WildBill's Blogdom

Mongo only pawn, in game of life.

Re-reading Favorite Books -- Over and Over

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Anyone out there re-read favorite books over and over again? It’s something I tend to do, but sometimes I get folks looking at me with a O.o expression when I say something like “Hey, I’m re-reading Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon for the fifth time, and just picked up a new tidbit - have you read it?” (By the way, if you haven’t read Cryptonomicon, fix that. You’re broken.)

I’m currently doing exactly that – if you look in the sidebar, you’ll see I’m 54% done with Cryptonomicon, and I am indeed picking up subtle little things he’s thrown in the book that I didn’t notice before. For instance, Rudy von Hacklheber addresses Enoch Root at one point as “Enoch the Red” – and only ONCE. Enoch’s referred to that in other books (names withheld to avoid spoilers) – how does Rudy know that Enoch goes by that name? Rudy explains that “Certain familial connections are involved” but then he goes on to say “the connections are very involved – I would have to write a whole fucking book”. I just picked up that Stephenson DID write that “whole fucking book”, along with others. I’d never have picked up on that tidbit if I hadn’t decided to dive into Cryptonomicon again – and if I hadn’t read other Stephenson works since. Very subtle connections, yet it’s something that once I noticed, I can’t “unnotice”. It makes the entire story richer for me, and I can’t help but wonder what other little secrets are buried in the story for me to find, much like bars of gold in a submerged U-Boat’s hold.

I’ve got to detour here and comment for a moment on the technology that makes this re-reading a lot easier than it used to be. EBooks have been a huge game-changer for me – particularly, Amazon’s offerings, and the Kindle and Kindle apps. It’s pretty damn incredible to buy a book via a website, and have it automatically appear on my Kindle, my iPad, and my iPhone at the same time. I can read a few chapters on my Kindle as I’m chilling with a cold beverage on the patio, then put things away and pick up reading on my iPhone during a boring meeting, and finally haul the iPad to lunch and log a chapter in between jamming food in my mouth-hole. The fact that I can buy once and get the same content everywhere, with last-read position sync’d (and bookmarks and annotations) is a killer app for me. That also makes re-reading a book extremely easy, as I can just “pluck” it right out of the Amazon cloud and pick it up again and start reading. Print is neat, and there’s nothing like the feel of a good hardcover book, but the convenience of an ebook just flat out spanks the old tree-based book for me – so long as my device has power. ;)

Anyhow, re-reading a book more than once – at what point does it get weird? The third reading, the fifth? Or are the folks I get the surprised looks from just people who don’t devote a lot of their time to reading in the first place? Drop me a line in the comments, I’d love to hear other people’s experiences with this topic.