Before I started blogging, I re-read ALL the time. I would say that prior to 2012, probably 50% of my reads in any given year were re-reads. Then, I started blogging and the re-reading sort of drifted away. It didn’t stop completely, but it lessened significantly. I think I re-read a total of FIVE books in 2014, out of 150 books read. That’s barely a drop in bucket. Of course, I love discovering new books too, but there’s just something special about re-reading to me.
One of my bookish goals in 2015 was to re-read more. I set my Goodreads challenge super low in terms of what I can realistically accomplish because I wanted to give myself the freedom to re-read more without worrying if I was meeting my goal. This year, I set my Goodreads challenge goal at 50 books. That’s 100 books less than I read in 2013 and 2014. Now, I probably won’t re-read 100 books this year, but I want to have the option to do so while still challenging myself.
I’ve really been making an effort to embrace re-reading this year, and so far I’ve already re-read more books than I did in 2014. To date I’ve re-read six books. It’s not a huge number, but I’ve set a pretty good pace, and it’s true that I’ve fallen in love with re-reading all over again. These past few years I’ve been distracted by so many bright & shiny new releases that I forgot why I love re-reading in the first place. Re-reading, for me, gives me a richer reading experience.
I enjoy re-reading so much because I already know the story. It’s comforting to return to a story you love, and when I re-read I’m not hung up on keeping up with where the story is going or how things are going to end. I already know that. Instead, I get to focus more on adding layers to a story I already know.
I’m a pretty deep reader at times. I enjoy the craft of story-telling, so I pay close attention to the books I read my first time through, but there’s always something I pick up on the second time around that I didn’t the first. This month I’ve re-read I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson and all three released books in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle series. Both of those authors write stories with lots of layers, so I was shocked to realize just how much I discovered in these books upon re-reading, especially since I read all The Raven Cycle books in a row which I hadn’t done previously. I was amazed at how the tiniest thing from book 1 to be called back in book 3. My understanding and appreciation grew for these books upon re-reading in a way I don’t think they would have otherwise.
Re-reading also tends to give me a stronger emotional attachment. Take The Raven Cycle for example. I’ve always thought Maggie Stiefvater wrote beautiful prose, even when I haven’t liked her stories(I wasn’t a huge fan of Shiver). I’ve always enjoyed the story of Blue and the Raven Boys, but my attachment to the books wasn’t deep. I thought they were good and I even gave Blue Lily, Lily Blue 5 stars, but I wasn’t emotionally attached to the plot or the characters. I got SUPER attached during my re-read though. Because I already knew the story, I was able to really delve into the lives of the characters and for the first time felt really invested. Before, I liked the books with a sense of detachment because I thought the story was good. Now, I really care.
Here’s the downside of re-reading, though: sometimes I don’t love a book as much the second time around. So far, this hasn’t happened with any of the books I’ve re-read this year, but it’s always a slight fear in the back of my mind whenever I pick up a book to re-read, because it’s happened to me before.
When I was in middle school, I found Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series. I remember being in awe. It was fantasy, which was pretty much the only thing I read at the time, but it wasn’t like any fantasy I had read before. Both death & the dead played a huge role in the book and I remember being fascinated because it was the first time I had ever read a fantasy that didn’t mind getting dark. Even as a child, I was drawn to the dark stories. I fell in love and checked all the books out of the library several times. They were influential to my own imagination and the kind of the stories I wrote as I was growing up.
Flash forward about a decade to 2013. I learned that Garth Nix was releasing another book set in the same world, Clariel. I’m pretty sure my scream of excitement was heard ’round the world. In honor of Clariel’s release, I decided to re-read the books, so I went down to my local used bookstore and found all the books for super cheap. I started re-reading Sabriel, and. . . all the magic was gone. I had to force myself through the book. I found it mostly boring with some good parts. If I was reviewing it for the blog, I would have given it 3 stars at most.
I re-read a favorite, and it lost its favorite status. Of course, reading taste can change a lot in a decade, and I’m not the same person or reader I was when I first read the series. I’m no longer in the target age group for the books, and it’s possible that nostalgia made me tougher on the book than I would have been otherwise. However, even with all these reasons, the end result remained: I didn’t love the book anymore.
Still, in the end I think the benefits of re-reading, at least for me personally, outweigh the possible cons, sad as it to demote a book from favorite status. We’ll see what other books I decide to re-read this year, especially since some of my favorite series are wrapping up in the fall.
LET’S CHAT: Do you re-read frequently(or at all)? What’s your favorite thing about re-reading? Have you ever re-read a book and didn’t like it as much the second time around?