Edward Ardizzone illustration taken from The Little Book Room byEleanor Farjeon
I was talking to someone about books once, and was stunned when they airily declared that they had never re-read a book in their lives. "What's the point?" they asked as I reeled backwards in horror, calling weakly for the smelling salts "I already know what happens in the end."
This declaration shocked me far more than friends who admit that they have never finished a book, ever. I always understood that there were people who just were not readers, for whom the concept of reading for pleasure makes no sense. I can respect this, some derive great enjoyment from playing sports or doing exercise, for instance, two healthy and undeniably popular ways of spending time but the sight of a rounders bat or a treadmill make me feel queasy and incredibly bored in equal measure.
However, I thought that those of us who are 'readers' would be similar in our enjoyment of books. I assumed that every one who has read and loved a book would eventually return at least once to spend more time with favoured characters, re-live the thrilling highlights and examine the tale from a different perspective. Whenever one visits a book again, it is with different experiences and opinions, we are older and have read more in the interim, which will colour our view and change the reading experience.
When we love a song we play it again and again until our neighbours are crying and begging us to stop and it is not considered odd to want to look at a painting more than once even though you already "know what happens in it."
I suppose it depends on what kind of books you like to read. A beautifully wrought novel examining the inner lives of the characters may reward a re-reader more than a plot-driven detective novel but I still think that a mystery is still worth re-reading when you know the culprit, motive and weapon because you are reading the book with new knowledge which will change your attitude to characters and allow you to appreciate the cleverness of the writing.
There is of course one big fat con for re-reading and that is the massive amount of books that all voracious readers want to read, feel that we should read and yet know that we will have less time to read if we keep wallowing in beloved tomes that we have already read several times over. It is a dilemma, I do admit. But never re-reading a book? Madness...