I own books because I go back to them. I own nonfiction books because I need to refer to them often. I own fiction that I enjoy because I know I’m going to want to read it again in the future — in a couple years, many of the details of a given story are forgotten, and many details are discovered that were missed the first time.
I’m surprised and saddened when I hear people say that they can only read books once, even when they are favorites. It’s a strange concept when you really think about it. It’s common enough for people to watch movies multiple times. We also listen to favorites pieces of music over and over. Why should books be shunned from repetition? Nobody says, “I’ve already heard Beethoven’s Große Fuge once, why should I hear it again?” So why give this harsh treatment to books?
I’ve heard of people who read certain favorites on a yearly basis — actor Sir Christopher Lee, for example, reads The Lord of the Rings annually. I know I wouldn’t want to read something that lengthy each year, but to each his own. From time to time I have considered what I would pick to read each year if I were to take up such a practice. Moby Dick and Hamlet immediately come to mind, both favorites that I don’t think I could ever get tired of. But, again — Moby Dick falls under that too long category.
Then other books come to mind. Many other books. Some for pleasure. Others are nonfiction that I think would be wise to brush up on annually. And once I start thinking about it, the list eventually gets so long that I’d be doomed to reading the same handful of books over and over again for the rest of my life without getting to read anything new (besides, one only has time to reread Patrick O’Brian’s Aubreyad so many times in life). I think it’s best for me to stick to my whims and just read what I want when I want, rather than forcing myself to read favorites yearly.