Centireading. Have you heard of it? Me neither but it’s officially a thing now because it’s on the internet. A gent in the UK named Stephen Marche invented the word and you can read all about it at the Guardian (via).

What is centireading you ask? Why reading a book one hundred times of course. Since my response was why on earth would anyone want to read a book 100 times, I am not a good candidate for centireading. Marche says that it

belongs to the extreme of reader experience, the ultramarathon of the bookish, but it’s not that uncommon. To a certain type of reader, exposure at the right moment to Anne of Green Gables or Pride and Prejudice or Sherlock Holmes or Dune can almost guarantee centireading.

Extreme sports I can understand, but extreme reading? Nope (unless it involves reading in strange, possibly dangerous, places then extreme reading makes sense to me). I’m not much of a rereader to begin with. I only ever reread one to three books a year and sometimes none. The most I have ever read a book is six times. The honor belongs to Pride and Prejudice. I can imagine reading it again one day, but I would be surprised if, at the end of my life, the total times I’d read it reached ten. Still, I suppose one never really knows. Perhaps one day I will be snowed in somewhere and have only one book to read and one thing will lead to another and before I know it I’ve read it 99 times and once you get that far you have to read it one more time just so you can say you read it 100 times.

Marche has only read two books 100 times, Hamlet and The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. Yes, after reading a book so many time you are on the verge of having it memorized. And yes,

By the time you read something more than a hundred times, you’ve passed well beyond “knowing how it turns out”. The next sentence is known before the sentence you’re reading is finished. […] Centireading reveals a pleasure peculiar to text lurking underneath story and language and even understanding. Part of the attraction of centireading is that it provides the physical activity of reading without the mental acuity usually required.

So it seems eventually after a certain point, even Hamlet becomes a sort of comfort read. Still, you’d have to really like a book a lot to read it that many times. And what about all those other books you don’t read because your are reading that book again?

A faint tang of guilt can sometimes follow a bout of centireading. Life is brief and there is so much to read. But I cannot imagine that I will find another book to read a hundred times in my life. You can be acquaintances with many books, and friends with a few, but family with only one or two.

What is the most times you have ever read a book? How likely is it you will ever be a member of the centireading club?

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