Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Re-reading

Do you re-read books you enjoy? Chachic has a post on this at her blog today. I’m glad to see she has made time for re-reading this year, because it’s hard to think of a greater pleasure than re-reading wonderful books.

I’m always absolutely stunned to find out that there are people who do not re-read books. I re-read when:

a) I just finished one book by an author and do not want to leave the world. For example, after reading STORIES OF THE RAKSURA, I went back and re-read bits of the three novels. I actually re-read the whole trilogy pretty recently, either earlier this year or late last year, so I just re-read little bits this time.

b) I’m working on a manuscript and don’t need to be distracted. For example, I re-read all the SHADOW UNIT books in April, when I was actually working very hard on KEHERA. I didn’t read anything else at all during that month.

c) I want a comfort read, so I reach for, say, TROUBLED WATERS or BEAUTY. Sometimes you don’t want to learn about an exciting new world and worry over the fate of the protagonists. Sometimes you just want to relax into a familiar world and enjoy watching everything work out for all the characters.

d) I happen to think how cool a particular book is, take it off the shelf and open it randomly, read a few lines, and then wind up reading the whole thing. For example, I can’t touch THE SPEED OF DARK without re-reading it from front to back.

e) I am about to start the second or third book of a series, but it’s been a while since I read the first book, so I go back and re-read it first. This is going to happen with, for example, Rae Carson’s THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, because someday I will want to read the rest of that trilogy, and I will definitely need to re-read the first book first.

So, as you might imagine, I re-read a lot of books. I don’t think there’s ever been a year when I re-read more books than I read new-for-the-first-time, but I wouldn’t swear to it. How about you?

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9 Comments Re-reading

  1. Kim Aippersbach

    Yes! I reread all the time. Possibly even more than I read new books, at least sometimes. For all of the reasons you mention. a) For me it’s not just worlds I want to revisit, but characters. Like wanting to spend time with an old friend. b) Reading favourite authors while I write is a way of reigniting passion for my own scenes (when it doesn’t backfire by making me so depressed that I’ll never write that well); and also reminding myself of what really good writing sounds like. c) I think my comfort reads also have to do with the voice of the author. d) I have favourite books that sit on my bedside table because I know I can open them randomly and read a scene before falling asleep. (Supposedly that’s so I won’t stay up way too late because I have to keep reading to find out what happened next, but it often backfires on me and I stay up way too late anyway!)

  2. Darren+T

    I have a list of books I desperately want to re-read that’s far longer than my arm. More of a whole-body list, with a trailing section that runs behind me like a cloak… but there are just so many new books coming out that I want to read as well. And come to think of it, that’s just the fiction. I have shelves of reference, history, psychology and loads more that I keep promising myself I’ll get round to.

    My Mum, on the other hand, re-reads all the time. I’m pretty sure she’s gone through the entire Wheel of Time at least three or four times. Everything by Anne McCaffrey several times over as well. Many other fantasy series ditto. Lord of the Rings? I think she could recite it word for word, given a decent run-up… :)

  3. Jen Birren

    Lots of rereading! I reread about two books to each three first-read ones, something like that. If you leave a book for a few years so the details of the plot have gone out of your mind, it’s almost like a new book from an author you already know you like. What’s not to love about that? (Some of my absolute favourites, I’ve needed to leave fallow for longer because I found I knew them nearly by heart.) It’s partly about reading fast; among the thousands upon thousands of new books published every year, there may only be a couple of hundred that I want to read, so I have to re-read or I’d *gasp* run out of books!

    Occasionally I finish a new book and read it again straight away, if the plot pulled me through really fast, and I want to savour the worldbuilding or characters, or try to spot foreshadowing.

    I agree with Kim’s points a and c, above, as well as many of yours- rereading Austen, say, is all about the narrator’s voice, more than the plots. With, oh, Bujold or Martha Wells or Andrea Host, if I read one series of theirs I want to read another as well, so it isn’t just spending time in one particular world of theirs, it’s liking their slant on things altogether. (For that matter I reread The City in the Lake last week and have now started on the Griffin Mage books again!)

    I think there may be a couple of different kinds of comfort rereading, at least for me; one is just wanting to read something that I know will be good and where I don’t have to worry about a bad ending spoiling the experience, which could be almost any book I like. The other is actually being stressed and using getting lost in a book as an escape, which is quite a specific set of authors whose only common factor seems to be a want-to-keep-reading pull. If all I want to read is Mercedes Lackey, I know I’m stressed.

  4. Rachel

    Kim, I KNOW I will never read just a few paragraphs or a couple pages if I open a favorite book! Even if I have it practically memorized, I will read the whole thing. Bujold is terrible that way. I swear, there are some books that are dangerous to have anywhere in the house — far less actually on the bed-side table — because they have such a powerful suck-you-in presence.

    >More of a whole-body list, with a trailing section that runs behind me like a cloak… but >there are just so many new books coming out that I want to read as well.

    That’s a great description, Darren! Aargh, too many books!

    Jen, it’s interesting, isn’t it, how some books are read-again-instantly, while you just know others are better set aside for two or three years so you can enjoy them as much as possible when you re-read them. For me, at least, those two categories are perfectly distinct.

    For me, comfort reads are specifically those where nothing too grim happens and right from the beginning you can just feel the happy ending waiting to happen. I may enjoy re-reading other books, but they aren’t comfort reads.

    And I’m glad to know you’re re-reading the Griffin trilogy. Thanks for mentioning it!

  5. Craig

    I do reread books, but not as often as you or the other commentators. Last few years, at least, it’s been very small percentage.

    Partly this is because category “b” doesn’t apply to me, and category “a” hardly ever — it’s happened that I didn’t want to leave a particular author, but not for quite a while. I also don’t seem to have wanted a comfort read for a surprisingly long time, now that I think about it. “d” and “e” still happen, though.

    Also, partly it’s because my to-read pile is growing faster than I can reduce it. (I’m pretty sure that my conscious attempt to decelerate, at least, has failed — especially if you include the kindle.)

  6. Kim+Aippersbach

    Ha! Bujold has been banished from my bedside table because she’s way too dangerous! But y’all kept mentioning her, so last night when I walked past my bookshelf on the way to bed I may have picked up Barrayar (obviously the suck-you-in effect works even when the book is closed!) and I may have stayed awake until 2 rereading all my favourite bits . . . (“Always be a moving target. Live. Live. Live.” Punches me in the gut every time.)

    Ahem. You people are ruining my life. ;)

  7. Rachel

    Kim, there’s no escape! You are DOOMED to re-read all of the Vorkosigan book now.

    And I know, that line gets me, too.

  8. Emma

    I re-read all the time. Its like picking up your best friend. If I have finished a new book and am about to start on a new one, I can feel the need to pick up a favourite and just get swept away. The last one I re-read was Good Omens, I know it by heart by now, but I still laugh when I read it. The only problem as I see it, by re-reading books that I love, I tend to judge new books rather harshly, wanting to know if they will be good enough to re-read or not.

  9. Rachel

    Emma, every book I read either gets a “Re-read: Yes” tag or else it goes to the giveaway pile.

    It’s interesting how a few I re-read right away, some I re-read within a year or two, and some I know immediately I will want to re-read, but only after I have given myself time to forget plenty of details. For me, Bujold is normally a “re-read at once” kind of author; Martha Wells is almost always a “re-read within 18 months” author; and I am looking forward to re-reading, for example, the Tomorrow When the War Began series in, oh, another couple of years.

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