Treasures in a bookshelf: how to revisit their secrets

I’ve just finished rereading “You Can Heal Your Life”, by Louise Hay. It’s a book I’ve had sitting on my bookshelf for the past two years, intending to come back to it. This year, I finally organised the time to read it how I wanted to: 

With intention and attention.

This is one of the first books I read as a young adult that genuinely transformed my life and my view of the world. Most importantly, it opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I could create if I set my mind to it.

I read it at a time when I was out-growing the old and wanted to leave the pain of the past behind, but didn’t know how to move on. I saw myself as the victim of circumstance, rather than as a creator of life before me.

Working my way through this book, I let go of seeing myself as the victim. I decided I wanted full responsibility and ownership of my life: I wanted to say “I did this”, rather than allowing someone else to continue living in my mind as master and creator.

The old or the new?

But I fall into a continual trap – in the past month 10 new books have arrived “because I just need them”. Most of these books are related to topics I am diving deeply in.

The Japanese have a word for this.

Tsundoku = acquiring books but letting them pile up in your house without reading them!

Treasures in a bookshelf, how to revisit their secrets, great books, rereading classics, self-help, learning

That’s me.

Piling up the books that I intend to read, and not getting around to it because I have new books that also need to be read.

Everyone keeps talking about reading 50 or more books every year.

In fact, Darius Foroux was reading 100 books a year = 2 books every week. Of course, he now admits to forgetting them as well. I know what that’s like because I’ve gone through the phase of devouring the latest best-selling self-help book and then moved on to the next.

But have the books truly impacted me?

Louise Hay’s book had a profound impact on me the first time through because I took the time to journal my way through the book, rather than merely reading it! It made another profound impact on the second time through, as well, because I took the time each week to discuss the chapter with a friend, talk about how I was applying it in my life, and even talk about where I could open up more to change.

And I’ve had other moments when books have made a similar impact.

Back in about 2007 or 2008, I was curious about finding Wisdom, and I actually read the book of Proverbs (yes, the book of the Bible called Proverbs) 12 times that year. Proverbs has 31 chapters, making it a great daily read for a month – one chapter a day. Some of the proverbs are quite “old-fashioned” – some I simply ignored – and yet each time I reread it, I would find a grain of wisdom.

In 2018 and 2019, I read and did all the practices of The Magic, by Rhonda Byrne six times. The first time, I was part of a Mastermind that was doing it over 28 days. Then I reread and redid the daily practices myself two more times in the following two months. A few months later, I created a 28-day challenge for a group of friends, and we did it all over again. Then, in 2019, I kick-started January with the 28-day challenge and then did a second 28-day challenge later on in the year. All with the one book about gratitude.

At some stage in 2020, I will create a new 28-day-challenge for friends, and we’ll do it again! 

What a fantastic change I’ve noticed in my daily attitude to gratitude! It’s easy to see things to be grateful for. Saying “thank you” comes naturally – not from good manners, but because I am genuinely thankful.

The hidden benefits of rereading

Admittedly, I usually have four or five books on the go at a time, but in 2019 and continuing into 2020, I wanted to delve deeper into books I had already read and glean all the benefits of rereading.

One of the most apparent benefits of rereading a book is that you are no longer the same person that read that book the first time. Consider any great book that you have read, whether fiction or non-fiction. How much have you grown and changed since you read it?

I hadn’t read Louise Hay for over 20 years! Context is everything – where you are at in life will change how you relate to what you are reading.

Also, consider what skills or behaviour you want to master. It’s not enough to reread any book – you want to choose your books with intention. What do you hope to achieve and learn by rereading this book? What is your purpose for going back to this particular book and author?

Re-reading is about self-reflection, awareness and consciousness.

In the end, quality is more important than quantity. It’s not how many books you’ve read – it’s how many books have you read, put into practice, and noticed real transformation happening in your life?

What you experience the second time through.

When you come back to a book for the second time, you might discover that there is so much you forgot. You recall it quickly, as you read it. But, if you experience is anything like mine, you wonder to yourself “I thought I had already learned this”, and then realise you only acquired the head knowledge.

You didn’t actually apply it in your life.

In fact, you possibly forget most of the book within 24 hours of reading it if you didn’t do anything further with what you read.

If you’re reading fiction, you are probably also more focused on the characters and the events than the nuances of the story and dialogue. It’s only when you return to the book a second or third time that you actually take the time to glean the benefits of growth and self-reflection.

Now, when I am reading a book for transformation and growth, I allow myself to highlight, underline and make notes in the margins.

I know – I used to consider it sacrilege.

Then, I realised that I learn best when I am doing that… and so I buy my books (where possible) second hand. That way, I don’t feel so bad about underlining and notes. But I know I’m going to come back through the book a second and a third time (at least) and will also make more highlights and notes as I go.

Give yourself permission to notice what is different the second and third time through. What didn’t you get the first time?

The third time through the book

By this stage, hopefully, you are beginning to grasp how to apply what you are learning to areas of your life – not just the direct application, but the extrapolation of ideas to other aspects of life.

Consider, when you are rereading the book – are you focused and intentional? Do you actually pay attention as you are reading?

Perhaps, at this stage, you have started to make your own notes and integrate the knowledge. Personally, I prefer to journal about what I am reading after I’ve done the reading and not having the book in front of me.

Find the system (or systems) that actually works for you.

What about rereading the same book 100 times?

The author and columnist Stephen Marche once wrote about two books that he’s read more than 100 times apiece. I admit, for me, that feels like overkill, mainly as both books are works of fiction.

But, as he points out, you reach a level of ease and power of confidence with the books that come solely from familiarity. You get past the newness and start to settle into knowing exactly how it goes.

Mastery, if you will.

Now, I admit, I don’t do this… and yet I have been experimenting with putting on an audiobook overnight of the book that I am reading, listening to it two or three times a week while I sleep, and allowing it to sink deep within my subconscious.

I’ve never read a book 100 times to be able to tell you how much it can transform your life, but I can imagine you would internalise it into your way of thinking and acting.

Learning versus knowledge

In the end, what we seek as we reread is to glean the secrets of a remarkable book. But not merely to have read them and have the dopamine rush of new information, but to truly be transformed in what we say and do by the reading.

Learning is defined as a change in behavior. You haven’t learned a thing until you take action and use it.

Ken Blanchard

The beauty of the rereading is internalising the knowledge to such an extent that it transforms how we respond in life. Where we make mental links, effortlessly, with what we are doing and experiencing.

Where you have rebuilt the neural pathways of your mind to such an extent that you can genuinely say you’ve been transformed by the secrets learned.


My book club

Beth Gray Coach, book club, rereading, new books, old books

Out of pure self-interest, in 2019, I set up a book club. It guarantees that I always have someone to talk about the books that I am reading with!

We commit to reading them slowly – one or two chapters a week, and then meeting to discuss how we are implementing what we are learning in our lives.

In 2019, we read:

  • It’s Not Your Money – by Tosha Silver
  • Think & Grow Rich – by Napoleon Hill

For this second one, I admit it was my second time through the book in 2019. I bought the book in 2018 and finally got around to reading it at the beginning of 2019 and then reread it at the end with the book club. We went through it, two chapters each week. What I discovered: that was too fast to actually put it into practice! But we wanted to wrap it up before Christmas.

In 2020, we kicked off the year with mBraining: using your three brains to do cool stuff (Grant Soosalu & Marvin Oka), and then moved onto It Didn’t Start with You (Mark Wolynn) and You Can Heal Your Life (Louise Hay). We also sped through Mirror Work: 21 days to heal your life (Louise Hay), and later this month will start:

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey)
  • Three Brains: How the Heart, Brain & Gut influence mental health and identity (Karen Jensen)

This will be my third time through Covey’s book – and each time I have improved my morning routine and my vision for life. It is one book I have always taken my time reading, allowing myself to focus on implementation, rather than speed.

Three Brains – this will be my first time reading it – but if you noticed we already read earlier this year mBraining which was another viewpoint on head, heart and gut and how to use them in alignment.

If what you are looking for isn’t out there – create it!


  1. I’m a huge fan of re-reading books, like you, I believe you get so much more from them second time around – or even third, fourth, and fifth! And I’m also hugely guilty of Tsundoku so it’s great to find a fellow culprit 🙂 Lisa

  2. Really interesting post and I love that the Japanese has a specific word for letting books pile up! I love re-reading some of my favourites. I’ve read my favourite book The Age of Miracles, a good 5 times and I’m considering another re-read soon!

  3. This was really interesting. I very rarely reread books, I can probably only name three or four that I’ve read more than once, all of them with about 10 years between reads so it felt relatively new. I need to give this a go with a couple of favourites x


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