Books You’ve Read a Hundred Times?

Elizabeth Bluemle -- February 7th, 2014

A hundred times may be an exaggeration, but as a child, I read many of my favorite books dozens of times and more. In the bookstore, I often hear parents bemoaning their children’s repeat reading. Adults sometimes worry when kids choose an old favorite over a new discovery, but both are signs of being healthy readers. While I understand that more media are competing for children’s time, and so picking up the entire Harry Potter series every summer might take a serious chunk of hours away from other books, I still think that avid re-readers tend to be avid readers, period. And that re-reading can be a very valuable endeavor.

People re-read books for all kinds of reasons: to catch things they missed, to revisit a favorite world, to find comfort in a familiar and much-loved story. We talk about “digesting” books, and I think re-reading is part of the total absorption in a fictional or nonfiction world.

I think I did the bulk of my re-reading between the ages of 8 and 14. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White probably tops my list, along with The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards, Mr. Pudgins by Ruth Carlsen, The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit, Half Magic and Magic or Not and the rest of the seven books by Edward Eager, Magic in the Park by Ruth Chew (now back in print, hooray!), Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright, The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (how did that not win a Newbery, by the way?!), The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken, The Saturdays and the others in the series by Elizabeth Enright, A Girl Called Al by Constance C. Green, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and so many more. I also used to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy every summer, about eight years in a row. (Oddly, I never felt the desire to return to The Hobbit after a reading or two.)

Oh, I know I’m forgetting a boatload of favorites!! I’m not counting books I read two or three or even four times, but books I read ten, twenty times and more. I think I read Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles 21 times. Clearly, there was something there that kept drawing me back: the imagination, the charm, the brightness, the magic, the humor. The bedroom slippers! Mumbleumbledum. (Ahem. I’ll continue.) And Charlotte’s Web! What an endless source of inspiration, simple and profound, funny and sad, full of characters and heart and suspense and lots of love. I read a passage from The Little Prince at my mother’s memorial service, and another from Charlotte’s Web at my grandmother’s. These books became part of the fabric of my being, beats in the rhythm of my heart. I knew lines by heart, maybe even sections. Re-reading didn’t detract from my development as an eclectic reader; it provided something different, a journey I knew I wanted to embark upon yet again.

So, while I happily help kids who are in fact stuck re-reading books because they just can’t find their next great read, I also try to reassure parents, letting them know that re-reading can, in fact, be one of the hallmarks of becoming a fluent lifelong reader.

What books did you read countless times? And do you know why, or is it a bit of a mystery?




18 thoughts on “Books You’ve Read a Hundred Times?

  1. Steph Auteri

    I’ve always been a re-reader. In fact, for the sake of space, I mostly just keep the books I know I’ll probably end up reading again. I believe Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story and Stephen King’s It are my most re-read.

  2. Anne

    A Little Princess and a modern take on it, the Princess series by Gabrielle Charbonnet, any Ramona Quimby book, The President’s Daughter by Ellen Emerson White, the Magic School Bus books, and the Something Queer books by Elizabeth Levy.

  3. Lydia

    Ruby Holler, by Sharon Creech…and Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards (and of course, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles!!!!) Each of these painted such a beautiful fantasy world that I could escape to over and over again without tireing of them.

  4. Ellen Mager

    Elizabeth, Reading everyone choices was such fun! I was addicted to Nancy Drew and then my Aunt Miriam gave me Secret Garden (hence the name of my store!) and the explosion happened! Alcott – I love that someone mentioned Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom- was just a wonderful start!

  5. Melinda

    I’ve reread the majority of the books that everyone has listed as well as the Trixie Belden series and all of the All Of A Kind Of Family by Sydney Taylor. My number one comfort reread since I was in fourth grade has been A Wrinkle In Time. I identified with Meg and loved her need to protect Charles Wallace and how her idiosyncrasies were what made her the heroine of the book. I’ve read this at least once a year since I discovered it and I feel a thrill when I get to introduce it to a child for the first time and I silently find myself pitying adults that I introduce it to that just don’t get it.

  6. Sarah

    This post makes me want to go on a buying spree of all of my favorite children’s books: Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Ramona, Pippi Longstocking, Matilda, From the Mixed Up Files, Holes… I used to reread books ALL THE TIME and now I don’t do that anymore. Time to change that!

  7. Laura Melchor

    All nine of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books! I’ve read those every year since I was six or seven. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, and the Boston Jane trilogy by Jennifer Holm…Black Beauty by Anna Sewell…there have to be more, but those are the ones I can think of right now.

  8. Kat Kan

    As a child, I would re-read the one comic book per week we kids were allowed to get from the Base Exchange – so lots of Little Lulu, Richie Rich, Casper the Friendly Ghost. I re-read them because I loved the stories, and I would also pore over the art. As I grew older and became a DC superhero fan, I would buy Green Lantern, Hawkman, and Tarzan comics that I read to pieces (literally). As a teen, I started to re-read books by Anne McCaffrey. When I gave birth to my older son, I took a copy of the Dragonrider books with me to the hospital. And now, as a grandma, I re-read books by Robin McKinley and Tamora Pierce (each of their books, at least once a year if not more often). These are my comfort reads, filled with characters I enjoy revisiting.

  9. Melissa Posten

    Elizabeth, those were my prime re-reading years too! My main re-reads, some of which I’m sure were upwards of 100 times, were Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and the Frances Hodgson Burnett trifecta, with A Little Princess being read more than the others. I also compulsively re-read the other books by both Montgomery and Alcott (I love Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom and Jack and Jill; plus Emily of New Moon and The Blue Castle). Then there was the Betsy-Tacy series, which I’ve only re-read less because I discovered it later than AOGG. The Prydain Chronicles, yes, and The Witch Family. Star Spangled Summer by Janet Lambert, which I found used for a quarter; it wasn’t until I discovered the Betsy-Tacy email list that I learned the author had more books.

    A Girl Called Al! Why did they go out of print? Yours Till Niagara Falls, Abby, by Jane O’Connor. The Hideaway Summer by Beverly Hollett Renner. The Secret of the Seven Crows by Wylly Folk St. John. The Egypt Game. The Westing Game. Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth.

    All of Robin McKinley, but especially the Damar books. The Dragonriders of Pern. David Eddings’ Belgariad and Malloreon. Mandy!

    Orphans and runaways and summer camp and boarding schools.

    I had a tumultuous childhood as a Navy brat. My books were the most consistent things in my life.

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle Post author

      Oh my gosh! So many of my own (that I forgot) are here in your list, Melissa! A Little Princess, Little Women, yes yes yes, the Egypt Game and Jennifer Hecate Macbeth William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth, yes yes yes! Wow ma’am-y, I love books!

  10. Amy Sears

    Shadow Castle by Marian Cockerell, Anne of Green Gables series, The Golden Name by Jenny Lindquist along with her other books The Little Silver House, and The Crystal Tree, plus Mr. Pudgins and The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles as well. You touched on a lot of my favorites.

  11. Michelle

    The childhood books I read over and over were Mrs. Pigglewiggle, Harriet the Spy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil Frankweiler. I’m not sure why I kept going back to these particular titles, but I do remember them striking a deep emotional chord within me. I reread The Mixed-Up Files book again as an adult, and didn’t like it nearly so much, as I kept thinking how the parents must feel with runaway kids. That thought never struck me when I was a kid 🙂 I won’t reread Harriet the Spy because I am afraid it won’t live up to my childhood memory, though of course, I had to read aloud Mrs. Pigglewiggle and Charlie to my own kids.

  12. Tracy

    The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper. The whole series regularly, but especially Dark. I could for years quote poetry from the title and I still go back and re-read it on occasion. There was something about this version of good v. evil that made its way deep into my soul.
    On a lighter note, my “best friends” growing up were Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue Hollister. To this day I can tell you all about them. Why were they my best friends? Well we were a military family and I went to 13 schools growing up. While the kids around me changed regularly, the kids in books were dependable friends…
    And yes, not only am I avid reader, I do still re-read favorites as well. It is just comforting. As a librarian, it helps reassure some of my parental friends when they find out that I too re-read and it IS okay.

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