Source: Vectors Market, Noun Project. CC0
We’re amazed that kids want to read the same book again and again. But on reflection, that makes sense: With each reread, they’re not only getting to again enjoy a favorite, but. as when having cleaned a room, new things to clean and fix are revealed. Some are mere subtleties while others could even be transformative. As with many ideas, repetition is required before they sink in enough to motivate action. An axiom in the advertising industry is that it takes six to nine exposures just to get someone to change brands of toilet paper.
A decade ago, I invited seven people I respect to become a board of advisors. We meet monthly for an hour by teleconference. The board primarily is a forum for any member to ask for the group’s input on a problem they’re facing. But time permitting, I ask the group an evocative question. Today, it was, “What would be the one book you’d most want to reread?”
Their answers are below.
I would have expected the list of books to be overrepresented by the new — the recency effect we see when polls ask who is the greatest person of all time. Such lists are always overrepresented by current or recent politicians. But only one of the six reread nominees were written in the 21st century. The other five have stood the test of time.
How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything. My board member, an esteemed psychotherapist said, “This book changed not only how I do therapy but changed my life.”
Wide Sargasso Sea. This novel describes what really made the “crazy” woman in Jane Eyre’s attic. My board member said, “We don’t really understand why people do what they do. This books helps me to do so.”
The Changing World Order. My board member described it as “A brilliant guide to, not just how the world is changing, but why.”
Pop songs. One member said he most enjoys revisiting songs whose lyric was transformative. He offered an example: the theme song from the movie Flashdance. It included the line, “Take your passion and make it happen.” This surprising response actually comports with my clients’ experience: Something very brief like a rhyming slogan can have more impact than does a tome.
The Adventures of Augie March (my pick) It’s my favorite coming-of-age novel, a smarter version of Catcher in the Rye, revealing what goes through the mind and heart of an intelligent person as he becomes an adult. Example: “He didn’t have the long-distance burrowing vices of people who took you in with mildness and turned out to be digging and tunneling all the while.”
Now of course, comes the core question, the purpose of the foregoing: What do you want to reread?
Are you having difficulty remembering your past favorites, even if you’ve perused your bookshelves? You might try google-searching “Best Books of All Time” “or review your library withdrawals or purchase history on Amazon or wherever you mainly buy books.
On rereading, of course, savor your previous favorite parts. But also note what you experience or learn that you hadn’t obtained from your first reading?