What Does it Mean When You’re Moved to Reread a Book?

When you read a book the first time you might be inspired, entertained or informed, but when you are moved to read it a second time, the book becomes a part of you forever.

Are there books you’ve been inspired to read more than one time through even though you knew the story perfectly well? Why would you do that?

I asked myself this question as I reread a book I’d read just five years ago. Very dated now in comparison to more recent accounts of high altitude mountain climbing, this book does not apply to anything in my life, from outer appearances anyway….

ANNAPURNA: First Conquest of an 8000-meter Peak, by Maurice Herzog, c. 1952

Annapurna–in the Himalaya. This book is the dazzling account of a French team of climbers who, in 1950, were the first to summit this peak, which at that time was the highest altitude man had ever climbed. (This adventure predates Sir Hillary and Everest.) No supplemental oxygen used in this climb.

At 26,545’, Annapurna is the tenth highest mountain in the world and some say, the deadliest.  Of I83 climbers who’ve made it to the top, 61 died trying, giving it a 33% fatality rate, the most dangerous statistically. (Around 4000 have reached the summit of Everest and 240 climbers died in the effort.)

Why would I need to revisit the punishing hardships endured by the climbing team: the bone-chilling weather, the frostbitten fingers and toes turned gangrenous and thus, amputated while sitting on the side of a mountain, severe snow blindness and moments of total exhaustion and near death?

While rereading Herzog’s book about climbing Annapurna, I discovered three reasons for anyone wanting to read a book a second time:

1. The reader may simply have an appreciation for the author’s personal style of writing and want to experience it again. Your admiration for a writer’s style could be an indicator that you need to write more of your own material: journal, blog or book! One way to improve writing skills is to spend time each day copying in your own handwriting pages from your favorite writers’ books.

2. The reader may desire to recapture a certain feeling the book evoked in him. It could be  feelings of loss, suspense, danger, thrills, romance, etc. That’s one of the main reasons for reading books, to engage on the feeling level, however it could also point to a lack of the feeling or feelings being expressed or experienced in one’s outer life. Something to think about.

3. A reader may intuit that there could be a message in the book that was missed during the first reading, and so picks the book up again, acting only on curiosity and instinct.

The motivation to reread any book may be a combination of these three reasons. You may think of other reasons why one would read a book more than once.

It’s important to pay attention to the inner voice that suggests you reread a particular historical novel, biography or tale of romance,  to then act on the suggestion and ask yourself what you gleaned from it the second time around. What is the teaching?

For me, reading Herzog’s Annapurna again reminded me of my admiration for courage, tenacity and the overcoming of all obstacles to reach one’s goals.

The book also rekindled my lifelong love of looking up at mountains.

Herzog being carried on a porter's back down the mountain to Base Camp

Of all the members of the expedition, only two made it to the summit, but it took the entire team of climbers and Sherpas sacrificing and risking everything to get them up and safely down again. This speaks to me, as I’ve always been one to go solo in my endeavors of any kind. I get itchy when anyone suggests I collaborate with a group. For me, that’s one of those “shoulds” that makes me feel guilty that I don’t want to be a joiner. While I respect those who thrive on being part of a group with a shared vision, maybe I can finally accept that I do my best work alone. Rereading this book caused me to ponder that.

This book is also a perfect example of how much physical pain and injury the body can endure and yet, remain alive. Perhaps this could be a message for me not to get so whiny when my knee hurts a little!

It also fills my heart to read any account of the amazing Sherpas, an ethnic group living high in the Himalayas of Nepal. Although there are many fascinating aspects to their culture, one is serving as porters for mountaineers by carrying amazingly heavy loads for them. Now I’m motivated to continue reading more about the Sherpas themselves.

The book ends with this now famous quote by Herzog, There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men. The book  inspired both a generation of actual climbers of the world’s highest peaks, and of non-mountaineers to climb their own personal inner mountains.

Herzog’s story inspires me, even if I never again climb to the top of an actual mountain, but rather choose to remain on level ground and stay committed to summiting my spiritual mountains.

What book(s) have you found yourself rereading? What motivated you to read the book a second or third time? Did you find something useful that you didn’t catch in the first reading? 

Comments

  1. You know me! I adore Betty Smith. I’ve read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn three times. And I’ve read her Joy In the Morning twice. Both books would never find resistance from me, at any time, in rereading them!
    Two things I love: 1. Betty Smith got up an hour early every morning to write; she didn’t let her housewife role get in the way of her creativity, and 2. I melt for her characters: endearing, heartbreaking and true. For instance, in A Tree Grows…, the main character, Francie Nolan, age 12, makes observations about the big toe of an old man. I eat that stuff up!
    This is a lovely post! And it leaves me swimming in other books I love and will reread at some point: The Yearling and The Dollmaker.

    • Jenny! That’s how I know you’re my daughter, because you got the gist (the just, lol) of this post. I remember reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn based on your recommendation many years ago. Maybe I need to revisit the book and discover more about why you and Francie Nolan are One! And I didn’t even know about the other Betty Smith books you mentioned. xo

  2. Barbara Talbert says:

    It is funny Jenny should mention A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. That is one of the books that came to my mind as I read your post.

    I was thinking that I sometimes reread books that were my mother’s favorites. While I read, she is right here with me. The people you love never really leave you.

    • Barb! Your also mentioning A Tree Grows in Brooklyn convinces me that I do need to reread the book!

      I remember a book in my father’s library back in the ’50s, Men to Match My Mountains, by Irving Stone. The title always got my attention decades ago. ( More stuff about mountains. 🙂 ) I finally read the book not long ago, but I didn’t think about my dad as I read the book. I should have! Thank you for suggesting that reading a deceased parent’s favorite books might help in reconnecting with them or maybe, understanding them a little better.

  3. I read One Thousand White Woman by Jim Fergus 3 times already ! It has a magical combination of autobiography/historical inspired writing with a great spiritual spin and is totally fascinated since it is a NOVEL. Can not wait to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, thanks for the suggestion.

    • Marja! Well, if you read the book, One Thousand White Women, three times, I need to check it out.
      Let me know what you think of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn!
      H.

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