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Random Thoughts: Re-reading and Re-rating

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the idea of re-reading books. Some books were just so amazing that when I went back for a re-read, whether it was immediately or months or years down the road, the experience wasn’t the same. Either the story felt too juvenile, I was in a different place in my life and I just didn’t connect with it in the same way, or the magic I felt with that first read was no longer there.

So, I’m always hesitant when I go back to re-read a book I’d loved. Always fearing that with this second read, I wouldn’t be surprised and caught up in the magic, but instead I’d notice the poor sentence structure, the continuity errors, the poorly developed characters, or the unrealistic situations the characters were placed in. And while that’s not always the case, there is always a chance that on my re-read, my rating would not be the same.

While there is the likelihood that I could enjoy a book more if, for example, I wasn’t in the right head space when I first read it, it’s not that common. It has happened once or twice, but that’s it. Because typically books I’m not in the mood for I don’t read until I am.

So, it’s more likely that upon re-reading a book I’m going to like it just a bit less. Especially if I pick it back up after more than a year. By then my feelings toward it might have changed. Or I might have discovered books in that same genre that were more exciting, more thought out, more captivating or just written that much better. Or I might have learned something about the author or authors that would taint my view of the book that I once loved.

Though, things are a bit different for a series. If a series gets better, I might be more excited when going back to re-read. I might find out new tidbits of information about the characters I missed on first inspection. I might fall in love with the series all over again, even deeper than I did the first time around.

Of course if the series gets worse, I might start noticing flaws I didn’t find during that first read. Or things I didn’t see as flaws until my dislike of the series colored my view of it. Or things that were once charming personality quirks might now be seen as annoying if the character has become unlikable.

So, it’s with great hesitancy that I approach a re-read. Especially as a reviewer. Because those books I originally gave four or five stars to might not get those same ratings when reading them for review. And whether it is because I’m now looking at those books more critically or they are re-reads that I just don’t feel the same about as I once did, a five star rating might drop to one that is three or four stars… or even lower.

Therein lies the conundrum. Is it fair to re-rate those books I re-read? Is it right to only re-rate those books I like more the second or third time around?

While I may not love the book as much as I did upon first read, it doesn’t take away from the fact that my first experience with that book was a positive one. Just because I am no longer as enamored, that doesn’t mean that I hadn’t gotten caught up in the story, hadn’t fallen in love with the characters or hadn’t been lost in those pages when first discovering the book. And while I might not feel that way anymore, I once did. So, is that experience any less valid? Any less important?

I say no. You can never recapture the same wonderment or magic from a first discovery. They say nothing beats a first kiss, well the same can be said for reading. A re-read can never replace that first introduction to the characters and story.

And you can’t recreate the exact feelings you had when first reading a book. If you read it during a particularly emotional period of time in your life, that book might have resonated with you and now that you aren’t in that same place, you might not connect to it in quite the same way.

Maybe you and the character were going through the same experiences, suffering the same heartache and loss. And on second read you were in a happier place and that similarity just didn’t exist. Therefore during the re-read you just didn’t enjoy it nearly as much and the rating might not be as high. You may wonder to yourself just why you enjoyed it so much because of the fact that you no longer had that emotional connection the second time around.

But, even if you say to yourself, “What was I thinking? There’s no way this book is a five star!” it doesn’t take away from the fact that you did think that at one point in time. So wiping out that first experience to replace it with the second doesn’t seem completely fair.

And the same is true of the reverse. Why shouldn’t that second read be counted? Isn’t the experience of the re-read just as important as that first read? What makes that second experience any less valid than the first?

I say it should count. I say it’s just as important and valid. I say a re-read experience doesn’t replace a first-read experience. But I think both experiences can be quite telling – about the book and the reviewer.

So, why is this a problem? Well, on the blogs it isn’t necessarily a problem. If you are a reviewer who likes to re-read and re-review their books, then both reviews can have a home should that reviewer want to have both. On Goodreads and Amazon and other review sites that’s where the dilemma comes in. While you can paste both reviews into the text area, even add an explanation that the rating went down or up on second or third read, you can only have one rating count for their ranking system. So which one should it be?

I’m just not sure. I think it depends.

For me, at least, unless the re-read pointed out major flaws that I just didn’t see because I was taking a mental holiday from my brain, I’d stick with that original rating if it was higher than what I thought with a re-read. I might point out at the top of the review that after re-reading the book I gave it a lower rating and go into the reasons why before I started my review. I’d probably remove my original review, if I had one, and just include the re-read review. If I had the original review on my blog, I might leave a link.

But if the rating went up with a re-read, I’d change the rating. Again, at the top of that review I’d note what my original rating was and why I increased it after the re-read before I include my review.

Is this fair and accurate? Not entirely. But I’d rather give a book that I either once loved completely or now love completely the benefit of the higher rating for purposes of those site rankings.

But what do you think?

Is there a better way to handle the dilemma of a re-read re-rate? How do you pick and choose which rating counts? Is a first read more important in your eyes or is a re-read one you value most?

17 Responses to “Random Thoughts: Re-reading and Re-rating”

  1. I do end up changing my ratings on Goodreads every now and then. Not because I re-read the books and like them more or less, but because the more I think about them, the more I notice “faults”.

    Take Wither as an example. When I first read it I really liked the writing, the characters and the story. Afterwards I started thinking about the setting. The society. The fact that the story is set in Florida, even if most of the rest of the world has been flooded. And all these little things added up to the point where I changed my original 4 star rating to 3 stars.

    There are not many books I have ever bothered re-reading. The Dark Tower series by Stephen King and Harry Potter are the only ones I can even think of right now. There are just so many books out there that I can never get to them all, but I like to think that I can try, and so I see re-reading as a waste of my limited reading time..:)

    • Fiktshun009 says:

      I was actually going to do another post about changing a rating after you’ve read a book and thought about it more, without a re-read. There are a couple books I want to increase the rating for that I loved, but didn’t realize I loved quite as much.

      I wonder if I’d have the same reaction to Wither as you did…

      It’s also funny that you mentioned The Dark Tower series. I did a whole post on that, as it’s my favorite series of all time. And one I’m too terrified to re-read. I have re-read The Waste Lands because it had been awhile since I read it before I got a chance to read Wizard and Glass, but I’m terrified of finding flaws. And while I didn’t totally adore the next couple books after W&G and his accident, that last book and the series as a whole is one I just think is utterly amazing. I do not want that feeling to change.

      I want to re-read HP, too. I loved the progression of the series, but thought the first book was just okay. I want to see if re-reading it will make me like it more. It felt very MG and the later books felt more YA. HP was the first non adult book I read as an adult.

  2. Nicole says:

    This is a difficult topic one that I hadn’t really thought about. I have of course done re-reads before but most of them were done before I started blogging.
    I think if the rating was lower/higher during a re-read then I would have to point that out by posting an update on the original review.
    Thanks for bring this topic to my attention it is something I will have to keep in mind for the future.

  3. I can’t really give my input in this topic because the only book(s) that I have re-read is The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. And if I base my opinion only on re-reading those two books then I would say that my love for those books grew when I re-read them.

  4. I don’t read reviews, but I enjoyed this post. I don’t change a review I write, like you, I think it’s impossible to recapture the essence of the first read. And, why go through and nit pick? It just makes you come off as a witch with a chip on your shoulder.

  5. Great discussion post. I very rarely reread books, but if I did, for the most part I think I would stay with my original rating. Because most readers are first time readers anyway, I think that’s what most readers of reviews are looking for. That’s not to say that the second opinion isn’t valid, I just think a book’s magic resonates with me more on the first read. And to me, that’s kind of the point.

  6. Christinak says:

    I am a re-reader. I have found that many times (especially after time) a re-read can be a like a separate book. When I was young I read (and loved) Little Women it was a favorite of mine. As an adult I re-read it with my daughter I still love it but now for very different reasons. I guess the books I have re-read are ones I have loved so much that though my perspective has changed my love for it has not. I think if you have a change of heart about a book you should post a separate review and leave the 1st one as it stands, it is still valid. I would want to read each of your viewpoints as I would read separate reviewers as sometimes when we re-read we are.

  7. There are a handful of books I will re-read and they never lose their magic. I’m doing the SSRC and it’s the first -re-read of each book and I have to say that I love it! I find things that are different or I understand better now that I’ve read all of the books. Great post!

  8. Kristin says:

    Very timely… I’m re-reading Pale Demon by Kim Harrison right now to get ready for APB on Tues. I do this all the time b/c all the series I read have a year in between & with all I read – I always forget all the details. I find that I get more out of the new book if I go back and re-read.

    To the point of your post, I’m with you on that it’s your blog, you do what you want! I would definitely note why you’re changing your review, maybe make a short new post about it. It’s about being honest, right?

    On Goodreads, if after the re-read you find more brilliance (or “WTH was I thinking?”) I would change the stars. I feel that the point on GR is that the audience is looking for quick feedback on books to read, to see if it’s their type of book, and whether to add to their TBR.

    The problem I’m running into now is that I started reading adult 2 years ago with Harrison, Caine, Kenyon and Hamilton and now I added YA, PNR & SciFi (including all those YA debut authors and free Amazon downloads). How do I justify a 4 star for Harrison as the same as a 4 star for Marissa Meyer, where one is a debut, the other is so talented and so far into her series and character development. Yikes, I’m overthinking and I’m only on 1 cup of coffee…. sorry!! (note, I take those Goodreads star descriptions literally)

    I’m looking forward to your “other” post to make sense of what I said 🙂

    • Fiktshun009 says:

      I used to rate based on comparing books and now I never ever do. You can’t compare one writing style versus another and even hope they’ll match up. It’s unrealistic and IMO unfair. I couldn’t compare Poe and Beatrix Potter. OrJane Eyre and The Little Engine That Could.

      I judge each book for my expectation of it. Did it meet everything I thought it should. Did I get caught up in the story, did the writing flow, we’re tr characters real and believable.

      Some series may improve over time showcasing an authors growth. They can also decline showing an authors lack of interest in his story and characters and only interest in the dollar. So I don’t let established or debut authors off the hook. An exciting story and quality writing and raw talent should e present whether it’s your first book or 50th. Character growth and a more richly developed world and plot are the only things I can see changing over a series that might not be there in the first book.

      Oh sorry long rambling comment! I haven’t had coffee either!

  9. Caitlin says:

    This is such a great post Rachel, I don’t really know where to start with my comment!

    Before I started blogging, I re-read a lot. In fact, I probably read the same books everyyear, with the addition of the newest in the series. Why? Because I’m a total comfort reader. So for me, the reading experience was tied up in the comforting emotions I felt at reading my old favourites.

    Having said that, as I started blogging I re-read a portion of the Sweep series by Cate Tiernan. I first read these when I was about 13/14, and me and my friends LOVED them. We obsessed over them, over what had/would happen, we talked about them constantly. I re-read them and realised that actually, the writing is pretty poor. BUT I still loved them. I loved the plotlines and the characters and I loved how they made me remember loving them when I first read them all those years ago (I’m 22 now).

    So I didn’t re-rate them, because they still merit the rating in my opinion, just for different reasons than they originally did.

    It is a dilemma though, that’s for sure. Whenever I do a re-read review, I put what I originally thought and what I think NOW and compare, and I rate them based on the NOW read, though often like I mentioned I’m tied up in the nostalgia of a book.

    I think this is an issue bloggers have to decide on for themselves really, there’s no right or wrong answer. Reviewing books will never be as unbiased, as objective as we want it to be. It’s not science. We are always influenced by other things; my our mood when we read it, by our opinions about various topics, by our preferences for writing styles/characters etc. I think we all need to accept that ratings are completely relative.

    Wow, this is really long. Almost a post in itself!

    P.S Thanks for your great comment on my discussion!! I replied to you, I loved your thoughts =]

    The Cait Files

  10. Jackie says:

    Maybe instead of re-rating a re-read, a comparison of the reading experience would be more accurate and telling than an “x/5 stars”.

    For me, a rating based one a first read is what interests me the most. Chances are, I’ll only read the book once anyway.

    But, if it’s a re-read, and a person just didn’t click with the book the second time around, I’m more interested in what changed in the reader. Why don’t the characters impact the reader as much anymore? Did the reader experience something in life that changed their outlook on the characters actions/reactions? I guess this could also be true if the reader liked the books better the second time around. (This happened to me when I re-read the Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Loved Great Gatsby the second time around better, hated re-reading Catcher in the Rye. But, I think it has a lot to do with where I was in my life. I read both as a 15 year old, then again when I was 20.)

  11. I’m scared of re-reading as well! I’ve only ever re-read 3 books: Twilight, Divergent, and Touch(Jus Accardo). I loved Divergent and Touch just as much the second time around! Twilight I re-read this past summer and I just wasn’t into it. It will always be the book that got me started into my love of reading, so I will still always love it a bit.

    “If a series gets better, I might be more excited when going back to re-read. I might find out new tidbits of information about the characters I missed on first inspection.”-I do this with television series. Most recently I did it with Game of Thrones. So many things happened in the first episode when I first watched it that I didn’t understand/know was important. Probably because I was trying to learn characters names and just get into the story.

    A part of me wishes I would re-read more…

  12. Kristin says:

    Excellent!!! Thanks for replying (even w/ lack of caf). That’s an excellent way to look each author! I was started to get all befuddled in the fact that I was giving so many 4’s and 5’s but it comes down to the basic fact that since I’m only buying my books, I only read good stuff that I’ve “researched” (I use the term loosely). I should look at each author separately (which, thankfully, I’ve done to this point!) and broken apart each book based on it’s merits alone and in the series.

    Jeez, what did I just say??? I don’t even have a clue myself…. anyways, you helped re-focus me!!! Oh, and on my re-read of Pale Demon, it’s still a 4.5, but it could be a 5. I’m not changing it, though. 🙂

  13. Aleksandra says:

    Great post & this is actually not an easy dilemma. I actually love re-reading my favorite books & almost always I’ve loved them just as much. When I finish a book, I always know if I’ll enjoy it just as much if I read it again. Actually, more than once I’ve been surprised while re-reading some of those books, because I start to love them even more, even when that’s not actually possible, because I’m already in love with them & I think they’re amazing, yet I still fall in love with them again every time I read them. That doesn’t happen often, but some examples like that are the Harry Potter series, The Graveyard Book, Stardust, etc. Also, there are some books I’ve read that I’ve given 5-star rating when I’ve read them, but I know that if I read them again, they probably won’t get the same rating, and if that’s the case, I’ll probably lower the rating, but I will write what my previous rating was. But, thankfully, they’re not a lot & I probably won’t read them again anyway, so their rating will stay the same. I know that I’m rating the books much harsher now than I did over a year ago! For example, just a few days ago I re-read Jana Oliver’s Forsaken. The first time I read it, I gave it 4.5 rating (for me that’s great book that I’ve loved) & when I finished it, I change it to 4 (which is good book that I loved), but while I was reading Forbidden, I realised that Forsaken was actually great book & it should keep the 4.5 rating, so I changed it again 😉 I also had a little trouble deciding about the rating of Forbidden since it was in between 🙁 So, although it’s rarely that I can’t make up my mind about the rating of the book, it still happens with both first-reads & re-reads. As for what is more important, first-read or re-read, can’t really say which, it all depends on the book I think. Here’s why I love re-reading books: if while re-reading a book I was still wrapped up in it & loved it just as much, maybe even more, and although I know what will happen, I’m still quite eager to continue reading it (I just can’t put it down) yet at the same time I don’t want it to end, so although I’m usually a fast reader, I’m reading it slowly than usually so it will last longer, well that for me is really amazing book that I’ll read it again & again and that will always have a 5-star rating! For the lower rating re-reads (I mean books I gave lower rating than 5 the first time) the slowly reading part doesn’t count, but most of all else does, depending on the rating & of course the genre. So, I guess, I value the 5-star re-reads a pinch more than the 5-star first-reads, but as for the rating change, as you said many things can influence it, depending on the reader & of course the mood he or she is in. I usually try nothing else to influence my rating, only the book & how much I enjoyed it & everything in it, so that’s why I read books only that I’m in mood for, I’m such a moody reader, but thankfully I’m also quite the eclectic reader, so there’s always something I’m in mood for 😀

  14. FABR Steph says:

    Most interesting post. There are a select number of books that I have been able to read the second time and get a different, but equally enjoyable experience. I will often revisit a read, but will not review it more than once or rate it for the second time.
    To be honest here, even without reading a book again, I could sometimes change the rating after some time to think on the book, especially if it proves itself to be more or less memorable than I had anticipated at the time of my review. I don’t change the rating, but time and place in ones life is always going to reflect on the review and rating. It is almost unavoidable. I guess the best that we can do is to read books as we are ready for that particular read, which is not always possible for a reviewer.
    Thank you for such a thought provoking article.
    -FABR Steph@FiveAlarmBookReviews

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