Have you ever heard the phrase, “writing is re-writing”?
It’s an important principle for people learning to write.
Because there’s a destructive fantasy going around:
The fantasy that the first draft is good enough.
The First Draft Usually Stinks!
It needs revision. Often lots of it.
Believe it or not, it’s the same thing with reading books.
Yes, you can use the Magnetic Memory Method to memorize a textbook. It’s an incredible skill to have.
But often enough … one read just doesn’t cut it.
And there are reasons why. Here are 11 of them.
#1: Context Is King
Once upon a time, I could only afford to take one course at university. I had to work three jobs just to afford the tuition!
Looked at ironically, I was lucky I could afford to take just one course.
Because all those jobs left me with time enough to complete the reading requirements of only the one course!
All joking aside, I read Plato’s Republic that year while walking up and down the hill to the university. It was all the time I had.
But it was fitting because many of the dialogues that make up The Republic take place outdoors. And although it’s Aristotle who belongs more closely to the Peripatetic School of philosophy, walking around is … walking around.
And because I’m a diligent reader who enjoys the slower process of MMM Bibliomancy as taught in the Magnetic Memory Method Masterplan or briefly here, I let the books I need to read absorb me based on the context of reading.
The second time I read The Republic was as a professor living in Saarbrücken, Germany. This time I read The Republic as an audiobook, also while walking up and down a hill.
But even though the mechanical operation of walking from place to place was the same, I was reading The Republic this time as an educator, not a student.
And instead of reading The Republic in the context of other philosophers (like St. Augustine and Hobbes), I was re-reading it during a period when I was dialed deep into Eckhart Tolle and Wayne Dyer.
Context changes everything and that means the same book was actually very different.
Context unlocked thoughts about its contents and “unhid” more interesting details to remember.
Alethia for unhiding is a fancy ancient Greek word you’re going to want to add to your collection, by the way. Keep it and context in mind as your go-to rereading strategy. You’ll be delighted by what happens!
#2: The Organic Source Of New Ideas Re-generates Itself
You know that many of your cells regenerate, right?
Not all of them, but enough that you can make the claim that we have a chronological age and a cellular age.
And if you wait long enough to re-read a book, you’re technically not the same the person as the first time you read the book. Sure, your heart, brain and bones are pretty much the same, but the rest?
A whole new you.
And that means completely new arms, hands and eyes that deliver the book to your brain.
Isn’t that exciting to think about?
#3: Why Something Most People Dread
Is Really The Icing On The Cake
Most people regret getting older.
I’ve never understood why, but I guess it’s because they don’t value the power of re-reading books.
Think about it:
As you age, you collect more Memory Palaces to help you remember information.
Plus, your pool of imagery and associations to use within a Memory Palace gets larger year after year.
And as you work with your memory, you discover so many resources set in stone that you never discover unless you’re re-reading books.
Put simply, age is a currency. It is traded on the strength of connections. The older you are, the more connections you make on autopilot and can engineer deliberately.
Better be doing some brain exercises, though. You’re always in danger of losing what you’re not using, after all …
#4: How Location, Location, Location
Will Save The Life Of Your Memory
Think about this:
When you re-read a book, you can enter a multi-dimensional time-zone portal.
For example, I’m about the re-read The Republic for the third time.
This upcoming re-read is inspired by a conversation I had on the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast with Brad Zupp. We got deep into the weeds on matters of memory and philosophy in that one!
And as I re-read it, I can use Memory Palaces related to the university where I studied when I read The Republic for the first time.
Likewise, I can use Memory Palaces related to the university where I taught when I read it the second time.
And oh yes, you’d better believe I’ll be using Memory Palaces right here on the campus of QUT in Brisbane where I live to lock and load details I want to remember from my third read.
But without re-reading this monumental book from my past, all that Location, Location, Location juice goes untapped.
That would be tragic, sad and a complete waste of the constantly renewing cellular matter throughout my body.
What are you doing with your past, present and future untapped Memory Palace potential?
#5: Why You’re A Rookie If You Don’t Have Reason
Itself Working In Your Favor
I’m talking not just the force of reason as used by skeptics of memory, but also multiple reasons. Clearly defined reasons.
Back when I first read The Republic, the reason was simple:
I’d ponied up for a course in Political Science. In order to pass the course, I needed to read the book.
More than that, I wanted a degree. And I wanted knowledge and all the power and accomplishment it brings.
The second time around, I wanted a few more things.
First, I wanted the initial buzz of pleasure back.
I also needed confirmation that the book said the things I remembered it saying.
Plus, I had placed The Matrix on the syllabus of one of my Film Studies courses. I needed to at least re-read The Allegory of the Cave … so why not check in with the whole book?
And now, I want to revisit that earlier conversation with Brad Zupp and think more deeply about how The Republic relates to memory. After all my research and teaching in the field, I’m excited to see the book from a whole new perspective.
Plus, there’s the whole notion of Virtual Memory Palaces and making Memory Palaces based on movie locations and series. And it occurs to me that the Allegory of the Cave might be one of the best fantasy Memory Palaces one could borrow.
So I’ve got my reasons for re-reading intact.
What could you re-read that revives old reasons and harnesses the power of new ones?
#7: What Wikipedia Can’t Tell You About Sequels,
Second Editions And New Translations
Yes, yes, I know you can blitz your way through books you’ve read before by checking out the summaries on Wikipedia.
And you know what?
There’s a place for that. I do it too and it’s a great enhancement of information.
In fact, I’ve already make my own little Wiki-adventure through and around a lot of The Republic and its many topics to set the stage for my re-reading.
But Wikipedia is not the territory. It’s not reading a new translations with a new introduction by a scholar with a different perspective.
And it’s not re-reading the book with all the benefits of new context, a new body and new reasons.
Only re-reading the book itself counts as re-reading the book. Until you dive in, you’ll never know the value. And if you’re satisfied with skimming … well, you’ll just have to see if you enjoy paying the price of not re-reading important books. Only time can tell.
#8: Old Books Often Have Better Answers Than The New
James Clear made the point a good while ago in his newsletter that new books don’t have the benefit of hindsight. Worse:
We simply don’t know which of those books hitting the shelves this week will stand the test of time.
Sadly though … we can make some solid predictions that most will be forgotten within a fortnight or sooner.
That’s why it’s worth not only reading the classics, but also re-reading them. There are reasons why some books just won’t go away and one read often isn’t enough to squeeze out all the value.
Plus, without romanticizing the past, we can say with certainty that life throughout history often offered challenges far harder than what most of us face.
Can we learn about how to better thrive in the face of our “First World Problems” by looking at how people dealt with war, plague and famine in the past?
And a lot of those survivors were great literary stylists too. Many are worth re-reading just to dip back into the soul of their wit.
#9: How To Experience A Gold Rush Of
OMG! Moments Every Day
You are studying a new language, right? Because you know how good it is for your health, don’t you? If not, here are 15 Reasons Why Learning A Language Is Good For Your Brain.
Well, re-reading books that you’re familiar with in the language you’re studying is a brilliant experience.
First, re-reading a book you already know in a foreign language helps reduce some cognitive load. You can settle back a bit more because you know in advance where things are going.
Second, you can zero in on features like dialog, descriptions and whatever area of the language you’d like to improve. And you can do it with some feeling of familiarity to guide how you focus your lens.
Finally, you get to “spy” on the thinking of that culture. Ezra Pound called this feature of a language its logopoeia. It’s the logical element of processing the world that is different than sound and imagery.
And in re-reading you get to experience the logopoeia of your mother tongue and the language you’re studying at the same time.
What an incredible treat to give your exercise-starved brain!
#10: Defeat The Shocking Ways That
Digital Amnesia Is Destroying Your Brain
A lot of people just accept it. Google and the other Kings and Queens of the Internet are slowly eroding your brain.
It’s called Digital Amnesia.
Sounds scary, right?
Don’t worry. There’s a simple way to defeat it.
It’s called a book.
A real book.
Paper. Ink. You and your body somewhere offline.
And if you make that book a re-read of a book from the past, you’re defeating Digital Amnesia because you’re giving your brain the opportunity to revisit information from the past offline.
And if you’ve read a book on your Kindle device or some other digital reader and feel like you forgot more than you’d like, then re-reading a physical copy is the perfect cure for that problem.
#11: How Simple Memory Improvement
Helps You Invent The Perfect Future
The last reason that re-reading books is so good for you is simple:
Since you first stumbled across this blog and the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast, your memory is already better.
As a result, every book you re-read enters your head blessed with greater potential for being remembered.
All you have to do is use the techniques.
Good thing they’re so fun and easy.
And because you know how to connect information with locations and things you’re already familiar with, each and every day of life has the potential to improve your memory even more.
And re-reading books fuels the engine of memory by accessing the familiar in a new way and from a new angle.
You get to actively direct the future by harnessing the power of the past.
It’s never too late to get started re-reading books that you enjoyed in the past!
So Let Me Ask You Something Personal …
What book are you most excited about re-reading next?