if the kids are tuned in or not, I randomly substitute a noun with "gorilla".

Turns out they're pretty much always tuned in. But I still like to check sometimes. They've moved from noticing it, to being annoyed by it, to now making a theatrical production out of how annoyed they are by it (but are clearly enjoying it).

As a bonus, it keeps me on my toes for the time most entertaining to me to substitute:

    I do not like green eggs and ham,
    I do not like them, Gorilla-I-Am
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Gorilla

    Goodnight comb and goodnight brush
    Goodnight nobody,
    Goodnight brush,
    And goodnight to the gorilla whispering "hush"...


My 3 year old daughter asks every night (for the past month) for "The Napping House", in which we have verious sleeping creatures stacked on top, with much repetition. She ALWAYS asks me to swap the adjectives -- e.g., "snoozing dog, dozing cat" rather than "dozing dog, snoozing cat". She gets it right every darn time, too.

She even wants to swap the words that have plot-meaning -- like, why is the mouse wakeful, and how does a slumbering flea bite the wakeful mouse? /shrug. It's been my carrot to get her to try and read it herself.


> To keep myself stimulated I'd add an extra bit here

If I change so much as a preposition when I'm reading a beloved book, my kids will instantly call me out on it.

I think as adults, we read to experience novelty and to change ourselves. Children are immersed in a world where they are surrounded by things that are new to them and often overwhelming. At bedtime, I think they want books for the exact opposite reason—for the safety and familiarity. To know that after all of the day's adventures, some of the things they already know—their memory of the book—are still true and correct. That they can build knowledge and it will continue to be relevant over time.

It's mind-numbingly boring for me, but they love it. I try to think of it like singing them a lullaby. For some reason, we're more accepting of repetition in song form over prose (how often have you listened to the same recording in your life?), but there's no real fundamental difference in them.


Once when I was not going to be able to continue to read the same book for a while (business trip), I made a video that consisted of the pages of the book with me reading it off-camera.

I don't know how many times he watched it, but it lost its charm. So it's not entirely about familiarity; I'm sure a big part of it is connection.


my wife does "Skippy Jon Jones" like a one-woman broadway show. The kids won't even bother asking me to read anything now. If mom is not available, they just go straight to bed . Dad's performance is lacking.


That book kind of begs for the performance.


Agreed, at least with Go, Dog, Go it teaches a lot of concepts and I always pause to ask her questions like, "Where's the boat?" "Can you point to the banjo?" "Can you count the dogs that have hats on?" etc.


I can remember the fish in the boat scene, but the banjo has me mystified.


Three dogs, at a party, on a boat, at night :)

One has a banjo.


I had a kid who insisted on playing Three Billy Goats with her dolls with me over and over again. I got bored enough with it that I started doing variations, like giving the troll underneath the bridge two heads and arguing with myself. She was displeased at first (because, you know, going off script) and then asked me to do it again.

Spontaneity was really hard to re-run. =/


Enjoy it while you still can :). My children were the same way. Now they are making jokes at my pronunciations and grammars. [English is not my first language.]


ha excellent, i'm the same as that - my kids stories are getting more exciting!


I've so far prevented that with a system. So read books go in the corner, and we only pick up books from the shelf. When the shelf is empty, or near empy, the read-books stash moves into the shelf again. Never had to argue about it, that's just the way we do.


Been in this stage with my son for awhile. I had "I'm just a fish" memorized and could recite it to him without looking at the book.

His latest books he just loves to have read to him over and over are "The Gruffalo" and several of the author's other books (Gruffalo's Child, Room on the Broom, Snail and the Whale, etc).

He also loves to watch the animated shorts on Hulu/netflix (no Snail on the Whale though, just the others).


We let our son fill in the ends of sentences. He picks up on them surprisingly fast. I think when he wants to read a book over and over he's trying to memorize it. The benefit of this approach ("hack"?) is that over time he gradually takes over more and more of the "reading", lessening the weariness of the reader!


I've read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?" by Eric Carle so many times that I can recite it from memory. I started doing it in funny accents first, then I translated it into French(which I speak) then Dutch(which I don't). It's kind of interesting learning a language from the ground up.


Parents also read to me just a few books hundred times. I especially enjoyed the bits that rhyme. I think it stimulates in the same way as songs do, that's why people comeback to poetry more often than novels.

I wouldn't read Golang to my daughter though ;)


Reading to my child was how I first discovered why poetic writing was beautiful. If you are reading something out loud, several times (in some cases 100x) it so much more enjoyable when the writing makes your mouth and brain feel good.

One of my favorite books is "The Little Island" by Margaret Wise Brown (yes, of Goodnight Moon fame). Sometimes I pick this book to read to him, not because he requests it, but because it helps me relax.


At the peak I was reading "Goodnight Moon" at a pace of ~5000 times per year, that was only for a couple weeks though.


I plan on reading "Goodnight Dune" [1] to my daughter.

Funny that the article's author wrote of Dune as one of the books to be read over and over. I used to do that. I've only read it 7 times, though, not 100.

[1] http://goodnightdune.com/


I keep trying with the Dune series, but the big-O time is n^2 when you read them like this:

Dune<pause> Dune, Dune Messiah<pause> Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune<pause> Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune <pause> Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune <pause>

I don't think I have it in me to do that again for Chapterhouse: Dune.


I don't think I could get through all 6 books again. I did read all of the prequels and "Dune 7" but they were utter crap (not written by Frank Herbert but based on his notes).

Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune are worthwhile. But the sex-witches-fleeing-the-machines combined with everybody's a Kwizatz Haderach got a little tiresome. (I now picture Oprah gleefully shouting, "You're a Kwisatz Haderach... and you're a Kwisatz Haderach... everyone gets to be a Kwisatz Haderach!"


My kids went through an intense Fox in Socks stage, to the point where I could blast through the whole thing at double-speed, which made them love it even more.


These days will be over before you know it. Relish every reading and just be present in the moment. Do you like my party hat?


"Go around again!"


One line in the article piqued my interest, as it echoes something I read somewhere else. Seeing as it comes from someone who is an absolute expert on the subject makes it even more interesting.

> "In both books, dense narrative tensions are never fully resolved..."

It has been noted that this type of recursion/layering is something that we can't help but be intrigued by. This subject is explored in great detail, and unparalleled depth, in the book Gödel, Escher, Bach[0] by Douglas Hofstadter.

He notes that this doesn't only happen in stories and is a common theme in music as well and may even be the root of what we call 'intelligence'. I think he's definitively on the right track, and I thoroughly recommend his book to anyone that has even a passing interest in mathematics, logic, philosophy, programming, music or psychology.

Of all the books I have read GEB has had the most profound impact on my life in terms of how much it made me think and evaluate the world around me and the ideas inside the book.

[0]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del,_Escher,_Bach


I've found that GEB is a great book to read and re-read. Not only will the math be more accessible the second time around, but the text also conceals numerous "easter eggs" that you might only find on subsequent readings, or might never find.

I've done in-person GEB reading groups where I learned lots of things from my co-readers. I've tried to replicate that experience online at http://www.reddit.com/r/geb, and there have been cases where other people have pointed out interesting things, but it's hard to get discussion going beyond the beginning of the book.

Unfortunately, it seems right now that people who want to follow-up on GEB ideas go to YouTube, where the conversation is disconnected enough that facile and wrong conclusions thrive. (No, a crab canon is not a Mobius strip. Some dude on YouTube made that up. It's not real.)


i've read Gödel, Escher, Bach cover-to-cover three times.

the first time, in high school, it opened my eyes to a bunch of cool ideas, and jump-started my interested in computer science. i didn't 'get it' at all. i knew there was a bunch of neat topics, but the idea that there was any overall theme was lost.

the second time, in college, i started to understand the musical content a bit more, and started understanding that there was a 'bigger picture' the author was trying to paint. i still wasn't sure what that was.

the third time, after college, I think i finally understood what the author was getting at - his model for consciousness. this was also the second time i'd read the introduction.

that book has done a lot to help me understand the world, and particularly the structure of my own thoughts. i don't know if consciousness _always_ works the way he suggests it does, but i've found a lot of utility in viewing myself as a recursive tangled loop, where physical symbols reflecting the external world started reflecting their reflection of it.


I've read it 4 times, and people keep pointing out hidden gems I hadn't noticed. Hofstadter has a remarkably complex sense of humour! (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egbert_B._Gebstadter)

Although GEB is, IMHO, his best work, Metamagical Themas is, although a compilation of previous Scientific American stuff, absolutely brilliant!


What a good article. Interestingly, I read this just after reading Bob Dylan's pretty fascinating speech (delivered ac couple of days ago at musicales.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/posts/la-et-ms-gr...

Bob Dylan stresses the importance of how many times he listened to a song and how much of an influence it had on what he wrote:

"For three or four years all I listened to were folk standards. I went to sleep singing folk songs. I sang them everywhere, clubs, parties, bars, coffeehouses, fields, festivals. And I met other singers along the way who did the same thing and we just learned songs from each other. I could learn one song and sing it next in an hour if I'd heard it just once.

If you sang "John Henry" as many times as me -- "John Henry was a steel-driving man / Died with a hammer in his hand / John Henry said a man ain't nothin' but a man / Before I let that steam drill drive me down / I'll die with that hammer in my hand."

If you had sung that song as many times as I did, you'd have written "How many roads must a man walk down?" too. "

Dylan says this repeatedly about many of his songs (I really do recommend reading his speech).

I do think there's some merit to this (though of course I don't think it's quite that simple). It's also interesting to keep something in mind. It's easy to do some things 100 times, it's harder to do other things 100 times. I've listened to plenty of songs 100 times - I think the interesting thing about Dylan was that he was listening to these songs with an unusual engagement, and that they were (at the time) somewhat unusual songs to be listening to 100 times.

I'd say it's hard to read Joyce's Ulysses 100 times, but Ulysses isn't an undiscovered work. Probably the real key is to listen to or read something 100 times that people don't realize understand the value of quite yet and that takes considerable time and effort to understand. That takes some passion, and a willingness to be considered a bit odd.


Recalling Paul Graham's recent blog post on the benefits of re-reading:

reading and experience are usually "compiled" at the time they happen, using the state of your brain at that time. The same book would get compiled differently at different points in your life. Which means it is very much worth reading important books multiple times. I always used to feel some misgivings about rereading books. I unconsciously lumped reading together with work like carpentry, where having to do something again is a sign you did it wrong the first time. Whereas now the phrase "already read" seems almost ill-formed. http://paulgraham.com/know.html


I call it 'comfort reading' like comfort food. It is one of the books I pick up when I am lying in bed sick for the day. Usually something by Heinlein/Clarke or maybe Asimov.

Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Tunnel in the sky, Friday, Rama, have all been read 5 to 10 times.


Exactly.

I read the entire original Dune series a couple of few times a year, always in bed at night - I imagine, much like people read their Bibles.

Having done it so many times, it's become "low impact" reading - appropriate for situations where reading something new is "too much."


All 6 books, a few times a year? I'm reading through the series for the first time, and while I'm sure a reread goes faster, it still must take quite a few nights. It is really good though, I'm sure I'll want to do it again once I'm finished.


If you read 20 pages a night, you can cover the whole series twice in 250-ish days. Once you've read it a few times, you can get through 20 pages in like 15 minutes.


When I was in the military, I reread the book that convinced me to pick the Marine Corps, Starship Troopers. When I reread it after having been active for a couple years, I realized how off it was from my experience[0] and thought it odd to be the book that made me make the earlier decision.

I actually finished the reading in the field and since I didn't bring another book, I flipped back to the first chapter.

[0] - Or what I thought my experience would be. Granted, it is future-y and I realized that I wouldn't have cool exoskeleton armor but, being that Heinlein was a Navy man, there are some things that never change no matter what time period people serve in and Starship Troopers is colored by that.


I go back and re-read the Foundation books (usually just the first three) every three or so years, have done since 1985. They're an excellent example comfort reading for me and I never get bored with them. I even bought two new sets just for this purpose because I love the covers of the early 1980's copies I have that were published in the UK, and just so as not to wear them out.

I know it's not "high-literature" by any stretch of the imagination, but they scratch an itch.


For much of grad school, "The Hitchhikers Guide" served that purpose. Same with some of the later Harry Potter books. And Bill Bryson's "A Brief History of Nearly Everything".

I also re-read the comics "Kingdom Come" and "The Dark Knight Returns" on a regular basis.


Yes! I have read that book HHG with towel at hand at least 5-10 times also, and all the other books at least twice. Only saw the movie once .


I always tell myself I'm going to skip the last one, because it's such a downer. (He wrote it during his divorce.) But I keep reading it because despite being such a downer, it's still eminently readable.


I remember reading Rama the first time as a kid. How that hasn't been turned into a movie yet is beyond me.


yep. wodehouse is actually particularly good for that; every now and then i just reread 20 or so of his books in a row.


He never really substantiates the article's title. Why exactly is it a great idea? That is, why read a single text 100 times rather than reading a greater variety? Its benefits seem limited to niche situations (such as an actor re-reading a script, or a lawyer re-reading some legislation, or an academic re-reading Hamlet).

I do feel that certain books deserve (nay, DEMAND) a re-reading, in order to fully appreciate their content. But 5-10 times is entirely sufficient for the layperson, unless you're writing a dissertation on the topic. I'd much prefer to read MORE books, than a single book again and again!


Because it's comforting.


To anyone who might adopt "centireading" as a neologism, just want to point out that the correct SI prefix for 100x is "hecto." "Centi" is a hundredth of something, not a hundred something. Tons of people are "centi"-readers; they make it through four pages of a four-hundred-page book.


I do this with audiobooks all the time. It's easier to passsively listen to books I've already read since you can miss parts and still know what's going on.

I never really intended to "learn" the books, but I've definitely noticed improvements in how much info seems to be available in my active memory. Really quite useful as it lets you connect related concepts in meetings and chatting much faster.

Seth Goden just wrote a blog post about it actually: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/02/can-sound-wa...


The author of this piece, Stephen Marche, has a great essay that appeared on the Los Angeles Review of Books site last summer, called "The Literature of the Second Gilded Age"

[1]: https://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/literature-second-gilded-a...


Other similar experiments include Cinema 52, where a group of people agreed to watch the same movie, once a week for a year. Top Gun the first year, Back to the Future the second year and Avatar the third year: http://www.cinema52.com/the-experiment/

Also The Lawrence Julie & Julia project where one guy decided to watch the movie Julie and Julia every single day for an entire year: http://www.lawrenceandjulieandjulia.com/


To truly appreciate rewatching they should've watched The Groundhog Day every week for a year. Followed by 50 First Dates!


I've watched Groundhog Day probably 100 times. For six or so months, I left it on repeat on the main house TV (I lived alone at the time).


Reminded me of this https://xkcd.com/915/


I have read Hemmingway's novel The Sun Also Rises 5 times. It's a book that has a lot of dialogue. It is funny to notice that it's the dialogue that changes the most for me, when I read something again, a few years later. Maybe on one reading I am in a humorous mood, so I read all the dialogue in a way that maximizes the joking. Another time, I'm in a romantic mood, so I read all the dialogue in a way that maximizes that aspect of it.


That's only true for lesser authors, of which I am including Hemingway.

edit: Lesser does not mean valueless. It means not at the same level. To be lesser than a master doesn't make one worthless, it just means one is not at the highest possible caliber in their art form.

Mark Twain, on the other hand, is dialogue-heavy and yet you get a very stronge sense of what emotion you're intended to read sections in because he gave the characters much more flesh and blood.

To compare -- Hemingway - “I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what is was all about.”

Twain - "'Ransomed? What's that?' 'I don't know. But that's what they do. I've seen it in books; and so of course that's what we've got to do.' 'But how can we do it if we don't know what it is?' 'Why blame it all, we've got to do it. Don't I tell you it's in the books? Do you want to go to doing different from what's in the books, and get things all muddled up?'"


I haven't actually read Hemingway, but I assume the people that love him do so for some reason. With that in mind, my interpretation of this comparison is akin to a comparison between Rush and My Bloody Valentine, or Led Zeppelin to Brian Eno, or Bach to Phillip Glass. The left sides of those comparisons are much more explicit. The right sides are implicit, mushier, and more subjective; they aren't necessarily intended to create a uniform response among their listeners. This isn't generally considered a failing, and in fact all of these artists are highly respected in different, but overlapping circles.


It is odd that you would choose Twain as the contrast to Hemingway. They are, to me, so very similar as to be categorized as the same kind of literature in my head. I enjoy them both, and feel they are excellent purveyors of the craft of the American novel.

There was a great anecdote in one of Asimov's autobiographies about Hemingway, which has stuck with me for years. I am on a tablet at the moment so I won't try to find it, but the gist of it was he went to see an editor when he was quite young and maybe unpublished. The editor asked him, "How do you think Hemingway would say it was raining outside?" And Asimov replied he didn't know. The editor answered, "It was raining outside".

I am pretty sure that koan-like piece of advice shaped Asimov in pretty good ways...and also summarizes Hemingway surprisingly effectively.


I was involved with theater when I was younger, and would always read the script 50-60 times outside of rehersal. Halfway through a 4 month production, I would not only know my lines, but they would come to me naturally, leading me to interact as if I was that character.

The book I've probably read the most is One of the Eragon books.... last count I was at 24 read through. I really love that book. You do notice something different every time


I've read Hackers by Steven Levy at least 30 times. I should schedule a reading soon. The book is as exciting each time I reread it, strangest thing!


Re-reading is good, but shouldn't we remember that time is also limited? What I'm saying is: all books are not equal. Hamlet == Jeeves?

Also, there are different kinds of reading. Sometimes I'm just "consuming content," and others I'm actually reading. In the former case, I get a dull sort of continuous pleasure. In the latter, it's more like I'm engaging on a journey with the author, which happens in fiction a lot, but the best kicks come from philosophy.

A single paragraph from Schopenhauer[] may contain such high signal (to me), the it requires careful scrutiny and thought. This kind of reading is engaging with the text, but I'm not sure that it would be worth it in the case of Jeeves. Why go looking for water in the (relative) desert when you can visit the ocean?

[] See: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8915729 for Schopenhauer's essay /On Thinking for Yourself/. It's a great read for anyone who wants some well presented thoughts about reading itself and its relation to thinking. Highly recommended!


That essay seems far too hardlined. "Reading is nothing more than a substitute for thought of one’s own." -S

Really? I'm going to agree that your "consuming content" fits this bill (in all mediums mind you. Mindlessly doing anything fits this bill), but I've taken to reading used books with red pen, and scarring the pages with excerpts, thoughts, counterpoints, interpretations, etc. I view that as an absolutely critical part of reading now.

"and it may sometimes happen that he could have found it [some great truth] all ready to hand in a book and spared himself the trouble." -S

You don't FIND these truths in books. The books bring out and expose the truths that lie in your experience. Take, for example, reading the classics in high school (Heart of Darkness, Gatsby, Crime and Punishment, etc). Those books meant notheng to me. My experiential quorum was unmet. I couldn't even vote on whether these topics were relevant (let alone true). It was only after I experienced, felt, lived. Only after being could the books show themselves. The authors feel the same way you feel, they just put it better. More succinctly. We all have the ingredients, they just know how to simmer things.

Compare Schopenhauer with Hemingway (Death in the Afternoon)

"People in a novel, not skillfully constructed characters, must be projected from the writer’s assimilated experience, from his knowledge, from his head, from his heart and from all there is of him. If he ever has luck as well as seriousness and gets them out entire they will have more than one dimension and they will last a long time. A good writer should know as near everything as possible. Naturally he will not. A great enough writer seems to be born with knowledge. But he really is not; he has only been born with the ability to learn in a quicker ratio to the passage of time than other men and without conscious application, and with an intelligence to accept or reject what is already presented as knowledge. There are some things which cannot be learned quickly and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man’s life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave. Every novel which is truly written contributes to the total of knowledge which is there at the disposal of the next writer who comes, but the next writer must pay, always, a certain nominal percentage in experience to be able to understand and assimilate what is available as his birthright and what he must, in turn, take his departure from." -H


I'm in agreement with you, but that essay you linked is... virulent. Easily misinterpretted. "There is no pure thought but those you come up with" type stuff.

This reminds me why I need to stay off these aggregator sites, why I now write letters to my friends instead of messaging strangers online. While the novelty of the discussion is welcome, I prefer [need] time to stew things over. Basic things. Really chew them. See now I'm sounding like Schopenuaer. Things are complicated. Damned complicated. More complicated than the 6 hour time window the obsolescence of this comment section allows for.


They way I read you, you are in complete agreement with S. -- That essay expounds thinking for oneself over "much reading". That, or you're trolling.

The line you incorrectly quoted is: "It may sometimes happen that a truth, an insight, which you have slowly and laboriously puzzled out by thinking for yourself could easily have been found already written in a book; but it is a hundred times more valuable if you have arrived at it by thinking for yourself. For only then will it enter your thought-system as an integral part and living member, be perfectly and firmly consistent with it and in accord with all its other consequences and conclusions, bear the hue, colour and stamp of your whole manner of thinking, and have arrived at just the moment it was needed; thus it will stay firmly and for ever lodged in your mind."

Please quote correctly, your quotes are just gibberish.

Also, there is a "secret sauce" comprising humanity's prized possessions. Would it were, eh?


Not trolling. My thoughts are spastic and impulsive. I'm working on it. Modern take on being presented with answers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQ4o1N4ksyQ&feature=youtu.be


For those who primarily read engineering and technical texts, do you find you have an unusually low reading speed when switching to ordinary literature ? I expected reading-speed to be 1:1 inversely proportional idea-density, but that never happens. Any suggestions for a techie who wants to read faster ?



With books (and also films and video games), I feel that I read new ones so that I may find the few that I would like to read again at some point.

The idea of being intimately familiar with , well, any subject, is very attractive to me. The idea that I know it inside and out, that I have complete control of it, is very satisfying. Unfortunately becoming a master of anything takes a very long time so while I do fantasize on one day having the free time to really become one with my favorites "things" the fact that I have less free time as years go buy (and being a very slow reader) ultimately means that it will be an unfulfilled aspiration.


I don't count my rereading, but for good books, once is never enough. When I got the the end of "Satanic Verses" for the first time, I was so taken, I started it again the very next day. Similar with "Against the Day". If I had to guess, the most rereads I've done is ~20-30 rereads of "Cats Cradle". Part of the reason for that is it is such an easy read, and I can usually finish it in a day or two. Its also a great novel. I'd like to say I've read "Gravity's Rainbow" that many times, but for its density, having read it four or five times is a feat unto itself.


While the Jeeves stories are good, they can't hold a candle to the time when lawlessness raised its head at Blandings Castle, or to the effect of Mulliner's Buck-u-Uppo tonic on the Bishop and the Vicar (quoting from memory, e.&o.e):

"Tell him we're a couple of cats"

"We're a couple of cats"

"Oh, that's all right then" said Mulliner as he stood aside to let them in. The Bishop, being an artist at heart, mewed as he climbed in, to lend verisimilitude to the deception.

A perfect storm of wonderful English prose with a boundless absurdity of form and circumstance.


I keep reading The Idiot and Walden. The nice thing is that after you read a book a few times, you can just open to any page and start reading. Walden is especially good for random selection.


So, what books do people here think are worth reading 100 times?


Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson. I've reread it at least five times now, and it's so dense with historical and literary references and parodies interweaved into its plot that I notice new things every time I reread it that I previously thought were things the author made up, were actually subtle (or not so subtle) references.

Plus the plot bounces around constantly, sometimes mid sentence, between characters and times and realities, that you get a better feel for the plot when you reread it anyway.


Indeed do many things come to pass.


Book worth opening everyday for the rest of one's life: Discourses (Epictetus)

Books worth reading 10 times: Social Contract (Rousseau), Republic (of Plato), Apology (Socrates), As a Man Think, Inquiry into the Wealth of Nation (if you can muster the energy)

Books worth reading 3 times: Lucretius (on the nature of things)

And pretty much most books in the Great Books of the Western World list


From the original article, notice that the advocate of reading books 100 times has personal reasons for reading both books as much as he did. In one case it was to achieve a superior level of familiarity for the text, in the other it was because he derived an unusual amount of comfort from it.


I've read "The Princess Bride" about as many times as I've seen the movie, which, while I haven't kept a close count, is a lot. I don't know that it's something I'd recommend to everyone, but the book has its own sort of whimsy that is distinct from the movie, though both are enjoyable.

Kerouac's "On the Road" is another that I read often. Somewhere in the once-a-year phase.

"Slaughterhouse Five" is another I read with some regularity, and I find it different every time I read it, as I have a new set of personal beliefs with which to apply to it approximately every time.


PRINCESS BRIDE (THE BOOK) SPOILERS

The great thing about it, IMO, is that the novel's not about the story from the movie, really, but nevertheless you can do to it what the protagonist is doing to the fictional Princess Bride book and tell it to your kids as if it were the movie, by skipping the "boring parts", i.e. the important parts if you're reading it as an adult. It's a great and funny adventure story for kids, wrapped in a melancholy meditation on relationships with children and recapturing lost time and experiences for adults[1], which is (rightly) absent from the movie. The story itself tells you how to adapt it for reading to kids. It's its own instruction manual.

I absolutely love the notion of a kid picking up the book as an adult, expecting the story their parents read to them, and being surprised by the discovery of the real story, hidden from them in exactly the same way the bits about economics and such were from the protagonist. It's simply brilliant, and a scenario I fully intend to set up for my kids :-)

[1] This is from memory—I read it several years ago, and if I revisit it I'm sure my take would have more nuance now, and would find this to be an embarrassing misreading or oversimplification.


WRT "The Princess Bride", I've read it a few times as well. My perspective is slightly different, reading it after watching the movie many times. I agree that it "has its own sort of whimsy", especially in the context or meta-story, but when I first read it, I was struck by how similar the humor is to the movie.

If memory serves me, almost all of the memorable lines and jokes from the movie come word-for-word from the book. I'd assumed some of the jokes, e.g., those by Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) or Fezzik (Andre the Giant), were adapted to suit the actors. But they weren't. I don't know if that speaks to the quality of the writing or the casting or what.


Ender's Game.

I haven't read it recently (I have audio-booked it though), but I've probably read it ~25 times. (Often to refresh as new books come out, still often to just refresh).

It amazes me how, even in a book as simple, it still speaks to me.


The Bible, worth reading daily.


Reading it 100 times deeply informed many of the greatest minds of the age, and naturally created an educated citizenry for generations.


I haven't reached 100 but If ever will it will probably be one of these two:

One hundred years of solitude Blood Meridian


One hundred years of solitude is the only one I ever re-read, first the original Spanish, then in Portuguese, then in English.


Anything by Schoppenhauer.


Pride & Prejudice.


I also love this novel!

Read it a lot of times probably more than 20 but not yet close to 100.


american gods


I've never read a book more than once, not even a comic book when I was a kid. I have, though, seen cerebral films (pretty much my favorite kind) as many as 5-15 times each.

What I haven't seen anyone mention here in the comments, is reading several books on the same subject, but from different perspectives. IE, 2-3 history books, by different authors, on the same country and era. This is something I have done and do get a bit of enjoyment out of.


I really enjoyed taking that approach to the Vietnam war. It was edifying to read a general who was there describe the exact same events as a journalist writing post-9/11, yet only the location and time matched up. It made their biases stand out so starkly.


Lots of books I want to reread but hard to justify when I already have more books on my "to-read" list than I can read in a lifetime. I do, however, try and re-read Dune once a year.

Off-topic but since I've got books on the brain: I recently started reading the Foundation and am kicking myself for not reading it sooner.


I'm sorry, I can't subscribe to this idea.

I have a finite time in my life, and there are way too many books for me to read. There are so many books I want to read that it's literally going to take me a lifetime as it is...so every book I re-read is a new book I'll never get to read.


In the centuries before books became cheap and mass produced, a family would own only a handful of books. These books tended to be passed around and reread repeatedly. The modern period of being read widely was preceded by one of being read deeply.


Wouldn't it be better to simply memorise a book rather than reread it so many times? I absolutely gain a greater appreciation for poetry after I memorise it, I'm sure it is not so different to the experience he's talking about.


Reminds me of the academic who knew everything there was to know about Romeo and Juliet, had thoroughly analyzed it, its roots, context, etc. And who'd throw it all away for the joy of reading it for the first time.


I wish I understood the desire to re-read books or re-watch movies.

It makes no sense to me at all.


You're trying to tell me you've never, ever, once re-watched/read something and found any enjoyment in it? You get everything 100% the first time?

I've watched There Will be Blood at least 4-5 times and still feel like there's more to watch in there. Hell, I've also read some of Hunter Thompson's short stories dozens of times. That rhythm is refreshing to revisit every once and awhile. Sometimes the intricacies of the work aren't apparent on the first go-round (at least to my lesser mind).


Yes, that's what I am telling you.

When I was a kid I would rewatch things hundreds of times; My Neighbor Totoro, Star Wars, Blade Runner, West Side Story but now I don't find any use in it.

What are you getting out of There Will be Blood that has you coming back over and over again?


There are definitely lot's of movies, that show you something new (where you see something new?), each time you watch them.

It's small details. Some new connection. Maybe the mood you're in changes the way you interpret a scene (or the whole movie). Maybe your personal experiences since you last watched the movie let you see it in a new (personal) light.

The same applies to books. Even more so maybe. With books you make the movie in your head, so it's more open to your interpretation, and thus changes more according to your mood etc.

I don't know about 100x, but I've reread / re-watches some movies and books to much joy.


Depends on the movie or book.

Some things are simple enough that once or twice through and you have all that needs to be had.

Others are deep enough that you can discover and learn something new each time.


I'd go one step further and say it has to do with engagement.

If you find the book/movie pointless the first time, no amount of reruns will change that. On the other hand, if you loved it and made you think about the issues it raised, it might be worth going through it again, but a big part of the extra deepness you find in the rerun will be placed in there by your subconscious mind.


Are you the same with other forms of leisure and entertainment? Never walk through the same park twice, never see the same band twice, never order the same dish at the same restaurant twice?


Of course, aren't you?


One of my favourite books is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Three reads and counting...

A friend of mine recently became a father and says that he reread the book and saw it in a completely different light as a result of having a son of his own.

Books don't change over time, but I'm pretty sure that your life situation and experiences can to the extent that a book becomes open to a new interpretation.


I read this once and didn't stop until I finished it about 5-6 hours later. At the time my son was similar age to the boy and I found it deeply affecting. I regard it as a one of the finest books I have ever read, yet cannot imagine reading it again as I can't imagine having the same emotional experience.


In my early teens I watched Alien the first time, I thought it was boring and lamer than Aliens.

In my twenties, I decided to watch both again, and it was only then I could deeply appreciated the brilliance of a true genuine horror sci-fi movie.


I went through a phase like you describe - where I was consuming media (books, television, film, anything) as a means of exploring. With exploring you're focusing on learning, on looking outward. I've only recently come back to re-experiencing things.

It's definitely best when you get to explore the historical themes of media then go back to something. For a very basic example - watch Lion King, read Hamlet, then go back and re-watch Lion King, you'll pick up things you hadn't the first time (works best if you wait some time).

It turns out this also helps me determine the quality of whatever media I'm consuming. Only particularly fantastic things keep being enjoyable. But I won't let that stop me from enjoying the latest Transformers movie ;)


You change. You gain perspective. You focus on different bits. And you miss things the first time round. Take the Iliad. A young kid might love the gory tongue-splitting spear through the head of the enemy fighting scenes of the Iliad. Later on in life you might dwell on the fact that a good chunk of the story is dedicated to humanizing Hector, the hero of the enemy. Showing us his concern about the fate of his wife and children if Troy does, in the end, get sacked. then again, i can't get my wife to watch or read something twice ever.


I watched the Godfather when I was 13, and I thought it was a movie about criminals and not a good one at that. I watched it at 33 and realized it's the best movie about family ever made.


It might be similar to the reason/a stronger version of/ why people still keep taking in stories of the same kind.

There are a few ideas rehashed over and over, and some of them go a loooong way back (one reason why stories of other cultures are interesting - they have other patterns). Forbidden love, son-father relationships, coming-of-age, ... (look at Star Wars and find those, for example)

If you take care, you can probably predict the storyline for most movies as you go along, save for a few variations the themes have (so you'd have to predict for two storylines and guess which one it is going to be). It is a human ability, really, that builds our societies when we agree on what can happen. And most people seem to like this kind of storytelling. It's rare to find new ideas.

Just some thoughts. </rant>


That stuff is formulaic, absolutely, which is why you don't watch movies for that stuff, right?

That stuff just becomes background noise for the contained art: be that art acting, cinematography, art direction, dialogue writing, etc.

Which is what we read for too, right? The poetry in the prose, the setting, the interesting facts sprinkled in the story, the art of the dialogue -- the story is background to the art of novel writing, it seems to me, the same way that plot is background to film.


It's been my opinion for a while that the "meaning" in a work of art or in the sentences we use to communicate is found where it differs from the established pattern. For example, this very sentence follows the same general outline of thousands of other sentences. The actual meaning is found where it breaks with the pattern.

Another simple example would be image macros. They often follow a very strict pattern; the new information the user wishes to convey is where the pattern is broken.

In the same way, stories often follow a number of tropes. These tropes help to establish some basic information about the story, but what really makes it interesting is when the story breaks from the pattern and does something new.


Honest question, do you listen to music more than once? If so, how come it's different than other art-forms for you?


Yes I do, albeit less often than most people.

I think, mostly, because re-listening to a song is not time consuming, so I don't feel particularly guilty for wasting that time.

Secondarily, because I am a musician, so I care about the technical minutiae of the craft, which one must listen many times to discover the intricacies of. I have no such desire to learn the technical minutiae of the craft of fiction writing.

Are you an aspiring writer, and does that inform your desire to reread particularly well-written texts?


No, but I used to work in film, so for me there's a ton to learn and appreciate about the craft - camerawork, writing, pacing, editing, performances, sets, locations - the creation of an immersive world that you experience with the characters.


Have you tried? I just reread the brothers karamazov at 29. I first read it when I was 22.

There a lot of it that I understand better, or differently, because I'm older.

The idea is to reread good things. Those usually have depth.

Actually, PG wrote about this: http://paulgraham.com/know.html


I have, and I always find that by the time I come back to a book a second time around it always feels used up or depleted in some way.

It's like trying to re-read an old math textbook after having gone through multiple higher level math texts afterwards. There may be a couple bits and pieces I was missing, but I had the gist, and so re-reading was a waste of time.

For example, one of the books I most enjoyed reading was Mahfouz's Madiq Alley. It built in me some of the cultural sensitivities of the early 20th century Egyptians. I cherish those sensitivities, but in my readings I have gone on and read other books that have further extended those sensitivities. Now, when I try to go back and re-read Madiq Alley I find it less than enriching.


Have you tried rereading any book that people consider an eternal classic?

A math textbook typically wouldn't fit the bill (though certain exceptional textbooks would of course) and Madiq Alley gets good reviews, but opinion seems mixed.

Hamlet, by contrast, is still widely read centuries after publishing. I expect Wodehouse will continue to be read long after we're dead (plus the author of the original piece had a personal connection).

There's no guarantee you'll like rereading of course. But I've found I can't reread most books, but others I can read many, many times.


If one of the greatest novels by the first Arab to ever win the Nobel Prize for literature doesn't count as an eternal classic then maybe not (Bible and Tao Te Ching not included, of course).

Hard to answer when I am left scarcely able to wonder at where you cut off such 'eternal classics'.


Not sure about films, but I think if the book is sufficiently deep it bares re-reading.

For instance, I first read the Thomas Covenant books when I was maybe 15. I'm pretty sure a good 50% of the subtlety went over my head at that age. I'd hope at 43 I'd understand more of it now. Any maybe even more when I'm 60.


I think the key it to gain appreciation for something more than just the plot.


There are different kinds of enjoyment. On a certain level in our brains, we have different kinds of needs.

One need is for novelty. The other is a need for familiarity or confirmation.

When we enjoy something, when we feel something that is fun, it goes along in this process: We encounter something new, we remember it, we predict a result, and we have that response confirmed or we are surprised. If we are surprised, we learn the new result, and next time we try to use that experience to predict the next result. When we are right, we are satisfied that we predicted the correct response and that feels good.

It's both the surprise, and the confirming of expectation that feels good in different ways. Music follows this pattern too. You listen to a song, if you've heard it before it triggers a memory and you sing along as much as you can remember. If you listen to a song for the first time, it repeats itself, so you learn the first verse, and then you recall it for the second one.

Music that is too unpredictable is just noise, it's not as easily enjoyable as normal music. Music that is too repetitive is not enjoyable either, it gets annoying and tiresome.

And that's sort of the thing. As you are satisfied with your recall, the good feelings from that start to fade. Hearing the refrain and then signing along the next time you hear it is satisfying. Hearing it 60 times makes you really wish you could listen to a different song.

But if you are with a friend who skips through the first measures of 60 songs, you're going to go nuts and want him to just stop and pick some song to listen to fully.

We balance the desire for novelty and for familiarity. This isn't just in music or entertainment or books. This is also in life. When we turn to entertainment, we look for things that fill the needs that we're otherwise missing.

If you hate to re-read books, you have little craving for familiarity, and you are seeking novelty. You probably don't enjoy listening to the same music album over and over either.

This might just be your personality, some people just crave novelty more than others. It might be because of what you do with the rest of your time, you might have a really repetitive day job and want some kind of novelty in your spare time.

My day job is pretty dynamic. It alternates between nose-to-the-grindstone drudgery and constantly dealing with new problems and coming up with new solutions.

If I have a day where I'm going through paperwork, and doing data entry for hours, then when I get home I really need to do something new. I need to find a new movie. I need to play a game I've never played before. I need to go somewhere or do something new.

On the other hand, if I've had a week where I'm constantly doing new things, solving new unexpected problems, I come home tired and I want to watch Star Trek, I want to play a game that I've finished. I want to remember, to do better, but not see something necessarily brand new.

I'd recommend that you try to do it anyways. It might be something you enjoy.


I found your line of thinking very interesting --

Perhaps I just don't have the familiarity desire gene at all.

In work I actually don't have any drudgery, that's why I picked this job -- I work for a small tech company, and spend each day on vastly different things: programming small applications, design/UX, cartooning/animating, writing, teaching courses, travelling, researching new technologies, etc. I was hired because that's the sort of environment in which I thrive, and the company needed that kind of person. During the interview, they asked if I would go to Botswana next week if I got hired today. I told them I would die to go to Botswana next week.

Before this I was a private investigator for 3 years, it wasn't boring, before that was 2 years of working in publishing, before that a year as a horse handler for a police force, before that I worked as a horticulturist for a rare plants business, and so on. I like to move around.

And I am that friend who skips through the first measures of 60 songs looking for something interesting. I usually find listening to entire pieces of music excruciatingly boring.

Sure, I understand that there's more content to be found by digging down into the piece, but I find I get much more content by just moving on and listening to something new. Yes, 10 minutes of Bach is great, but I feel like I get more out of splitting my time between 2 minutes of Bach, 2 minutes of Hip-Hop, 2 minutes of Chinese Classical, 2 minutes of African Blues, and 2 minutes of Progressive Noise music.

In college I was in a program that let you build your own major. I was taking coursework in 5 majors in three years. It was too repetitive for me, so I dropped out so I could study many more things in as little time.

So, absolutely, I'm the sort of person who likes novelty. I'd like to understand where you guys are coming from with the re-reading/re-watching thing.

It's always been a great mystery to me, but maybe its something bigger than just media, maybe it's ADD!


Books I've read many, many times and plan to reread again: Umberto Eco's Foucault's pendulum. Homer's Odyssey. Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. These never gets old :)


...Focault's pendulum... did you 'attempt' to read it six different times, or do six complete scans of it?

I ask because every time I pick the book up again, I seem to read only half of what needs to be read. Ideally, a binary algorithm like that would finish in logarithmic of the book's pages times, but it seems to get longer every time.

Amazing book though. I just...can't seem to finish it. Eco and Rushdie are my two biggest heroes. Now Rushdie's books, them I've read thrice for almost all of them. Except the much-hated Satanic Verses, which I've read twice that many times. It gets better every time its read.


Foucault's pendulum: I love that book. The adventures of Casaubon and al entertain me to no end. I've read it many, many times cover to cover, I've typed in (in 1987) and run the BASIC program generating God's name, I've read encyclopedias for details on the countless trivia in the book. really it's my favorite Eco. It's so clever you feel smart just reading it, it's so choke full with interesting stuff, so funny and ironic and meta-referential...


Reading deeply vs. reading widely- an interesting debate question.


As in "Fahrenheit 451", if you're going to read something 100 times, take pains to memorize it along the way (it's not as hard as it sounds with practice).


One of the few books I've ever re-read more than once was Neal Stephenson's Anathem.

I've read it four or five times now. There is always something new to find in it.


A lot of Neal Stephenson's work holds up to rereadings. I've gone through the Baroque Cycle + Cryptonomicon maybe three times now, and I guess I'm due for a fourth soon.


I read Snow Crash once a year (usually I listen to the audiobook these days) but I'm thinking of switching up to the Baroque Cycle. I'm glad there's finally an unabridged Cryptonomicon audiobook - for a long time there was not.


The Baroque Cycle is an undertaking, since my first read of it I have moved on to the audio books, subway listening being easier than subway reading.

Cryptonomicon I am at about 15 reads (including audio book listens a few more), and maybe a handful for Snow Crash, Anathem and Reamde.

My book of choice for re-reading is Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, by Jeffrey Archer. I must be at 50 re-reads of that now, and I own two first editions. Strange what catches your mind!


I've read the ten Amber books by Roger Zelazny all the way through ten times, which sorta-counts. A total read-through of those books can be done in a 3-day weekend if you read the whole day, so if you want a rough idea of the time commitment of a centireading, it's about a month of day-long readings. Another way to view it is a task of reading two books a week for a year.

Like the Zelazny books, you need to have something which has the right "flow" for you to really make it work.

My English professor at Cornell was fond of saying, "There is no good writing, only good rewriting. There is no good reading, only good rereading." He calls to mind how it's easier and more powerful to condense and re-articulate your article/book when you know where it starts, where it ends, and how it gets from A to B: then he comments, so too you get a greater appreciation of the details of what you're reading when you can see the overall story.

In the case of the Roger Zelazny books, there was one section in particular where this happened. We see a flashback from Merlin's perspective to a time when he is a teenager and he takes his all-to-human girlfriend on an insane journey through impossible landscapes which putatively exist just-next-door. In the discussion that follows, it seems like, by not telling her his secret, he's shutting her out:

        What could I say? It was not only that telling her of Shadow would disturb, 
    perhaps destroy, her view of reality. At the heart of my problem lay the 
    realization that it would also require telling her how I knew this, which would 
    mean telling her who I am, where I am from, what I am--and I was afraid to give 
    her this knowledge. I told myself that it would end our relationship as surely as 
    telling her nothing would; and if it must end either way, I would rather we parted
    without her possessing this knowledge. Later, much later, I was to see this for 
    the rationalization it was; my real reason for denying her the answers she desired
    was that I was not ready to trust her, or anyone, so close to me as I really am. 
    Had I known her longer, better--another year, say--I might have answered her. I 
    don't know. We never used the word "love," though it must have run through her 
    mind on occasion, as it did through mine. It was, I suppose, that I didn't love 
    her enough to trust her, and then it was too late. So, "I can't tell you," were 
    my words.
        "You have some power that you will not share."
        "Call it that, then."
        "I would do whatever you say, promise whatever you want promised."
        "There is a reason, Julia."
        She is on her feet, arms akimbo. "And you won't even share that."
        I shake my head.
        "It must be a lonely world you inhabit, magician, if even those who love you 
    are barred from it."
        At that moment it seems she is simply trying her last trick for getting an 
    answer from me. I screw my resolve yet tighter. "I didn't say that."
        "You didn't have to. It is your silence that tells me. If you know the road to
    Hell too, why not head that way? Good-bye!"
        "Julia. Don't..."
        She chooses not to hear me. Still life with flowers...
If you're just reading through this, it seems perhaps like she's gone power-hungry; you sympathize with Merlin. But read through it again. Pay particular attention to that sentence in the first paragraph: we never used the word "love", and then just consider the exchange, "It must be a lonely world you inhabit, magician, if even those who love you are barred from it." / "I didn't say that." On rereading, you realize that from her perspective, she's jumping out into vulnerable territory, using this word which they've never used before, and when he shuts her down, from her perspective he's basically saying "I didn't say that I loved you."


I think I've started to read the amber books about 10 times, but I've yet to finish Nine Princes. It's just one of those books I want to like but don't. It's one of only 3 novels I own that I never finished.


I've read them through around that many times too, if not more, though while the books were enjoyable, that wasn't the only reason I did so; I played a lot of the DRPG game based on the books, so regular research was needed.


I've read Lord Of Light a similar number of times. Try to guess why ;-)


I've just reread it for the umpteenth time. One of the very few books I keep coming back to. On the other hand, I convinced my g/f to read it and she... didn't enjoy the experience.

The allusiveness and ambiguity that I find so deeply enjoyable means the book is just a hell of a lot of work to read, and not everyone is in to that.


Upvoting this. Because the book always stays the same. Its the reader who changes.


I'm a stage manager. It's certainly true that the relationship theater practitioners form with a script is much deeper and more rewarding than the experience a casual reader forms with a novel, and a large part of that is familiarity.

I'll read a play 5-6 times in preproduction alone, between an initial read for pleasure, close reading for technical requirements, an inevitably slow read to type an electronic copy, several proofreads of my electronic copy, proofreading of the director's cut, etc.

There's a table readthrough first thing after the play is cast, and then (if there's a long gap of time) another one at the first rehearsal.

And then there's rehearsal. The director and actors figure out at each moment 1) what does each character want, 2) what prior action in the play made them want it, 3) what is the obstacle preventing them from getting it, 4) how does saying a line contribute to overcoming that obstacle, etc. You don't necessarily talk about this for every single line, but anywhere it's not obvious, it will be discussed. (Different directors have different styles, but everything I've seen is a variation on this.)

They also do a fair amount of "table work" and homework assignments where actors invent their characters' backstories, prior relationships, etc.

I sit through all of this, and it's my job to be reading so that I can prompt and correct lines, as well as (silently) figure out that a designer should know about something, and add it to my report. We usually visit each moment 3-4 times in this phase. So that's 3-4 very close reads.

Then we start running larger chunks - groups of scenes, then acts, then the entire show. All told, probably about 7-8 passes through the show. I'm still on book, and I'm getting a sense of how the pieces fit together. We periodically go back to detail work on parts that the director is unsatisfied with.

And then tech. 2-3 full tech runs where I am completely engaged and in the moment, calling cues. And then 7-8 performances, but that's cause it's educational theater. In a professional setting, there could be a hundred.

At the end of it, I know Streetcar. I have most of it memorized, I know what everything means and why it's said, I know who everyone is and what their intentions are, I know how the plot fits together, I know how the words are supposed to sound, I know the pulse. At the end of my run, I had probably read it 50 times.

People outside of theater/film don't really read anything 50 times. I have a lot deeper and more rewarding relationship with Streetcar than you do with Crime and Punishment, and >50 passes through the script probably helped. But spending dozens-hundreds of hours listening to professionals pick apart the text and develop meaning from it probably contributed too.


tl;dr


So much negativity on this comment. It's a statement. This is the generation of tl;dr. SAT scores are down, IQs are down since the Victorian age by 10 points. What percentage of the population would read the entirety of that article, let alone a single book 100 times? That comment is both sarcastic and ironic. Perfect.


wrong thread, sorry


I'll let you all know what I think after I've read the article 100 times.


This is the process used by some religions to induce obsessive religious behavior in their members.


And the same process used by the Sun to keep us waking up every day! Damn you, Sun, you religious zealot!

Sorry, I've had too much coffee, and I'm an asshole. But my point still stands: just because some process may analogously resemble something else, it doesn't mean it's the same process. The end goals are different.


Why reading 100 books is much better.


All I can think is your time must have very little value if you can read nontrivial books 100 times.


I'm gonna read 50 Shades of Gray 100 times. Then I'll truly understand the profound message that EL James was trying to say.


I read some books 100 times, but mostly technical manuals. It is good to have some basic stuff in long term memory of our brain

Author is writer and should put disclaimer "...because it is good for my job and I like it". Hamlet does not apply anywhere.

> It’s not just that Hamlet is a great piece of literature, either. It’s that every scene is a great piece of literature.

I read Hamlet and it felt like spoof of itself. It does not have a story, every character dies, too many boiler plate dialogs. Perhaps it was great in 17th century, but there are better things today.


Hamlet doesn't have a story? I don't believe you've even read it.




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