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On Rereading

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  110 ratings  ·  27 reviews

After retiring from a lifetime of teaching literature, Patricia Meyer Spacks embarked on a year-long project of rereading dozens of novels: childhood favorites, fiction first encountered in young adulthood and never before revisited, books frequently reread, canonical works of literature she was supposed to have liked but didn't, guilty pleasures (books she oughtn't to hav

Hardcover, 280 pages
Published 2011 by Belknap Press
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Oct 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Margaret by: Sherwood Smith
Sometimes, a book comes along which just fits with your frame of mind. I think this is the case for me with On Rereading. I often feel as though I have an obligation to read rather than reread, that it's somehow more virtuous to read something new to me than to revisit a book I'm already acquainted with. This is partly the result of knowing exactly how many unread books I own (296 right now, thank you very much), and partly a general feeling of so many books, so little time -- how can I justify ...more
Jennifer Steinhoff
Feb 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Ugh! I wish I could rate individual chapters! I really really enjoyed the first few, as Spacks was laying out her thesis. It was like someone was putting into words EXACTLY how I feel about rereading -- that it provides comfort because it's the same story I know and love, but also excitement because I discover something new each time. The story may be the same, but everytime I read it, I'm different, so I bring something new to the story and read it differently.

My problem with the book was when
Nov 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Rereading is a topic of great interest to me and I was delighted to sink into a whole book on the topic. Spacks is the perfect person to examine rereading as she has been a professor of literature and a passionate reader all her life. (When she was a child her father limited her to one book a day because he was afraid she'd ruin her eyes.) Chapters include children's books--which ones held up and which were disappointing decades later. Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz hold up--Narnia series ...more
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: about-reading
I don't do a lot of rereading, but there are a few books that I read over and over, always with a bit of guilt because there are so many other books out there that I haven't read yet. Patricia Spacks discusses this is On Rereading - the "delicious guilt" of picking up something read before. She makes the case for rereading by emphasizing that there is always something new to discover and that we are never the same person we were when we read the book first. Books we loved the first time around m ...more
Apr 29, 2012 rated it liked it

I will not reread this book, though I may look at my highlights and I will read some of the classics she discussed. In the first chapters, I was interested. When the discussion went into lots of detail about totally unfamiliar texts, for chapters, I stopped paying attention.
I taught English for thirty years. Each time I taught A Streetcar Named Desire or King Lear it was a new experience. Of course I changed, my views changed and my students changed. Yet each reading was exciting because the
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, especially the parts about re-reading Jane Austen. I just so happen to also be re-reading Emma - and could relate to what Meyer Spacks said about re-reading, how you sometimes remember liking a book very much but don't remember why. I could remember being particularly struck by "Emma", but had not remembered what a piece of work she is - geez! I'm thoroughly enjoying my re-read by the way - Jane Austen is Jane Austen and will always be Jane Austen, the appeal of reading Jane ...more
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
A lot of the book is detailed analysis of the books Spacks reread. Not what I expected - I thought it would be more generally about why one rereads or should reread or what books bear rereading and what to expect from rereading - there is some of that - probably only enough material for a magazine article. If I'd read the other Goodreads reviews before reading this book, I would have known how the books is organized and its content. I agree with other reviewers: if I had read the book Spacks is ...more
Sherwood Smith
Spacks has long been one of my favorite writers on literature. With this book, her tone takes a turn away from the scrupulously academic, as she apparently wrote this after retiring from decades of university teaching.

Now she writes about the pleasure of reading, and the result is like a conversation with a smart person over tea: informal, occasionally funny, but interesting and thought-provoking.

I enjoyed it all, even if our tastes don't mesh. She talks about books that reward rereading, and bo
May 28, 2012 rated it liked it
somewhat dry and academic in tone and approach, but worth reading; it's always fun to learn what others think of a book or books; the only books author read that I haven't are Islandia and Herzog; physically, this book is a pleasure to hold and read; on page 156, in a discussion of Middlemarch, the author interpolates her definition of the word "guimp" and gets it all wrong, defining it as "an underblouse intended for wear with a low-cut dress." It's a form of trim (used on clothing, draperies, ...more
Bookishnymph *needs hea*
I disagreed with some things the author said, but it was still interesting.
Sheelie Kittee
Nov 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
I didn't know this would be so elucidating and eye-opening, truly. at times I would either falsely believe or be influenced by the disdain of others to re-read anything ( life is short! too many books to read, new ones, why waste the time re-reading! ) this book covers such topics of angst related to revisiting any text, along with other misconceptions and myths. but most importantly it made me celebrate the very art of re-reading and how i do find this to be of immense value, for myself persona ...more
Emily Harris
Oct 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I loved the thesis of this book, and I do love a professional saying rereading is good for you! I also really enjoyed the authors personal stories about encountering books for either the first time or her following rereads. What I think lowered my enjoyment/intererst was that I hadn't read many of the books referenced throughout. Since the author spends significant time doing literary analysis of the books she's reading, those sections felt tedious to me since she talked mostly about books I've ...more
Feb 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys serious reading, whether a rereader or not. I want to reread this book in fact.
She writes really well with thought provoking insights and an intimate, personal style that feels like a friend. So many phrases or thoughts are worthy of remembering but that is never my strong suit. I felt a common experience with her reads despite reading none except Pride and Prejudice and how they affected her. Really it was just beautiful, a true tre
Jan 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
To be honest, this book was soooo boring, I didn't read every single page. In fact, I may have finished 4 chapters before I started skimming the pages, just to get to the end. I thought I would be inspired to read new books from the books the author discussed in this book, but nope. It was like reading a very boring book report on old books that I a) have never read and b) never intend to read. I learned i'm not much of a rereader and that I read for escapism, not to critique an authors prose an ...more
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
I must be an incredible geek to read a whole book called "On Rereading." Spacks has some interesting things to say about why we reread (favorite books, childhood books, books we keep thinking we'll like if we "just try it again") and what can happen when we do. There are pleasant case studies here, as Spacks makes her way through rereadings of The Golden Notebook (I could relate to her experience of finding it much less wowsa the second time through), The Wizard of Oz, Lucky Jim (Spacks is simpl ...more
Oct 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
This is the last of the literary theory type books I'm trying for now and its just as disappointing ( but at least not as insulting) as the last few. The writing is dry and boring and honestly it seems like she doesn't have anything new to say at all. She's somewhat dismissive of younger readers (like her students) and had no clue about some major titles.

Now, I don't believe that everyone has to have read or heard of anything but if you love books and want to write about books (and god forbid a
Aug 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Heard Patricia Meyer Spacks at the recent Phi Beta Kappa conference, offering her remarks as response to receiving one of the Council's awards. She was engaging and insightful, beginning with observations about kids who memorize the books that they demand to have read to them over and over ad nauseam, through to the habits and pleasures of (us older) folks who get an entirely different effect by returning to books of decades past. I'm just getting started on the book itself, but it promises grea ...more
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-on-books
Not quite a five-star review, but definitely 4.5 for a book with a lot of thoughtful, interesting things to say about the experience of rereading, and what readers can learn about themselves by revisiting not just well-loved favourites, but also books that might not have had a particular appeal the first time around. Well worth a look for anyone with a shelf or two full of battered old literary treats from years gone by.
Apr 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read with pleasure the philosophy of rereading, and agree that each time you read a book, you are a slightly different person, and so gain a slightly different experience. The book slowed down for me as is got more specific. I would value the book more for its first couple of chapters than for the subsequent material.
I didn't actually finish this book, but I don't plan to revisit it any time soon. Turns out I'm much more interested in re-reading things than in reading about re-reading things. During the month I had this from the library, I consistently avoided it while re-reading about 10 books by various favorite authors (and some new stuff, too!). ...more
Michele Bolay
Jan 14, 2013 rated it liked it
There is nothing really wrong with this book, but my hopes were for a lighter, more personal experience, and this was much more academic in tone than I expected. Again, nothing wrong with that, just wasn't what I was looking for this time around. I am a big re-reader, and it seems like Spacks and I have some of the same reading tastes, yet I was dissatisfied. ...more
Jun 16, 2012 marked it as didn-t-finish
Shelves: geekery
Very interesting! Why do we reread?

I notably reread Spindle's End, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, CS Lewis, some Charles de Lint, some of my favorite poetry like Sappho and William Carlos Williams... I've also reread some books and been ever so disappointed in what I'd remembered was wonderful. Rereading is a window looking into our changing selves.
Shallowreader VaVeros
Mar 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book was a DNF for me. There were some interesting parts that I dipped in and out of throughout the book butnin general it did not sustain my interest. It would probably appeal to people who like examining the minutae of other people'sl reading experience. ...more
Oct 05, 2017 rated it liked it
This book isn't bad, but I found it more of a personal meditation that I could not always relate to. Sometimes books like these are journeys, personal journeys, but it's not always clear whether company is needed. On the issue of rereading, I preferred Jonathan Yardley's Second Readings. ...more
Edward Sullivan
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting and provocative, a great book for serious readers.
Marla Glenn
Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fascinating so far. I can tell I'm going to like this very much. This is a very entertaining book about books. ...more
Saket Suryesh
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Am reading, wonderfully written book, every paragraph, word, pause and silence speaks of the painstaking artistery and effort author has put into it.
rated it liked it
Jan 31, 2013
ayaz zeynalov
rated it really liked it
Apr 07, 2019
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