My philosophy has always been that there are too many books out there to spend the time to re-read. I’ve only consciously made a couple of exceptions to this rule.
A few years ago I re-read Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. In my opinion, this is one of the classics of science fiction and it was one of the first books that I remember having an effect on my world view. In other words, it made me think. I probably read it in my early teens and I decided to read it again as an adult to see if it still elicited the same response. It is still a powerful book, if you grok Heinlein.
I have also read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius a few times, and will probably read it again. There are few books worth the time to read them repetitively, and this is the one I choose. Marcus Aurelius was a roman emperor and a Stoic philosopher. This is a great combination as far as I’m concerned because I have always been interested in the Roman Empire, and I’m pretty much a Stoic by nature and inclination. If you are looking for words to live by, look no further than: He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.
These are the only two books I have purposefully read more than once, but the list grew by two more in the last year. The titles don’t really matter because it was more a result of my mind slipping with age than a conscious decision. So twice in the last year I found myself reading a book that I had read in the past. Maybe you’ve had that feeling a few chapters into a book where you realize you’ve read it before. What do you do? To quote Marcus Aurelius:
Whatever the universal nature assigns to any man at any time is for the good of that man at that time.
In other words, just go with it. I recognize that I have to accept this occasional slip as I get older. Also, a little flexibility in my book reading philosophy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have a feeling the universal nature is not done with me yet, so I might as well accept what comes next.
An exception to this rule, of course, is my own stories. We call them revisions, but it’s pretty much re-reading the story multiple times to find errors and make it better. Maybe if I call it re-writing it will make me feel better about it.