This quote was included in this week’s newsletter from BiblioLifestyle HQ. It was just a small inclusion, a visual to break up some text, but it gave me pause. My initial reaction after reading it was defensive disagreement.
I definitely don’t agree with this… depending on how it’s intended. There could be so many shades to this that I wanted to think about it some more and see what others thought!
But he could mean…
At first I read this very literally, in that any book you haven’t re-read is probably not a good book. And that idea is what got my hackles up. However, he could also have been saying that with more of an intention like:
- advocating abandoning books that aren’t working for you. Don’t waste your time on something you’re struggling to get through once, let alone any subsequent reads! A book should be engaging, useful, or enjoyable in order to bother reading it at all.
- in a less literal way, asking yourself the question of if you would consider re-reading this. Even if you haven’t yet, or re-reading is not your typical habit, would you ever? Or is this a book you think you would read once, get the story, and never want to go back to it? If it’s the latter, it might not be worth your time. (Though again, I don’t know that I agree with that conclusion.) The idea on this one is to spend your time on books that are memorable enough that you would seek out the experience of it again.
- establishing if a book is the kind with multiple complex layers, where you could re-read it multiple times and find a new way of reading it each time. Maybe now you understand the foreshadowing of an event, or maybe you will understand a complex idea more clearly reading it a second time with some preexisting understanding.
But it felt like he meant…
How are you supposed to know if you would reread a book without reading it the first time? Some books you give a shot, and then they disappoint. I”m slightly baffled by the idea at it’s core, because how would you know if you would re-read a book before you even read it a first time? 😂 Maybe others have that ability, but I definitely do not.
The way I read this ultimately ends up with me disagreeing completely with the sentiment. Yes, to the interpretations above, there is some benefit to considering that while in a book. Knowing when to give up on one is a skill. However, I also think that some books are good enough once over. I read it, got the story, and probably never need to return to it.
Especially in this more global world than Wilde lived in, things like throwaway plane books or beach books are a portion of my reading material. I bring a book on a trip knowing I’ll finish it and probably donate it or leave it behind for someone else to find. It’s not one I plan on holding on to; I’m confident I’ll enjoy it, but not adore it — and for this purpose, that’s exactly what I need.
Books I have re-read
Finally, I’ll take a look at some books that I have previously re-read to see what my main reasons were and if they make sense with Wilde’s thought above.
Why did I re-read this one so many times? Uhhh, because it was goddamn epic, that’s why!!! And also once it was assigned in school, which was both a delight to have a book I loved assigned, and torture, to read it so slowly again and listen to others mangle it.
Re-read this one many times as a teenager, because I was hormonal and in love with love. Reading a sweet story about people who work to what they want, take risks in honesty, and ultimately find what they worked for — it was a lovely release. ^.^
Unique & enlightening
This was my first-ever foray into a dystopian world, and Scott Westerfeld is a master. So of course, I had to read this (and the rest of the series) multiple times over. It was a fascinating parody/satire ish look at society like I had never seen before.
This is a read when times are tough. When things feel like shit, or at least when I do. When I need a laugh and maybe a little bit of a cry, too.
Well… it seems pretty clear that I re-read things that made me feel a certain way. I’m entirely unsurprised that my main re-reads are driven by emotion, because that’s how my regular reading and let’s be real, my life, is dictated as well. What can I say? I’m a Cancer. 😉♋🦀
So, okay, am I the only one who thinks Oscar Wilde was being his usual pretentious self with this statement? If you have any other insight to the story behind it, or ideas on how else it could be read, let me know! I love having my mind changed by learning something new (example: including “a novel” on the covers of books!).
4 thoughts on “Discussion: “a book isn’t worth reading once if it’s not worth reading twice””
This is a great discussion topic! If I look at my bookshelf, I feel like not all the books I’ve read, I would reread. But that doesn’t mean it is worth a first read, and worth keeping! I also sometimes have this fear that when I reread a childhood favourite as an adult, it will lose its magic and memories and will get tainted by my more mature mind who looks at many flaws of a book.
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Ohhh, yeah, I know that fear. Especially if it was a book of a new genre that you’d never read before that now you’ve read to death. Like Uglies for me, I’ve read a lot of dystopia now — would it still have the same impact?
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Exactly! I also reread Uglies several years after I first read it actually, to read the second one, and I didn’t think it was as strong as I thought it was when I first read it. The second book was a little un memorable for me as well, I barely remember anything from it by now :”)
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