Seth Godin was asked about re-reading books. He gave an answer involving a fancy, Japanese saw he has.
Godin says before you re-read something we should ask – am I treating this as a tool? Or is/was the purpose for discovery?*
A tool is something you reuse because it does a job well. A how-to book, or one that re-centers your mind on a process, idea, or pathway can work like a specific saw you take out whenever you need to make a specific cut.
Discovery is more based on exploring and provoking curiosity. You can’t re-read a book and get the same novelty from it as you did the first time. Just like you can’t ever see The Usual Suspects for the first time again, you can’t recreate the same experience from most things either.
If you need to brush up on some ideas to focus on an applicable aspect of your life/work, re-read a book as a tool.
If you need to provoke your own curiosity, from a different vantage point in life than last time you visited the (unchanging!) words, re-read a book for discovery. Just appreciate, in this case, the words haven’t changed since the last time you picked the book up, but you probably have.
Ps. A book I’ve revisited multiple times as a tool is Chris Voss’ Never Split The Difference. A book I’ve revisited multiple times for discovery because it applies to my life differently as I’ve aged, is Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus.
What about you? What are some of your favorite books to re-read? Do you think of this tool/discovery concept in advance?
*hear Godin’s riff on this in the questions segment at the end of the “Not Weak” episode of Akimbo.