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.
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.
Spongebob has some good ones.
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.
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
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.
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.)
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
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.
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.
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.
Dad: "Anything but Hamster Huey! It's the same story every day!"
Calvin: "I WANT HAMSTER HUEY!"
Calvin: "Wow, the story was different that time."
Hobbes: "Do you think the townsfolk will ever find Hamster Huey's head?"
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
Goodnight comb and goodnight brush
And goodnight to the gorilla whispering "hush"...
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.
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.
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.
One has a banjo.
Spontaneity was really hard to re-run. =/
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).
I wouldn't read Golang to my daughter though ;)
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.
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.
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.
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!"
> "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 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.
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.)
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.
Although GEB is, IMHO, his best work, Metamagical Themas is, although a compilation of previous Scientific American stuff, absolutely brilliant!
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.
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
Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Tunnel in the sky, Friday, Rama, have all been read 5 to 10 times.
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."
I actually finished the reading in the field and since I didn't bring another book, I flipped back to the first chapter.
 - 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 know it's not "high-literature" by any stretch of the imagination, but they scratch an itch.
I also re-read the comics "Kingdom Come" and "The Dark Knight Returns" on a regular basis.
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!
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:
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/
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?'"
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.
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
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!
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
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.
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?
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.
"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.
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.
Books worth reading 10 times:
Social Contract (Rousseau),
Republic (of Plato),
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
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.
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, 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 :-)
 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.
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.
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.
One hundred years of solitude
Read it a lot of times probably more than 20 but not yet close to 100.
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.
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 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.
It makes no sense to me at all.
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).
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ;)
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 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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
Hard to answer when I am left scarcely able to wonder at where you cut off such 'eternal classics'.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I've read it four or five times now. There is always something new to find in it.
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!
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
"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!"
She chooses not to hear me. Still life with flowers...
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.
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.
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.
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.