Survey: how many times have you read War and Peace? Ummm, none.
Forget War and Peace. People are sharing their guilty pleasure books at Culture Vulture — the embarassing books they turn to time and again.
I don't often reread books. (Fairy tales don't count.) Too many books, not enough time.
However, I do find myself rereading children's books. They're so short! — the pay-off in comfort is worth every minute.
A Little Princess — Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Gammage Cup — Carol Kendall
The Chronicles of Narnia — C.S. Lewis
The Little Prince — Antoine de St-Exupery
There's the books I read as a teenager that I later reread critically in university, and perhaps again to satisfy a curiosity or discuss with friends. In this category, 1984, among others.
Other books I dip into (I couldn't begin to list these) to retrieve favourite bits, to flesh out current ideas that somehow make that text relevant (the narrative of life), as a kind of research, or as a refresher to a sequel. But cover to cover, rarely.
I don't really want to reread books (so little time), though sometimes I feel I owe it to my more mature self to better understand some so-called classics.
Yet, for the sheer, if inexplicable, fascination I have with them, I have reread some books countless times:
The Fifth Child — Doris Lessing
The First Century after Beatrice — Amin Maalouf
The Razor's Edge — W. Somerset Maugham
Titus Groan (but not the rest of the Gormenghast trilogy) — Mervyn Peake
The Nine Billion Names of God — Arthur C. Clarke
But I don't feel any shame about these.
The only book I've reread (certainly 4 times, if not more), and of which I've owned several copies, having to replace the ones I gave to friends, and that I might not openly confess to: Shibumi, by Trevanian.
Oh! and Michael Moorcock's The Warhound and the World's Pain. I love that book!