Do you ever return to a book again after already having read it once? I never used to, but now I almost always do; especially if the book was helpful. I think you should too. Here are reasons why you should reread books.
How much did you really understand the first time?
When we read books, we can only digest as much as we are capable of at the moment. It’s similar to how we can only see reality as we are capable.
For example, when we are children, reality seems very limited. We may only be aware of a handful of people, a few transit paths, and our home. But as we grow older, our minds expand, and the way we see reality expands. The world gets bigger. We start seeing more connections, understand more about why things are how they are, and we may feel like we have limitless possibilities.
And as our minds expand, our ability to understand concepts, ideas, and connections expand as well. What I mean by “minds expanding” is that everything we learn, discover, and go through in life builds upon itself, and makes us see and understand more of reality.
It’s the same when we read books. We can only meet the contents of the book from where we’re currently at. We can not understand more than we are capable of grasping at the moment. That’s not to say that you don’t learn something every time you read something new, but you are most likely not ingesting and understanding everything fully.
And with the passing of time, as you have had the time to digest and understand more and more complex ideas, your ability to understand books develop as well.
For every experience we have in life, for every concept or idea that we’ve actually learned, we are able to understand even more. (That’s why I think we should aim to get “mind blown” frequently and aggressively in a wide range of topics).
So, one of the reasons why you should reread books is because it will most likely give you even more insight than it did the first time around.
We forget things & need repetition
Apart from the fact that we’re unable to understand everything right away, we also have another faulty factor: We forget things.
Human long-term memory is a complex and interesting thing. It sometimes is reliable and helps recall things from decades ago, but sometimes, even when we try, information just doesn’t stick.
Just because we read something, no matter how important or useful, doesn’t it mean that the information gets encoded in our long-term memory. So, even if we really appreciate a piece of knowledge at the moment, a second may pass, and our minds have already moved on, without storing any of that valuable information.
This is why I also recommend taking notes while reading and making highlights in books of things we want to remember. This helps with making information stick in our memory.
In addition, perhaps most importantly, it’s by repetition and rehearsal that our minds encode information. Look at the image below: it illustrates how repetition and rehearsal affect what gets encoded into our long-term memory.
This is a piece of knowledge that we can implement when it comes to reading as well. By rereading books or looking at notes from a book once again, you are enforcing your mind to remember those things.
There’s also a thing called the “forgetting curve”, similar to the learning curve above, we may forget some things over time. To combat forgetting important knowledge, we again need to rehearse and repeat the knowledge to boost it up again.
So, in summary, the reason why you should reread books is simply that you will get more out of the book. You will most likely understand more the second time around, as well as help yourself to remember the information long-term.
If it’s a useful and complex book we’re talking about, then this is a no-brainer.
Of course, it may apply less to lightweight books that we just read for entertainment, but even things we read for entertainment may have some sort of wisdom in them. Every author has had experiences different from our own and may contribute with something to our minds that we ourselves haven’t already developed.