I have always had a problem, when it comes to reading habits, with two things. The first is that I have to finish any book I start- even if I’m hating everything about it. The second is that I find it very difficult to re-read a book, even if I’m certain it’s the best thing I’ve ever read. I think the first issue stems from optimism in a way, as I keep hoping that something about the book will redeem it, or that it will get better by the end. Inevitably this doesn’t happen, and I just end up disappointed and annoyed. I have resolved this year to just put the book down if I’m not enjoying it after reaching a quarter of the way through. Whether I actually manage this remains to be seen!
The second issue is one I’ve been thinking about a lot more recently. There are so many books I have loved and would rave about over the years, but I’ve never gone back to read them again. Part of this comes from a fear-particularly with things I read as a teenager or child- that they won’t capture my imagination the same way the second time around. That I will have changed so much over the years that I’ll find issues in them that I never noticed before, and they will be ruined for me forever.
At the end of last year, Philip Pullman’s ‘Book of dust’ was released, and even though I loved the ‘Dark materials’ trilogy, I haven’t rushed to pick this book up. I feel like I need to re-read the trilogy first, to immerse myself in that world again and remind myself of all the things I’ve inevitably forgotten since I read them over ten years ago. At the same time, I’m afraid to re-read them! I’m now thinking that if I read the book of dust first (since it isn’t exactly a sequel) it might push me to re-read the rest of the series. I’d be interested to know what order some of you have read these books in, and whether you think that changed your experience of them.
The other issue I have with re-reading is the thought that the time I spend reading something I loved again, could be spent discovering a new, equally brilliant book. There’s only so much time I get to spend reading, and I’m always excited about reading something for the first time. What if I never have enough time to read all the things I want to get to? I know that in a way this is a silly question- even if I lived to be 100 I would probably not get round to reading every book I’m interested in, but still- it’s enough to make me put off re-reading. Or it was, until about a months ago.
A month ago I started commuting. I always keep a book in my bag, but more often than not the train is too crowded to get my book out and turn the pages comfortably. I have an app on my phone for the local library which I mainly used for e-books prior to commuting, but you can also borrow audiobooks on it. The first audiobook I got, mainly since it didn’t have a waiting list, was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, narrated by Stephen Fry.
I can honestly say that the audiobooks brought back all my excitement about the series and then some. I found myself looking forward to commuting, just to have an uninterrupted hour or two to listen to them. I didn’t even notice the time passing, and I often found I was smiling to myself or stifling a laugh even on a packed train where everyone around me looked miserable (yes, I probably seemed a little crazy to everyone else). I’m now about halfway through Order of the Phoenix, and still loving it. Everything I enjoyed about the series when I was younger is still just as interesting to me now, and I think the nostalgia for the first read is making it even more fun to listen to now.
When I was in university, I re-read the final Harry Potter book- The Deathly Hallows, a couple of times. I’ve never felt compelled to re-read the whole series (or any other book!), but that last book was almost like a comfort blanket, familiar and something that was almost restful for my tired brain to process. Listening to the rest of the series now, has made me wonder why I only ever went back to the final book, and why I don’t try reading other favourite series again more often.
I’m thinking I might re-read a few things this year, books I know I love but am starting to forget the details of. Some of those would be Philip Pullman’s ‘His dark materials’, Persuasion by Jane Austen, Terry Pratchett’s City Watch stories and Philip Reeve’s ‘Mortal engines’ (I remember loving this series so much but seldom hear it spoken about!).
What books do you find yourself going back to? Or do you, like me, put off re-reading as much as possible- I’d love to know!