The Joy of Re-Reading

During this past summer when all my plans were canceled and I had to stay home, I thought I would read all these books I had waiting in my ‘to be read’ pile, maybe start some of those classics I have heard are pivotal and important but never had the energy for. But I couldn’t muster up the energy to crack open a new read. When the world was in such an uncertain place, starting a new storyline surrounded by new characters and new places felt like too much of the unknown. Reading some of the same books that I enjoyed thoroughly the first time around was more comforting than starting something new.

Even when there wasn’t a pandemic going on, I still re-read my favorite books often. Every December for the past few years I have re-read the entire Twilight saga, start to finish. Not because vampires are particularly Christmas-y, but because on my rare relaxing break from classes I don’t want the ‘stress’ of reading something new. It’s odd to identify reading, even reading for pleasure, as stressful. Especially for me, as an English major for whom reading is life, reading is usually something I’m always up for and have a real passion for. But between reading for classes and academic research, it’s just easier to not have any newer material.

The same idea applies to re-watching a movie or a television show. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched The Office all the way through or other calm background shows, like Parks and Recreation, Grey’s Anatomy, or Friends. Knowing what is going to happen, being already familiar with the plot and storyline is incredibly comforting. I watch these old favorites because having some type of stimulation but not having to pay attention is calming. I re-read and re-watch shows when I can’t handle anything new.

Alexis Rockley, a business coach, talks about this in her book and frequently on Twitter, the idea of burn-out and how when we are preoccupied with just simply surviving, we don’t have the creative energy to do something seemingly as simple as starting a new book. I’ve never considered reading a book as creative before, but I suppose it is. Imaging characters and locations and predicting plot lines, getting emotionally involved with characters can all get pretty exhausting. No wonder I’m always so tired after reading a good book (other than the fact that I’m up reading at 3 am).

I know this goes against my whole point of supporting re-reading your favorites, but here are my favorite books to read again and again. And just remember, if you don’t have the energy to read any of these, that’s okay. Let me know what books you like to revisit, and I’ll check them out (if I have the mental energy).

The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Myer

Although this one is pretty popular, and I doubt there is a person on campus that isn’t familiar with this one, it’s a favorite of mine. For those of you that don’t know, The Twilight Saga follows Bella Swan, a clumsy and completely average girl, and Edward Cullen, a vampire who can also read minds and who is infatuated and addicted to Bella’s blood but refrains because they love each other, and he doesn’t want to kill her. This four-book series follows their struggle to live with and love each other while also trying to refrain from showing the truth to the human world. It’s a little ridiculous, but the simpleness of the romance and the intensity of the dialogue is what draws me to read it over and over again. If you’re like me and just a little obsessed with these novels, I would suggest the new book Midnight Sun, a retelling of the first Twilight book from Edward’s point of view.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This is my favorite memoir of all time. I tend to read it when I’m feeling down and I’m taking things in my life for granted because it puts things in perspective. This is the life story of Jeannette Walls, who is now a frequent contributor to MSNBC, a flourishing journalist and up and coming novelist. However, she started as a poor and often homeless girl living in the desert somewhere with her family, constantly moving between squaller and temporary homes. Walls’ tenacity, diligence and unwavering love for her parents, no matter how many times they disappoint her, gives me strength and hope. There is also a fairly recent film version of this memoir that’s a relatively decent adaptation (I’m not the biggest fan of book adaptations if you couldn’t tell).

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

This LGBTQ young adult novel has recently become popular for its slightly cheesy, yet incredibly intense, gay romance. I read this novel a lot when the outcome of the 2020 presidential election was uncertain and there were lots of political upheaval going on. This novel takes place in an alternate reality in which the president is a woman, and a divorced one to boot and the protagonist is the bisexual, half-Latino first son. He happens to fall for Henry, the Prince of Wales, who isn’t out. Their relationship gets complicated as they have to balance their love and their titles. I’ve recommended this book on multiple occasions as a good intro book to queer literature because it’s pretty palatable and super funny.

The Selection Series by Kiera Cass

I see this series getting recommended all the time on the book side of TikTok because it did, indeed, make me believe in love again. This is a fantasy young adult series taking place in a world where the royal family spouses are chosen through a Bachelor-like lottery system. This story follows America (a little cheesy I know), who gets chosen for this match-making television show. However, she’s in love with someone else and has no interest in becoming a princess. But who can resist a hot single prince? Soon America is caught in a love triangle in a country on the brink of war. This love story captures me every time I read it, especially after a breakup. It reminds me that there are still good guys out there, or at least good guys can still be written about.

Not going to lie, some of these titles I re-read multiple times a year, sometimes a couple of times a month if the mood strikes me. We all do it, return to our comfort items; it’s the same as wearing that same hoodie that makes you feel like you’re getting a big hug. So, the next time you are reading Harry Potter for the hundredth time, don’t feel bad, feel relaxed.