How Do You Read?


Want to win a copy of The Courage Tree? Check out Emilie Richards’ interview of me on her blog and leave a comment. Good luck!

In my last post (which must have set a record for the number of comments on my blog!), several people mentioned two quirks about reading novels that fascinated me. The first is that they reread books they love. The second is that they read books quickly the first time, skipping details to find out how the stories end before going back to read in greater depth. This made me think about how I read as well as how I write.

I rarely reread books, even books that I absolutely adore. Only two stand out in my memory as books I’ve reread: Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides (because I wanted to explore how Conroy created the pained, sarcastic funniness of his main character) and DM Thomas’s The White Hotel, (which I read two times, ten years apart, to see if it was as emotionally draining the second time around. It was). I’ve reread parts of many other books, studying them to see how the writer does what he or she does. I never studied writing in school, so I’ve made up for it by analyzing the work of writers I admire. But I’m fascinated that many of you read some books repeatedly for story alone — for a story you already know. Don’t get me wrong. I love that you reread my books, but I’d love to better understand what prompts you to do so.

And who among you is a “detail skipper”? I occasionally skim over details if I feel they’re getting in the way of a story I’m reading. Usually I attribute that to either my impatience or to an overabundance of description that slows the story down. Then there are books where the writing is so seamless that I can’t skip a single word. 

Are you a “rereader”? A “detail skipper?” I’d love to know!

Finally, in my last post, I ran a teeny contest offering personalized bookplates for my new book, Secrets She Left Behind, to five commenters. I used my handy random number generator to determine the winners, and they are Ronnie, Lindsay, Ann, Ashley and Margo. Congratulations! Please send your snail mail addresses to me at and let me know if you want the bookplate personalized to you or someone else.

Happy reading (and rereading. . .)!


  1. Julie on May 29, 2009 at 3:22 am

    Not a re-reader, except for a selected few childhood favorites, mostly involving pioneer girls and orphans forced to live in attics. πŸ™‚
    I will sometimes skip details to get to something I really want to know (a revelation, etc.), then go back immediately and read them.
    I have re-read parts, like you, to study writing, but I’ve never been able to get all the way through a book doing that. I don’t like already knowing what’s happening, and there are just too many books to read!
    I’ve got a partial manuscript out with a coveted agent — cross your fingers and toes for me, ladies!!! My query letter must be working — I’ve had partial requests on two of the three I’ve sent so far, though one turned me down already. I guess that makes me an official member of the club. πŸ™‚

  2. Margo on May 29, 2009 at 8:32 am

    First off, I’m so excited to be a winner for the personalized bookplate!…thank you so much Diane!!
    Second, I definitely reread favorite books…I think I’ve mentioned several times in the past that KEEPER OF THE LIGHT is my very fav novel of all time and I have read it a total of 5 times. For me, even tho I know the outcome of the story, this book was written brilliantly and each time I read it I’m so caught up with time and place that I literally feel I’m in the story with the characters. It was my first introduction to the Outer Banks and Diane, you captured the beauty of sand and sea with perfection…I loved that Annie was a stained glass artist and the parallels between color and light were written fantastically…Diane, I actually thought you might be a glass artist yourself. The entire ‘feeling’ of emotions, passions and sense of place is why I read this book over and over…I simply cannot get enough of these people and they continue to haunt me over and over again.
    I do not skim or skip parts…I read books slowly the 1st time so I can feel and remember everything.

  3. Lindsay on May 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I would have to say that typically I just read a book once and thus I read them thoroughly the first time.. There is one book I’ve read time and time again over the years and it’s my classic favourite- Anne of Green Gables. For the most part though I believe in reading a variety of books and would rather pick up a new book to check out then pick up an old favourite.
    I do however reread certain parts/passages in books that I may love/adore. Not often but I know I’ve done that in the past.
    I, like Margo, am thrilled to be a winner of a personalized bookplate! Thanks, Diane and I will send you an email later today.

  4. Ann on May 29, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    I will join the other winners in thanking you for the personalized bookplate!! I will look forward to receiving it and placing it in the book.
    I almost always reread a book if a sequel is coming out – that way I am familiar with all the characters. I really enjoyed rereading Before the
    Storm. I have reread Secret Lives and Keeper of the Light just because I enjoyed them so much the first time.

  5. Gina on May 29, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    I do not like to re-read books at all. If I do, it’s because it’s a bookclub pick. There are WAY too many new books for me to read, and I don’t want to spend time re-reading.
    That being said, I will be starting on Secrets this weekend, reading it slowly. Because I will not be re-reading it. LOL
    And, I am not a detail skipper. I read every word.

  6. Denise on May 29, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    The only novels I have ever read twice were GONE WITH THE WIND and (your favorite…lol) THE GREAT GATSBY. Loved both of them! I don’t re-read novels very often because I have way too many books piled up waiting to be read for the first time.
    Like you, Diane, there are some books that are just so wonderful that I won’t skip a single little detail. But if I do skip details, it is when an author writes too much about weather and scenery or repeats a character’s POV, feelings, etc., too often. Once I know how a character feels about something, I don’t need to read it over and over again. Yawn.
    I thought Wally Lamb’s latest got a bit too bogged down with some of the history details so I skimmed it. It was just too disruptive to the main story for me. Otherwise, I loved the book.

  7. ronnie on May 29, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    First I would like to thank the Academy for the award I am about to receive. I would like to thank my parents, without them I wouldn’t be here. And of course none of this would be possible without the blood sweat and tears of my favorite author Diane Chamberlain (Diane this is where you stand and bow to the standing ovation). Yippie and Yahoo!!!!
    I am not a re-reader.If I love the book (as in all Diane’s-another ovation) I read every word. If it is a book that I am trying to get through or is too wordy and repetitive I skim and skip.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on May 29, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    All, I just added a comment about book placement in stores to the previous post.
    Ronnie, you always make me laugh!
    Julie, this is very exciting news! You must have a dynamite query letter; it’s so hard to get an agent’s attention these days. You have to keep us posted!
    Margo, I did so much research for Keeper of the Light. I do for all my books, of course, but I remember being obsessive about it back then. I met with a stained glass artist and he showed me every step of the process. I love beautiful stained glass and so enjoyed writing about Annie’s art (and later, about Lacey’s as well). I’m glad you loved that book as much as I did.

  9. Julie on May 29, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Thanks, Diane, I will!
    By the way, your little collage of book covers near the top of the page looks so pretty. I like it!

  10. Ingrid on May 29, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    There are very few books I reread, I can probably count them on the fingers of one hand. I can hardly keep up with all the new books I want to read, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to reread books. I do sometimes skip details – it really depends on the writer and the story.
    Your books, Diane, fall into the “read every word” category (and like Margo, I’d have to say that “Keeper of the Light” is one of my favorites, too). Yours are the perfect combination of wonderful characters, mesmerizing stories, and beautiful writing.
    And can I just say I LOVE the photo you chose for this post!

  11. Margo on May 30, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Julie, I meant to mention earlier how excited I am for you!…knowing how hard it must be to get an agent and publisher’s attention I’m really thrilled this has happened…plz keep us all posted!
    I want to mention to everyone that I don’t reread everything…just a very select few books in my lifetime that I pickup a 2nd (and in the case of Diane’s books, 5 times) time to read. I am addicted to reading and always have been, so like everyone else who’s commented, I have far too many new books to read too…a nice stack is developing on my bedside table as we speak! The main books I reread are Diane’s and Elin Hilderbrand who writes of Nantucket Island beautifully. KEEPER OF THE LIGHT I have read more than any other book and it still comes down from my ‘Diane Shelf’ every so many years…each time I read it I handle the pages with tender loving care. Diane, your research really, really shows in this one…everything is perfect and knowing you spent so much time with the stained glass artist really exemplifies in your writing…I would have sworn you were an artist of glass yourself!…as you know, this is the book that introduced me to you 14-15 years ago and when I read it I thought to myself, ‘Diane must be a stained glass artist to write about it so beautifully’…the symbolism with colored glass mirroring the light of the lighthouse was magical. Just talking about it makes me want to reread it again but I’m starting SECRETS SHE LEFT BEHIND this weekend!!!!!!!(-O:
    Ronnie, you’re too much LOL!!

  12. Jo on May 30, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I just had this conversation on this topic this morning. I’m not a re-reader. But I have seen the joy of the re-read experience through my husband who re-reads favorites, usually years apart and also will skim-read a book he’s already read to prepare for a sequel. He says it reminds him of important plot & character elements and makes the sequel more satisfying. Hmmm. I have a few days to wait until my copy of *Secrets* arrives, so I think I’m going to dig out my copy of Before the Storm and try my hand at skim-reading to whet my appetite. Fun!

  13. Gina on May 30, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Read 100 pages so far. I’m reading MUCH too quickly, I need to slow down so I can savor every word.
    Loving it!

  14. Denise on May 30, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    After reading KEEPER, I assumed that Diane was a stained glass artist because she was so knowledgeable about it!
    Julie, I meant to congratulate you, too! I see great things in your future. πŸ™‚
    Gina, I read it in two days. It’s so good!

  15. brenda on May 31, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    I reread the classics-of course-because I teach English…and my favorites GWTW, Jane Eyre, W. Heights-P&Prejudice-all those I love love…however, as I mentioned I reread Diane’s and Barbara Delinsky’s regularly…and Carlene Thompson (WV writer) and a couple of others..I read so fast that often there are not enough new books out…when I was a little girl, I would read over 200 books from the bookmobile every summer-others doubted I really read them-I did…it is not a gift-often it is a curse-because I run out of things to read…I like every genre except science fiction. Congrats to those of you who won the book plates…how generous of Diane–her time especially.

  16. Margo on May 31, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Denise, you are a fast reader!…2 days, wow!…I’m starting SECRETS today but no way will I have it read that fast…I’m a slow reader, but deliberately. I’m just finishing a previous novel and then it’s onto Diane’s!!…I can hardly wait!!…when it’s time for dinner tonite, Gary might find himself looking at me with food in mouth and my eyes buried in the book at the same time…I’m afraid they’ll be no conversation between us tonite…luckily he’s very understanding because he knows how much I love Diane. (-O:

  17. Lorraine on June 1, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Hi there…just recently discovered your books (through Denise Gibbs). This “do you re-read?” question caught my eye because I have ALWAYS re-read books and my husband thinks I’m crazy. There are enough books out there to read, he says, so why waste time re-reading some? lol….
    As a child I re-read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and others whose titles I’ve forgotten. As an adult I re-read those very same books every once in awhile. πŸ™‚
    Other books that I’ve read many times include the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Narnia books, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books (but not Poirot), Gone With the Wind, certain James Michener books (because who can remember all that history after only one reading?), and the Harry Potter books.
    And I am definitely a “skipper”, especially if it’s very suspenseful and the main character is in danger. Should I confess that I skipped to the very end of the last Harry Potter book, then went back and read the whole thing? lol…Since I’ve just been introduced to your books I went to the library the other day to look. I took out The Courage Tree but flew through it because I had to know how it turned out. Now I might go back and read all the details. (Sorry… as a writer who probably agonizes over those “details” you may not want to hear me say I skipped over them. I promise to go back…)
    So yes, add me to that “re-reader” and “skipper” club. heehee… πŸ™‚

  18. Lori on June 2, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Diane…I am a new fan and picked up SECRETS today BUT will go and read BEFORE THE STORM first! I wanted to say that I am not a rereader only because once I know what happens at the end, I am satisfied. I also will not read the book if I see the movie first (which rarely happens). Sometimes I will pickup a book and be halfway through before I realize that I have already read it! That does not count does it? As a kindergarten teacher, I get to reread picture books that are the foundation of my classroom. Thanks for the great blog! I can’t wait to read your books this summer!

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