3 surprising benefits of rereading books

In For the Love of Reading by Alison Doherty

Bibliophiles who reread books time and time again know the easy comfort of sinking into a familiar story. However, some readers may feel a twinge of remorse at passing over their TBR stack to reread an old favorite. So, is it good to reread books instead of checking out new ones? Turns out, there are plenty of benefits to rereading books, so you’re perfectly justified returning to your favorite stories.

1. Rereading helps us become better readers

Sometimes we miss things on the first pass because there’s so much to take in, and rereading helps fill in those gaps. “Rereading texts helps children and adults strengthen and build their reading fluency,” says Kelly B. Cartwright, a psychology and neuroscience professor at Christopher Newport University and research scholar at the Center for Education Research & Policy.

She elaborates on the neurologically complex process of reading and how rereading can help: “Our brains are doing — and flexibly coordinating — many things at the same time when we read, like processing letter-sound connections, ‘sounding out’ and identifying words, accessing meanings of words, processing the grammar and syntax of sentences, and making inferences.” With so many tasks happening at the same time, rereading helps establish connections between different areas of the brain to help people become better readers.

Former neurologist and Oxford professor John Stein agrees that rereading is especially beneficial for beginner readers to help them make the connection between symbols on a page and the sounds we hear when speaking. He explains, “Rereading a favorite text again and again helps these processes become effortless and automatic so [the reader] can understand it better and better.”

2. Rereading deepens our understanding

Another reason why it’s important to read a book more than once? You gain a fuller understanding of the concepts and ideas presented in the book. Speaking from his personal experience as a reader, Stein adds, “The main benefit of reading a good book again, particularly many years later, is that your added experience of life enables you to understand what the author had in mind much more clearly.”

Understanding the author’s intent and major themes from a story is something that comes with repeated readings. Think of the books you read as a child that you later reread as an adult. It’s likely that you picked up on more details and nuances that you missed as a child. Italo Calvino wrote about this in his 1991 book Why Read the Classics?: “A classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading.”

3. Rereading is comforting and enjoyable

Rereading isn’t all about improving literacy or your understanding of the author’s use of symbolism — it’s fun, too! Returning to a beloved book can feel much like visiting an old friend and it creates a sense of nostalgia for the first time you read the book. Even though the book itself doesn’t change, you do.

Author and podcaster Anne Bogel advocates for rereading favorite books. In her book, I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life, she writes, “A good book, when we return to it, will always have something new to say. It's not the same book, and we're not the same reader.”

The next time you find yourself wondering “Is it worth it to reread a book?”, remember there are neurological, intellectual, and emotional benefits of reading a book more than once. Of course, reading new books is great, but it also makes sense to return to the books you know and love.


About the Author: Alison Doherty

Alison is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on her way to work, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.