The nerdy trick I use to keep my focus on the things that matter most

The nerdy trick I use to keep my focus on the things that matter most

I’m a re-reader. I think those who  say the best reading is re-reading are on to something, and I don’t feel like I really know a book until I’ve been through it more than once.

I’ve noticed that I re-read books for two reasons: because I love them, and because I need them.

The books that I love–Brideshead, Emma, Gatsby–I re-read for the pleasure factor. Book-lovers easily relate to this one; it hardly needs explanation.

But let’s talk about needing to re-read certain books. Specifically, nonfiction.

I have a lot going on–in my life, in my house, in my brain–but limited bandwidth, and I know I’m easily distracted. Some people use inspiration boards to keep their minds focused on what’s most important; I use books:  I re-read to keep myself focused on the things that are important to me.

I didn’t start doing it on purpose: I’ve only recently noticed the pattern:

I’ve noticed that while I’m reading The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, I’m paying attention to how my marriage is (or isn’t) working.

While I’m reading Queen Bees and Wannabees, I’m highly attuned to the dynamics of my daughters’ personal relationships.

While I’m reading The War of Art, I’m inspired to put my butt in the chair and do my work, every day, even when I don’t feel like it.

I’ve yet to find a better way to kindle my enthusiasm for a subject than reading.

I don’t re-read It Starts With Food to figure out how to do a Whole 30; I already know how it’s done. I re-read it because my interest wanes over time, and I’m healthier if I stay interested.

I don’t re-read The Well-Trained Mind every year to remember the how of homeschooling, I (more or less) know how. I re-read it to remember the why.

And I’m not re-reading Clutterfree with Kids because I’ve forgotten the methods,  but because I want to be inspired to put them to work.

Looking back through the years, my personal pattern is clear. I read to keep my focus where I want it.

In my experience, it works.

What books do you read over and over again, and why?

1 easy way to stay focused on what matters

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32 comments | Comment


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  1. Carrie says:

    I don’t re-read often, but I read in certain genres over and over again for the reminders. Just as you say here… I find that reading something first reminds and motivates me to take action. So true.

  2. Jamie says:

    I am not a big “re-reader” of fiction but there are a few books I return to for a “tune-up” such as Getting Things Done and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Do you have any suggestions for books about staying in the present moment or focusing on the task at hand? I enjoy your writing so much. Thanks for all of the time and heart you pour into this blog!

    • Anne says:

      I have high hopes for Manage Your Day to Day, and while it’s waiting for me on my Kindle, I haven’t actually read it yet. Soon!

      (Thanks for the kinds words. 🙂 )

  3. Lisa says:

    I love your reason to re-read. It seems the “so many books, so little time” belief keeps me from re-reading much, but when I do it’s mostly to re-visit a read from long ago (Atlas Shrugged, A Wrinkle in Time, Fahrenheit 451, Watership Down) that I don’t quite remember, but do remember enjoying. Nevertheless, I can see the wisdom in “needing” to re-read. In fact, I do believe I’ll be re-reading this post for encouragement to re-read!

  4. One of my professors in college told us that to read a book is to read it twice, and I have tried to follow that maxim with any truly good book I encounter. One book that comes to mind, which I re-read both for pleasure and to remind myself of God’s providence and my need to “repeat the signs” every day is The Silver Chair. In fact, all of the Narnia books help me to refocus on some element of my spiritual life while I’m reading them.

  5. Leanne says:

    I agree, though I don’t think I do this intentionally- I tend to get re-inspired by reading something elsewhere, and then decide I’m craving a re-read of a formerly loved book. I’ve been fascinated by Gretchen Rubin’s blog posts on habits, and I just decided to re-read Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” as a result.

    • Anne says:

      The Power of Habit was in the first draft! I feel like I’ve talked about it a lot lately, so it got axed–but that’s the only reason. That’s one of those books I should re-read annually. Or probably more like monthly. 🙂

  6. Susan S says:

    I totally agree. When I am reading certain books I am focused on those areas of my life. Whether it’s healthy eating (The Unhealthy Truth) or parenting (Escaping the Endless Adolescence) or marriage (The Love Dare). I have noticed that each of those books that really gets me are the ones that don’t guide me to fix the problem but usually cause me to look at myself and how my actions/attitude are contributing to the problem. So, always a good idea to revisit those books when I feel myself falling back into bad habits.

    • Anne says:

      “I have noticed that each of those books that really gets me are the ones that don’t guide me to fix the problem but usually cause me to look at myself and how my actions/attitude are contributing to the problem.”

      Interesting. And now that you mention it, I do, too.

  7. This is so true! My son is turning 4 this month and I just picked up Your 4 Year Old by Ames & Ilg. I already feel like I’m relating to him better because I understand how his little mind is working. One of my consistent re-reads is The Happiness Project for this same reason… although I seem to have loaned my copy out and now it’s gone missing.

    • Anne says:

      I tend to re-read Happier at Home. (I don’t know what “tend to” means–I’ve read it at least 3 times and it hasn’t been out very long!)

  8. Katherine says:

    “Organized Simplicity”- when my house feels out of control. (Which is always over the holidays, and then usually when the seasons change. Or when I’m pregnant:).

  9. MK says:

    This is why I wish I were a better re-reader. Maybe someday when we actually have money to buy books, I’ll be better about it, but when all of my books come from the library, it can be hard to re-read (especially popular books that everyone wants a chance to check out).

    For now, I try to pull quotes from non-fiction books that I want to remember and put them in my Good Reads review section for the book so that I can at least come back to some of the ideas that most touched me.

    • Anne says:

      Putting your favorite quotes in Goodreads is a fabulous idea!

      And the library will let you check out the same book more than once, right? I re-read plenty of library books, although you’re definitely right about the Popular New Books Problem.

  10. Kristin says:

    I have a few authors I can’t help to re-read. Austen, Montgomery, MacDougall. They are like a warm blanket for me so I read them when I need it: miscarriage, new job, maternity leave, hubby’s weeklong business trip. I find such comfort in these old friends 🙂

  11. Rebecca says:

    Oh, yes. This! I re – read We Would See Jesus every January for spiritual focus, and A Woman After God’s Own Heart for an exceptionally bossy kick-in-the -pants with my wife\mom\home responsibilities. One of your recommendations, The Talent Code, fires up my piano playing and swimming workouts. Now I can’t wait to read the war of art….

  12. Anna says:

    I tend to reread non-fiction because the first time is more of an overview and the second time, I can go deeper. With fiction, it depends. Things I really like, I will reread to relax or listen to the audiobook before I drift off to sleep- right now that is “An Irish Country Doctor” by Patrick Taylor. It can be hard though, because there are always so many more books I want to read.

  13. I love re-reading. Especially fiction. I get really tense and involved – too involved! – reading fiction the first time round. It almost isn’t enjoyable!
    So when I want to escape into a book for pleasure I re-read: Harry potter, a wrinkle in time, the little house series, the Austin family books by Madeleine l’engle, Peter Pan, lots of kid lit clearly! I loved the “heirs of cahira o’connor” series by Angela elwell hunt and re-read those. In terms of non fiction I go back to shauna niequist’s books, I think first time around I enjoy them so much I read them too quickly, and I will read “Carry on, warrior” again for sure 🙂

  14. This is so interesting to me. For one thing, I am amazed every time I re-read a nonfiction book that I think I remember, only to find that I’d forgotten great chunks of it. Revisiting them on purpose this way would continually fill in those knowledge gaps. Hmmm, what would I put on my rereading list today? I will have to think this one over!

  15. I’ve actually never re-read a book (I also dislike re-watching movies!) but now I totally see the benefit- and realize that I could focus better if I kept my favorite books closer to me! Thanks!

  16. Molly says:

    I am currently rereading Harry Potter in sequence from the first book to the last without breaking. I have read all the books but never like this. It should be fun to watch the plot, characters, and writing develop in complexity. There are a number of books I like to reread. For fiction: A Wrinkle in Time, The Westing Game, almost anything Austen. For nonfiction: Teaching with Love&Logic, various books on organizing. I need to pick up my copy of Raising Cain and read it again.

  17. Alison says:

    Wow, wow and WOW – YES!!!! I never even realised this, but I do exactly the same thing!!! Thank-you for pointing it out, it’s something I will be a lot more intentional about from now on 🙂

  18. Meghan says:

    You just exploded my TBR list!! I reread fiction and I love it. It is hard for me to pick up a non-fiction in the first place so that’s where I need to start. I would love to find some life changing books. You and Janssen are very inspiring with your non-fiction love!

  19. We are at the beginning of our Whole30 – we are doing it for the duration of Lent…so more than the 30 days… It’s only day 3 and I want chocolate sooooo bad…. creamy milk chocolate! LOL

    I’ve read quite a few on your list but I’m going to check out Clutterfree with Kids…sounds like a must read for me! 😉

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