Mark Llobrera

Mandy Brown: “The case for rereading”

Mandy Brown, writing about how rereading a book shortly after finishing it can let it seep into your brain and give you language/frameworks to help you think:

Reread a book enough times, or often enough—keep it at hand so you can flip to dog-eared pages and marked up passages here and there—and it will eventually root itself in your mind. It becomes both a reference point and a connector, a means of gathering your knowledge and experience, drawing it all together. It becomes the material through which you engage with the world.

This pair of paragraphs is so beautifully written, and rings so true for me:

A great book rearranges time: it brings both history and speculative futures into the present, into a now you can occupy and taste and feel. The constraints of capitalism and patriarchy and white supremacy work to compress the present into the smallest of cages—this day, this hour, this minute—with everything before lost, and everything after always deferred. Reading enlarges the moment: it gives you the space to live in a time that is months or years or centuries in breadth, to contemplate measures and movements that are greater than your own life. A great book doesn’t take you away from the world—it brings you back to the world you were torn from.

Reading isn’t an escape—it’s a reckoning.

I rarely reread a book shortly after finishing it—I have this compulsion to keep moving on to the next one, sometimes barely catching my breath to capture my impressions of the one that I’ve just finished. But this year I’ve also found myself discussing a few books at length with friends, and that’s sent me dipping back into the books to find details I might have missed the first time. Mandy is right to differentiate a recent reread from returning to a book after years have passed: the spell is still fresh, and there is a distinct potential for retroactive surprise: ah, that’s what she was trying to do with that passage!

Sometimes it’s enough to know that I want to reread a book right away. (Some books are like multi-stage booster rockets, to be honest: exciting the first time through, but only good for one trip.) Even if I don’t actually follow through, that impulse is an acknowledgement that the book’s end hasn’t stripped away the pleasure of revisiting the path I’ve just traveled.