Bookish Rant: Revisiting Re-Reads

Filed in Bookish Rant or Raves , featured , The Needy Lover Posted on September 19, 2013 @ 7:00 am 3 comments

Books_PDAmongst all of us book lovin’ fiends around here, it’s no surprise that we all read every- and anything that looks and sounds promising. The first time you read a great book can be nearly indefinable in the emotion and excitement it engenders. But what about multiple readthroughs?

Lately, I’ve found myself reaching to the back of my bookshelves and rereading some beloved titles, from the early Kara Gillian books to the Chicagoland Vampires series and, most recently, the September BLI Book Club pick, The Iron Duke. In the middle of reading a new book recently, I even stopped suddenly, immediately grabbed up my well-loved copy of Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas, and proceeded to reread my favorite sections (read: more than 60% of the book) over the few hours that followed. A recent “Booking Through Thursday” topic got me thinking even more about rereads…namely, what’s the aim in reading a book again, and what do we get out of it? Here are a couple lines of thought that came to mind on that subject…

Total recall. I usually take plenty of notes when reading a book, just to have something to reference later on; great for reflection and review writing. Yet I find that if I’m reading a series with a continuous narrative–as with many urban fantasies–the compulsion is strong to go through and reread all the preceding book in the series, especially if a lot of time has elapsed in between. (There’s nothin’ more maddening than not remembering crucial world-building details or picking up on callbacks and in-jokes in a book. The way I see it, I like to be prepared to engage the latest series title and get the maximum enjoyment out of *that* new first-time experience.) This is why I have to recap Kate Daniels books, and why I used to quickly revisit Anita Blake before each new release. It’s refreshing the mental encyclopedia, y’know?

Bringing back the magic. Mostly, though, I think rereads are done to re-experience a great book. After all, how often do you reread a book you can’t stand? There are some books for which it seems no repeat reading can quite bring back that visceral, magical, singular experience. (For example, Ender’s Game, with its jarring focus on war strategist children and its mindblowing twists, the first read can never be matched in subsequent attempts–for now I’ll try to ignore the possibility that the author’s close-minded antics have become increasingly distracting over the years, as well. But to match that heady effect of the book, you’d have to read a retelling, which is precisely what Orson Scott Card wrote in Ender’s Shadow). For those titles that seem to be just as good if not better on subsequent readings…that’s when you claim it for your mate and never let go. 🙂 For me, that’s means things like Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) or the Aftertime books (Sophie Littlefield). It’s the guaranteed enjoyment that is sometimes most needed to tide over a reading slump or cleanse palate from a horrible read.

There are the rarer occasions in which I DNF a book (or perhaps just put it on extended pause without reading all the way through), and later try to take another stab at finishing completely. I suppose it’s not a reread in the truest sense, but every once in a while, I’m able to find something in the part of a DNF that I did read that drives me to discover the parts I didn’t read before. I’d say this is perhaps one of the biggest success and triumph of a second readthrough, don’tcha think?

I’m sure you’ve reread at least a book or two here and there. If/when you do, is it for a refresher/reminder, or to relive enjoyable bookish moments? Does it tend to be just as good the second (or third, fourth, etc.) time around? If you could wave magic fingers and be able to read a previously-read book for the first time again, what would it be?

About Alisha

Alisha, the bespectacled and ever nerdy California girl, simply won't leave home without a book in hand. She loves language learnin' and is working toward becoming a bonafide grammar ninja. On any given day you'll find her haunting local libraries or baking scores of cupcakes and sweet treats.

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  • draconismoi September 19, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    To Enjoy! And yes, if it is a book worthy of re-reading, then it is just as enjoyable no matter how many times you re-read.

    Is a great movie you’ve seen 100 times just as enjoyable the 101st? YES.

    SAME THING. (I might have been having this argument with my mother for the last 15 years. You’ve struck a bit of a nerve.)

  • Susan September 19, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    I’m a yes to all of your re-read questions. I have certain “comfort” books that I regularly pick up for a quick re-read–and several of Sherry Thomas’s books are definitely on that list.

    I’ll also re-read books in a series in advance of a new release–both to refresh my memory and to get back in the zone, so to speak. And sometimes I’ll re-read the earlier books *after* reading the latest book because of something that made me view all the previous books in a different light. The Cal Leandros series is an example of the latter–there was a revelation in the latest book that made me go back to the beginning to see all the clues/references I’d missed or glossed over.

    Even with multiple re-reads, I can still discover something new/different–a turn of phrase or a description I didn’t adequately appreciate the first time, or even viewing a certain scene from a different perspective.

    Sadly, there are some books that were almost life-altering the first time ’round that just don’t hold up with time but, fortunately, those are rare for me.

    And, yes, I do this with movies, too. I can totally go all Howard Hughes/Ice Station Zebra over favorite movies/tv series. 🙂 Cass, I once had a boss who had never once re-watched something he’d already seen. I couldn’t even begin to fathom that mindset.

    (Sorry for the long post.)

  • aurian September 24, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Ooo great post Alisha! I love re-reading my favourite series. For one, you know you will enjoy it, and secondly, sometimes you just need to be comforted by a familiar world building and characters. When I am too tired to focus on a new book, a new world, the one you already know and love is just the thing. And I am with Susan, sometimes after reading the new book, I revisit the old ones because I don’t want to leave that world just yet.

    And often you just pick up something you missed the first 10 times, and the book still manages to surprise and amaze you. For instance, I have already read Written in Red by Anne Bishop 5 times since it was published in March. It is just that good. Sometimes out of the blue, I just remember something about it, and want to read it again. And from one passage, I just read the whole book again. But I do skip the bad persons POV then.

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