I made a comment recently about how Dune was on one friend's "desert island" list (top 5 books you'd want if you were stranded somewhere for a long time with nothing else to read), and I got a long stare. The person - also a Dune fan - eventually admitted that he would not want to take Dune with him if he were going to be stuck re-reading it that often, because it would lose some of its magic.
Do books lose or gain magic in the re-reading? How many times can you re-read something before the story wears thin? Or does the meaning thicken each time for you? Do you read the story for its familiarity, or for its challenge?
Take one of my comfort reads, Beauty by Robin McKinley. It's a lovely retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It's not incredibly challenging either in thought or vocabulary. What it has is a beautiful unfolding of human nature as Honor (Beauty) grows up and finds herself. This book has challenges that most children don't face (discussed in general in my "disturbing" post), and a romance that is so different that it won't even register with a child, while a discerning adult might find it beautiful in its understatement. In short, it's been a go-to book of mine for nearly 20 years. ... And then McKinley brought out Sunshine, which, to me, has a modern version of the same voice. I heard Beauty's exasperated ponderings about birds and invisible servants when Sunshine was talking about being a baker who had been handed a vampire. So now I have two go-to books for comfort-reads, whose voices I enjoy and whose stories I can wrap around myself and sit by the fire...
Would I recommend them to other people? In a heartbeat. But would I use either of them for chronic re-reading if they were all I had? I don't know. Hellspark, Ender's Game, Curse of Chalion, same question. Could I, and they, stand up to obsessive re-reading? Could any of my favorite books? Is that a quality I need in a book for it to be a favorite?
Maybe Tale of the Five is one that I could read over and over again (duology of Door into Fire and Door into Shadow). There are a lot of little profound moments in that book which need some contemplations of their own.
I'm sure I was going somewhere with this post, but I'm headed for bed instead.
If you are still up, you should read Misfits, which is what I was going to do before I got sleepy-blinky.