Why You Should Reread Books and How to Do It

Many people talk about how reading books can expand your knowledge and improve your life. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Reading books is indeed good. But there is one aspect of it that many people tend to forget: the value of rereading books.

I believe that not only should you read books you’ve never read, but also you should reread books you’ve already read. In fact, I’d argue that rereading books is just as important as reading new ones.

Why You Should Reread Books

Here are some reasons why rereading books is good:

1. It reminds you of the good ideas

Research shows that in just 24 hours people would forget most of what they’ve read. You might get a lot of good ideas from a book, but it’s easy to forget most of them. Rereading a book helps you refresh those ideas in your mind.

2. It helps you notice the ideas you didn’t notice before

Just as it’s easy to forget ideas, it’s also easy to have some ideas skip your attention when you first read a book. Rereading the book helps you notice them.

3. It gives you a new perspective

Rereading a book allows you to see it with fresh eyes. The ideas that didn’t make sense before could now make sense. The things that didn’t matter before could now be connected to your experience.

4. It helps you apply the ideas

This, in my opinion, is the most important reason of all. Why? Because the primary value of reading is the application and not the reading itself. Mere reading could expand your knowledge but application could change your life. By rereading a book, you can see which parts of it you have applied and which parts haven’t. You can then focus your effort on the parts that need more work.

How to Reread Books

Now that you’ve seen the why, let’s see the how. Here are some tips on rereading books:

1. Choose the right books

Just as not all books are worth reading, so are not all books worth rereading. Don’t just reread any book. Read only those that can give you the most value for your time. One good way to filter them is by finding those that you want to apply. The more you want to apply a book, the more important it is to reread.

2. Read only the important parts

You don’t need to reread the entire book. That will take too much time. Besides, you might get lost in the details. Instead, apply the 80-20 rule and read only the important parts of the book. This is one reason why you should highlight the good parts of a book when you first read it. By doing so, you can read just those parts when you reread it.

3. Look for actionable ideas

Since the primary value of reading is the application, you should look for actionable ideas when you reread a book. Perhaps you didn’t recognize some of them when you first read it. Or perhaps you already forget some of them. In either case, look for ideas that you can use to improve your life.

4. Focus your effort

Since there are potentially many actionable ideas, you should focus your effort on those that can make the most difference. Don’t try to do too much and spread yourself too thin. Instead, apply the 80-20 rule and focus on the important ones. Later, when you’ve successfully applied them, you can work on the other ideas.

Photo by Zitona

25 Comments

  1. I agree 100%

  2. Reminds me reading the text-books in college. I’d read them and forget pretty much everything the next day.

    I had to read the chapters a few times before I could retain all the information.

    I’m already thinking of some books I want to go through again. Thanks for this article 🙂

  3. Re-reading gets even easier with a Kindle (and this maybe true of other e-readers as well, I cna only speak of my experience with the Kindle).
    Whenever you highlight or bookmark a page the Kindle automatically adds that to your own book called My Clippings. The material is organized by book, so you can easily find what you are looking for in a particular book.

  4. I totally agree!

    When I find a book that I love, one that is filled with good ideas, I re-read it (often more than once). I hi-lite the good ideas, I write in the margins and in my notebook – I literally study that thing.

    If a book in my library is dog-eared and written all over, it’s a sure sign that I loved it.

  5. I totally agree. My favorite book by Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior is a book I always come back to. Every time I read it, I find something new that I didn’t notice before.
    Thank you for the reminder.
    Be Well,
    T Harv

  6. Totally agree and great post! I recently re-read a few books from a couple years ago. total different experience from the original time.

  7. Absolutely true, especially for personal development books. There’s just no way you can apply everything on the first read, especially if the book is full of really good ideas.

  8. Absolutely! I find it almost impossible to throw books away re-reading them ALWAYS adds something second time around.

    I suppose it does depend on the type of book – there might not be many ‘actionable ideas’ in a Jane Austen!

    However, I believe you can learn from anything if you decide to: one of the best books I’ve read (and re-read) recently, which taught me a lot about patterns of human behaviour was a historical biography about Queen Isabella , wife of King Edward II of England who reined about 700 years ago. Not the author’s intention, but a VERY useful by-product from my point of view!

    AnnabelleB at Yara Consulting

  9. These are very important points!

    Especially #3 (new perspective one) resonates with me the most, since I have seen this in action for many times.

    When I have more experience on the topic and then I read again about it, it opens new world to me 🙂

    I also feel that this approach helps you to learn new things. There have been situations, when I wasn’t able to grasp a certain concept the first time when I read about it. However, when I read it through the second time, I was able to fully understand it.

  10. Great reminder of something so powerful.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

    Karen

  11. Excellent post. I believe iPad is a miracle device that increases the pleasure and joy of reading. It can be a very useful tool to apply your ideas in this post, like sorting out the GOOD books you want to re-read.

    I personally believe that it takes at least 3 times of re-reading a good book in order to get the most out of it.

    I use a book application called Kobo. It contains great titles in the “personal development” category – the one I am most concerned about.

  12. Good points. There are only a select few books I have reread consistently in the past but these tips are helpful. I can definitely see myself rereading more with these guidepoints.

  13. This is really true. I went through a phase about a year ago when I just started going through a lot of books I’d previously read. I think I actually got more out of them the second time I read them than the first time.

    For me, the first time reading was about figuring out the ideas and that didn’t leave much time to make action on them. I think going back over everything a second time got me to think of all that was said more holistically.

  14. I’ve learned so much by rereading books! Sometimes I’ve learned how much I’ve changed – like the first time I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas I was in Jr. High and I did not get it at all. I reread it several years later, and by that time it all made sense and I thought it was hysterical. Sometimes I reread a book and find things I missed the first (second?!) time I read it.

  15. Each time I’ve re-read a book, I’ve gained new information from it. Every time.

    I can vouch for this article 🙂

  16. Thanks for the insightful comments, everyone! Glad to know your experiences in rereading books 🙂

  17. Yes, you are exactly right, Thanks for the nice article. while rereading the books or any interesting stories, I get the real feeling, recently I felt the experience in rereading a novel..

  18. You are absolutely right. Re-reading books is essential to maximizing their beneficial potential for your life or business. If you really are looking to read in order to apply specific principles to your life, re-reading is truly the only way to go (unless of course you take painstaking notes).

    I find when I read a book the first time through it’s a quick, get-the-main-idea down type of read and when I go through it the second time and I am familiar with the main points, I can take a slower pace and actually WORK through the book, taking action on whatever I see that applies to my life.

    For me this helps to have the end goal in mind, because I know what the end result will be – I already finished the book! But it also helps to keep me focused on the specific steps I need to take to get there. Re-reading great books allows me to have the best of both worlds.

  19. Excellent!, I like to re-read books that I have to refresh those previous ideas. As Bruce Lee once said, ” I don’t fear that man that has practiced 10,000 kicks one time, I fear the man that has practiced one kick 10,000 times”.

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