20 September 2013

To Re-Read Or Not, That Is the Question

In the last year or so, I’ve started to do more and more re-reads, both of books I read years ago and have fond memories of, or books that I read shortly before I started blogging and really want to write a review.

Re-reading a favorite book is something I actually find quite scary.  What if my memory has made this book to be more than it actually was?  What if my tastes have changed so much that a book I had on a pedestal is now something I will detest with every fiber of my being?  Is it actually possible that a book could be BETTER than I remembered?

When I was a teenager and in my early twenties, there were several books I read over and over again – some of them I even finished the last page and then turned straight back to the first page and read it all over again.  All of those books have a place in my heart – and now that I’ve re-read several of’ those’ books, I can say that although my preferences may have changed for which books I pick up to read in the first instance, those things about the books that I loved years ago are still making me happy as a reader.

One example that immediately springs to mind is the Tomorrow series by John Marsden.  Those books were released when I was a teenager, and being set in Australia they really resonated with me.  I remember anticipating the release of each one, stalking the local bookstore until it was available, running home and reading the WHOLE SERIES AGAIN each time just so I could be sure that I remembered every little detail.  I loved the drama, the romance and the friendships and I must have read the first book at least a dozen times over that period.  (Quite) A few years later someone on Goodreads asked me if I had read the series and all those memories came flooding back.  I started stalking used copies on Amazon, fruitlessly rummaged for e-book versions and more than a year later found out that Quercus was re-releasing the whole series in the UK.  So I bought all the released copies, pre-ordered the upcoming releases and ….. put the books on my shelf.

I was so frightened that I would ruin my teenage memories of those books by reading them again.  They would be dated, the things that appealed to me as a young and rather naïve teenager might now be drowned in the sea of my thirty-something-cynicism.  Then the movie came out, I watched it and loved it, I listened to the first book on audio for a different perspective and loved it, and it was time to bite the bullet.

I loved the hell out of those books, and I was stoked to realize that I still loved the hell out of those books, even years later.

There have been disappointments, sure (I’m staring RIGHT AT YOU World War Z), but there have been books that I liked MORE the second time around, particularly now that I write my feelings down on paper (um, screen) and that my preferred genres are so much wider.

I’ve often seen bloggers say they don’t have time to re-read, and I totally get that (hello impossibly huge TBR that will outlive me).  But maybe we SHOULD make more time for those books that we desperately loved and have never had a chance to get back to again?  After all, we all have our comfort zones in other ways, right?  Whether it’s hibernating in bed when life gets icky, or eating ice-cream like it’s going out of fashion whilst watching sappy movies.  So why don’t we get out those teenage/last year/last month favorites and eat ice-cream whilst in bed and devouring those books we love.  Is it time management, fear or something else?

Do you re-read books that you loved, or are you a scaredy cat with far too many other books to read? What's your favorite book to re-read?


  1. The only books I re-read are the Harry Potter books. I get an itch every year or so to re-read them, and I do. I need to get back to this year's re-reading; I got distracted by other books! I am scared of re-reading my absolute favorites (especially Little Women and Jane Eyre because I haven't read either since college) because what if I can't appreciate and love them as much?! And I convince myself that I don't have TIME to re-read because there are so many other books out there. I of course re-read books that I'm thinking about teaching (Words in the Dust, The Outsiders - which I'm in the middle of teaching right now during my student teaching experience, etc.). Great post. Maybe I'll have to dig out some of those ol' favorites and take a trip down memory lane. :)

  2. There have been books I've re-read so many times... and I still make time to re-read them! But yeah, now I don't think I re-read as much as I did before!

  3. I have a few books I've reread a dozen times - the literary equivalent of a pint of ice cream. When I'm feeling blah or nothing looks good I crack open an early Anita Blake novel and forget myself for a while. Much healthier and no dishes to do afterward.

    On the other hand I have a few books, mostly stuff that I loved in high school, that I'm scared to ever pick up again. Stuff like His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman that created a world I can still picture now. Part of me is scared that it won't be as good as I remember, but another part of me is scared that the reason is because *I've* changed. That if I were to pick up that novel for the first time today, in my current brain space and circumstance, I wouldn't like it. I don't now how to explain that to the high schooler that's still inside of me.

  4. I don't re-read a lot of books...because most of the time I don't find books I see as worth the time even if I did love it. I'm super picky I suppose.
    I do re-read certain things and I know almost immediatly if I'm ever going to revisit a book in the future. There are some that I've read more than once and I hated it, like Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland. I read it in middle school and adored it...read it again in high school and hated it...I haven't tried it again but I probably will.
    I re-read books like Harry Potter, childhood favorites (Runaway Ralph & Chasing Redbird), and Shakespeare. I've read Harry Potter so many times that I'm not sure if I'm on re-read number 4, 5 or 6...Except the last two books which I've only read once and I'm terrified to pick up again. Only because I know I'm going to cry, lol. I probably should make time to re-read other things though.

  5. Like you, I was an avid re-reader (prior to blogging) but now I've found that my TBR pile is WAAAAAY out of control so it's become a bit more difficult to re-read. But I totally SHOULD and I do try to make the effort when and where I can. Because I tend to both a real book and audiobook going at the same time, I find myself getting old favourites on audio that way I can experience the books I love in a new way. It always lends something to the reading experience that I wouldn't have gotten had I just picked it up the old-fashioned (cringes for using that phrase) way.

    When it comes to re-reading, I think it's safe to say that we all share the same fears. It's like that for me with older movies/TV shows too. I'm always afraid that I've built them up so much that now, it's virtually impossible for them to live up to those expectations. And admittedly, it's always a little sad when they, in fact, DON'T. But every so often there comes that book/show/movie that reinvigorates me and re-engages me. I remember why I loved said book/movie/show so much and it's inspiring and uplifing and totally makes it all worthwhile again. If I'm ever in a reading slump, I reach for the favs because that'll usually be what pulls me out of it.

  6. I absolutely re-read books. Not as much as I used to, but I'd be very upset if someone waved a magic wand and made it so that once you read a book, that's it, you can never visit it again.

  7. I most defintiely re-read. I always have re-read my favorites. When I started blogging I did feel like I didn't have time to do that anymore more because I need material for my blog. I didn't want to spend time re-reading books I couldn't do a post on when I had other books (new to me) I could do a post on. Until I asked myself, "why can't I do some kind of post revolving around re-reading?" And that birthed the idea for two different features on my blog.

    One I call "From the Ashes." This is where I re-read books that I read before I started blogging. I do a basic review of those books as I would any other book, but I try to add a little history about my experience with the series. The other feature I call "Upon Further Review." This is where I re-read books that I actually have reviewed on the blog. My post will consist of anything I feel like I left out of my first review, anything that stood out to me with the second (or third or whatever) read, along with stating whether my original rating of the book "stands" or if the rating needs to be "overturned"--if that's the case, then my new rating.

    That's my two cents and how I plan to incorporate re-reading into the blog. I've already done several From the Ashes posts, but my first Upon Further Review post is set to post in early November.

    Hope that helps.

    Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know

  8. I first read 'to read or not?' And I immediately thought about a picture I saw on Tumblr "To read or not to read, that is a silly question' :p

    But, back to the real topic, I re-read quite often. Sometimes it can be a bit scary yes, I'm always afraid that I'm more mature and critical, but most of the times I end up loving the book just as much as the first time. Right now, I'm re-reading Throne of glass before picking up Crown of midnight and it's still belongs to one of the best YA fantasy books in my eyes. One book I often re-read is one of my favorites: The book thief. And I love returning to Harry Potter now and then :)

    I know that I actually don't have the "time" to re-read. There are so many unread books on my shelves and so many waiting to be bought/published, but then I try to remember: why am I read? Because I enjoy books and I love stories. So why not return to a book I know I'm going to love? :)

  9. I've actually not re-read a lot of books over the years, mainly because I have this creepy ability to actually remember most everything that happens in the books. (And yet, I have to watch a movie 16 times before I can remember anything and even then it can sometimes remain hazy...weird.) Anyway, I think 'oh yeah, that was in it and I didn't like it' or 'yep, I remember how that goes' and it takes the fun out of it some. But one book I've re-read multiple times and am probably going to break out again this year is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. For some reason, I just can't get enough of that book! I can practically recite the lines by heart and yet I still want to read it again and again. And if I'm feeling a bit out of sorts, it's my go-to book to perk me back up again.

    Maybe someday my memory will dull on me where books are concerned and then I will find myself re-reading more. But unless a book has just overwowed me so much that I have to make time to read it again, re-reads will probably not become a part of my reading habits anytime soon.

    Great post!

    Wendy @ Escape Into Fiction

  10. I used to re-read a lot before I became a blogger, as my primary source of books came from the small English book corners in my local (Japanese) bookstores, which pretty much contained the exact same ten or so YA novels, mainly PNR from the NYT bestselling list, and a couple steamy Adult novels and never really changed. Now, since book blogging's introduced me to so many new books, I don't really have the time to re-read books over and over again like I used to, but I still find myself re-reading HP (I'm a huge fan :P) often. I've re-read The Fault in Our Stars, Y. S. Lee's The Agency series, and Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series a few times (these are the ones that come to mind). So my answer is, yes, I do re-read books I love, though I have a never-ending pile of books still waiting to be read. I can't help it - I love these books, and I'd like to go back and savor them for as long as possible :)

  11. I used to re-read books all the time before I started blogging. But now with all the books I want to read, and the huge pile of books I own that I haven't read it, I don't do it. Part of me misses it though, although when I'm so hard to cut down on my reading pile, it's almost as if I feel guilty for rereading instead. But hopefully I can make more time for it (it's even on my 101 in 1001 list to reread my favorites), plus I'd love to review some of those on the blog too!

  12. Rereading books is definitely scary. I've ruined some childhood favorites doing that (The Giver, Madeleine L'engle's Time books), but nothing proves something is an enduring favorite than both the impulse to reread and finding that you love the book even more the second or third or twenty-fifth time through. I hope to fit in more rereads. We'll see how that goes.

    1. Oh, also, favorite book to reread is probably P&P. My teenage feels demand it.



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