I have always been an obsessive reader and re-reader. I’ve recently managed to re-read Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series books 1-9 four times in the span of yes, I’ll admit it, six months. I’ve re-read Stephen King’s The Long Walk countless times over the years, and have gone back to revisit many books of his years later only to appreciate them even more.
My other re-read recent-ish favorite authors have been Richelle Mead (can I say Vampire Academy any more on this blog?), Cassandra Clare, Rachel Vincent, Sarah Rees Brennan, S.L. Naeole, Amanda Hocking and will even fess up to re-reading a certain unnamed author, the one who wrote the Twilight series, just a few times.
I find myself wanting to re-read stories immediately in cases where I finish the book (or books) and desperately miss the characters when I’m done. This is especially true for the heartbreaking stories or ones where the characters were just so lovable. But just how long after a first read is it okay for a book to be read again?
I have always had fond memories of books I read during my childhood. Books that I’ve loved throughout the years, books that hold that sacred place in my heart where all childhood memories live. But when you revisit something you’ve read over ten years previously (or more) the story may not hold that same appeal. And the re-read can sometimes leave you asking, “What was I thinking?” or “Why on earth did I enjoy that?”
Now, some books still hold the same appeal, or can offer up an entirely new and just as fulfilling experience. Grimm’s Fairy Tales are some of these stories that can be enjoyed in childhood and adulthood and while they may not hold quite the same magic they are certainly fun and disturbing in new and different ways.
My most upsetting re-read was Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting. I read this book as a young child and thought it was the most amazing story ever told. I was enchanted by the idea of the little girl, Winnie, offering up her potential for eternal youth and immortality to save the frog, and heartbroken when she never went back to find the spring that would allow her become ageless, lived her life and died without ever seeing Jesse Tuck again. I, of course, re-read the story immediately, and then cried for days after thinking about poor Jesse wandering the earth eternally without his true love.
A couple of years ago I took the gamble and re-read the story, in printed form and not as an eBook, never having previously realized how short or simple a story it was. (And I did NOT see the movie version that was out around that time.) Reading the story again as an adult made it lose all of the charm and enchantment it once held for me. And with thousands of books read between then and now, I’ve found so many stories with similar themes and even more powerful emotion coursing through the pages that this one paled by comparison. That, to me, was the most devastating thing of all.
So how long after a first read is too long to wait? When should a book not be read again? Is there a type of book that should be a one-timer? An author? A genre? I’m not sure. I have no answer to this. Perhaps some stories, if read to your children, can regain their magic by looking at the stories through their wondrous eyes. But in lieu of that, you can’t truly capture the joy of childhood or view a book the same way, years later when you’re in a completely different space in the universe. So should those books just get packed away along with your memories?
I am still debating whether or not to re-read The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. It has probably been my favorite series simply because I invested a lot of years following along, fearing that Mr. King might not finish the tale after all. Is it better just to have had the one experience at various points in time or is the risk of nit picking and finding fault worth the gamble to find out I love it even more now? Still deciding…
To re-read or not to re-read is just as weighty a decision as Hamlet faced with his existential question.