What makes a book worth re-reading?

You were probably expecting an episode of Reading Writers today. (And if not, you really should consider subscribing!)  But I’m skipping today because I need a bit more time with the content. So instead, I’m going to answer an important question: what makes a book worth re-reading?

In my house, we have very different reading styles. Emily rarely reads a book more than once. Abigail cycles through some books (particularly graphic novels) multiple times a week. Me… I have a few that I come back to repeatedly, but not a ton. So what makes a book worth re-reading? Here’s what I look for:

The quality of the writing. Some books beg to be re-read because the writing itself grabs you. Word choices, phrasing, rhythm… All of this is part of what makes reading enjoyable. This is what I love about Charles Dickens and Nick Hornby, among others.

Storytelling. Regardless of genre, books worth re-reading tell great stories. This is necessary with fiction, obviously, but it’s no less true of the best books exploring marketing techniques and scientific research. Chip and Dan Heath’s books are terrific examples of this (which is also a concept they advocate to marketers); Jared Wilson’s books are also great for this reason.

It relates to real life. Sometimes you read a book once to explore concepts. Then something happens to move those concepts from theory to practice. This happened to me when I was compelled to read books on suffering in 2008. Then in 2009, I found out why when we lost a baby. But there are some I’ve read multiple times because I’m prone to forget the good and helpful things I’ve learned in them. (Donald Whitney’s Praying the Bible is a great example of this one.)

Are the criteria totally subjective? Yep. Do they all need to be found in the same books? At least two of the three do, in my opinion, yes. Well written works that tell great stories make me want to come back again and again. Well written works that relate to my life draw me back in as well.

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