Let's talk about re-reads

Re-reads. Reading a book for a second, third, or even more times. I was thinking about this the other day as I hit the play button on my audiobook began my second (or is it third? I can't remember) re-read of Hilary Mantel's amazing novel, Wolf Hall. Because let's be honest, I have - and I say this in the literal sense - hundreds of books in my home that have been read zero times. And given my previous calculations involving my expected life-span and average reading, it seems mighty dangerous to waste any dedicated reading time on re-reading a book that's already been enjoyed.

So why would I live so dangerously close to the edge? As it turns out, I only re-read books if they fall in two specific categories. 

CATEGORY A

Good books that are either a part of a series that the author takes their damn sweet time cranking out the next book necessitating a re-read of the last book in the series to refresh your memory in order to obtain maximum enjoyment out of the most recent release in the series. This nurtures a love/hate relationship with the author, but can be avoided by simply waiting for the entire series to be written before picking up Book 1 to begin with. Essentially, if you find yourself in this trap, it's your own damned fault (although it happens to the best of us). Other books that might fall in this category are books you enjoyed that have finally been adapted to the screen and you want to refresh your memory so you can properly rip apart the screen production and feel the right amount of angst when they completely decimate what was a darned good book. 



CATEGORY B

These books are your absolute favorite books of all time. But it's not as simple as it sounds. Because what may have been your favorite reads ever can be completely ruined by a re-read. I mean, are you ever going to recapture that amazing feeling invoked by your favorite novel twenty years ago? You might be treading dangerous waters here. Case in point: my re-read of Wuthering Heights at age 40 turned my favorite novel from my teens from a nostalgic warm fuzzy in my heart into a serious eye-rolling wall-banger with me muttering "Oh grow the fuck up" every other page. After 25 years, the novel was knocked off my all-time favorites list and that a serious repercussion. One must be wary indeed. 



As I pushed play on Mantel's novel Wolf Hall, I made sure to ask myself whether this was a good idea. The BBC will be presenting a mini-series of the Booker Prize-winning novel in just a few months and I have high hopes for the production. The audiobook version of the novel, narrated by Simon Slater, is utterly brilliant given that reading the novel with it's present tense narration is difficult at best. Slater, as if by magic, elucidates Mantel's story like no internal reading voice ever could. Believe me, I tried. Three times with the dead-tree version to no avail. It took the audiobook version before I understood it and then....it was magical. 

So I feel pretty safe with this re-read. I'm nearly half through and still finding lines and bits here and there that I somehow missed the last time (how?) that make me laugh out loud. Am I sacrificing an unread novel sitting here that will probably now never get read? Probably. It's worth it.

What makes you re-read a book?

20 comments:

  1. I either re-read for pure love of the book or if there is so much to the story that another reading will reveal even more to me. I, admittedly, don't like to reread. I get all nervous that with each reread I do, that's a NEW book that I'll never get around to. But there are a few that I just can't help myself. And I just finished One Hundred Years of Solitude and KNOW I'll be re-reading that one!

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    1. I loved that book. Haven't done a re-read of it yet. It's on the list. Layers...some books just have layers!

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  2. I also find it hard to reread a book since I have unread books waiting for me. And pretty much, I have the same two categories for reread qualification. Though with category A and long droughts between releases in a series, I'm still more likely to read the next book in the series and hope it gives enough recap to jog my memory! ;)

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    1. I think it depends on how much I love the series. If it's a meh series, yeah, I'll just hope the next one jogs my memory. If I'm completely honest, re-reading the last one of an excellent series may just be me making excuses. I'm good at lying to myself. Pfffft.

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  3. I almost never re-read. I'm really thinking hard here...Life of Pi? One in print, the other on audio. Ugh. Once you know the whole twist of that one, it lost its magic. I re-read one of Stephen King's short story collections (Night Shift), The Shining and Insomnia. I think that is about it. I read way too slow. And you are right, I bet some of my favorites as a young person would not hold up now.

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    1. Really? You are stronger than I am. I can't resist certain books. Lonesome Dove held up for re-reads so well, so did Gone With the Wind. I get nostalgic for them. But, that said, I can never re-create that magic of the "first time." *sniff*

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  4. It's rare that I re-read, but if I do they fall into the same categories as yours or overlap the two. I'm re-reading Harry Potter at the moment, because I love the series so much. I remember having to re-read all the books before the next came out as well.

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    1. A Harry Potter re-read is on my list. This year. I'm thinking they just don't diminish over time.

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  5. I haven't been in a Category A situation in a while (though admittedly I just put myself in one with Holmberg's Magician series, though my need for the finale isn't urgent). I might re-read a book if I know I loved it upon first reading but can't remember it now (e.g. Little Women, Middlesex). Other than that, new books all the way! :)

    Sorry to hear that about Wuthering Heights. It's on my Classics Club list - should I try it?

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    1. I'd be curious to hear what you think of Wuthering Heights. I now put it into that category of "Books that Must be Read as a Teen." Because it's stark black and white themes speak to us best when we're young. Much like Stephen King's The Stand. Good v Evil, no in-between that we seem to understand much better the older we get, you know? So I always find it very interesting to hear what people think of these books at different ages.

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  6. I haven't been in a Category A situation in a while (though admittedly I just put myself in one with Holmberg's Magician series, though my need for the finale isn't urgent). I might re-read a book if I know I loved it upon first reading but can't remember it now (e.g. Little Women, Middlesex). Other than that, new books all the way! :)

    Sorry to hear that about Wuthering Heights. It's on my Classics Club list - should I try it?

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  7. I am not a big re-reader for pretty much the reasons you mentioned - lack of time and too many books! But I am finishing up my 3rd re-read of The Poisonwood Bible and I have no regrets. It is one of my favorite books. I think I have re-read maybe 5 books in my life but if you don't re-read your favorites, how do you know they are still your favorites?

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    1. Do you know that I've not yet read The Poisonwood Bible? Egads, even my husband has read that novel. I feel horrible about this.

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  8. I used to be a serial re-reader. Now, if I re-read anything it is going from print to audio or vice versa. When I did re-read more often, I always went for nostalgic favorites, i.e. those classics I loved when I was younger that never really lost their tarnish over the years, or stories that provide comfort and entertainment. Nora Roberts falls solidly into that second category. So does the Harry Potter series.

    BTW, I still love Wuthering Heights; it actually remains one of my all-time favorite books.

    Also, where would you stick the Outlander series? ;)

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    1. I started laughing before I even read the last line you wrote because I KNEW YOU WERE GOING THERE. That series falls directly in the hell on Earth....why do we do it? I'm so done. #everythingbutoutlandersucks And I hate you for bringing it up...now I need to make a therapy appt. Bah.

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    2. Aw. You know you love me! ;)

      Why do we do it? It's a lot like getting a tattoo. It sucks a lot when you are getting one, but you can't wait to get the next one the minute you walk out the door.

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  9. I reread for comfort. Bad day-HP or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I definitely also like to reread a series before I get into a new book when I can. I'm starting to develop some anxiety that I haven't even read Wolf Hall for the first time though, I need to get on that.

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    1. You know, you're absolutely right. I completely forgot about comfort re-reads. Which apply for mental/emotional comfort or physical (flu, etc). Don't read Wolf Hall, btw....listen to it. It will make all the difference. Even if you're not normally an audiobook person.

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  10. Same reasons (series books and favorites), same problems. I used to also periodically reread my favorite books about positive thinking whenever I needed an upper. Haven't done that in a while but I never feel bad about rereading something that leaves a lingering feeling that I can conquer the world (or, at least get through another week).

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