Rereading and rethinking

I do love to re-read my favorite books. Don’t we all?

But have you ever re-read a book you didn’t love the first time around?

In thinking about it, it’s hard to come up with reasons to do so. After all, if I didn’t think it was great, why would I want to revisit it?

That’s been my take on the issue up to now. The only reasons I can think of to reread a book that wasn’t a favorite would be:

  • for a book group or discussion
  • after reading someone else’s take on the book and realizing I might have missed something
  • when there’s a new TV or movie adaptation coming out and generating a lot of buzz
  • wanting to give a favorite author another shot
  • trying the book in a different medium

My most recent experience with re-reading books that weren’t huge hits the first time around have to do with the last two bullet points on my list.

The author in question was Gail Carriger. I adored her Parasol Protectorate series — but found that two books in subsequent series, Espionage & Etiquette and Prudence, just didn’t appeal to me as much. (Want proof? Check out my lukewarm reviews!)

But recently, Gail Carriger released a couple of shorter fictions that I wanted to read (see my write-up, here), and those stories pulled me right back into her steampunk/supernatural world. What’s more, I was dying to stay in that world. And that made me think — had I really given those other books a proper chance?

I’ve become more and more convinced that reading doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What sort of mood was I in when I read a particular book? Where was I? What else was going on in my life? Maybe, in some circumstances, the main reason I didn’t take to a particular book has more to do with my own situation. In other words: It’s not you, it’s me.

(Not always, of course. Some books are just not good, and there’s no prettying it up.)

So, in the case of the Gail Carriger books, I decided to try again. This time, I thought I’d go with audiobooks.

Amazing decision.

I started listening to book 1 in the Finishing School series, Etiquette and Espionage, and absolutely could not stop. I loved the first book, and continued on straight through until I’d listened to all four books. (For why I loved them, see this post.) In fact, I was so in love with listening to this series that I was in dire need of a Carriger fix to feed my addiction once I’d finished, so I hunted down the audiobook of Prudence pretty much the second after finishing Manners & Mutiny.

Oh, my parasol. LOVED it. How could I love Prudence so much when I didn’t love it when I read it the first time? For me, there’s no getting around the fact that the amazing audiobook narrator, Moira Quirk, is a big factor. She does such a great job of capturing the different voices, the snippy/snarky banter, the nuances of aristocratic Victorian society — certain of her voices, in particular, leave me rolling on the floor in helpless laughter.

But would I love the printed books too? Probably. It could just be a mood thing, as I mentioned earlier. For whatever reason, my mindframe was such that I didn’t enjoy the books when I first read them — but right now? I’m having a ball. I’m totally in the mood for this level of silliness, combined with an underpinning of true emotions and friendship (and in the case of book #2, Imprudence, which I’m listening to now, some super sexy flirtation doesn’t hurt a bit).

Anyway, all this has made me wonder: How common is it to have strongly different opinions about the same books?

I do think it’s fairly common to re-read a book we remember loving, and find it a let down when rereading years later. But how about the opposite?

Have you ever felt “meh” (or worse) about a book, and then felt really differently about it when you read it again? And further, do you ever re-read books that you didn’t love the first time you read them?

I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences! Please share your thoughts.

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31 thoughts on “Rereading and rethinking

  1. So cool that you had this experience! I don’t think I can recall reading a book I found meh, but I have found with a few books I dnf’d really early on that when I picked them up for the second time and actually persevered that I loved them- I found this with wild magic by tamora pierce years ago and with prince of thorns more recently! 🙂 And I do think that there are some books that if I’d read at a different time in my life I might have liked them more. Sometimes books deserve a second chance!

  2. Fall of the Giants by Ken Follety. Couldn’t get into it at all. Later picked it up and gobbled it up with the rest of the series. Go figure. Books have to fit into the mood sometimes

    • I haven’t read any of his big historical works, which I know are supposed to be masterpieces. I’ve just been so hesitant about starting yet another series with such long books. Reading really does have so much to do with being in the right mood at the right time.

  3. I agree on all the points you’ve listed.

    In my case, it was Cecilia Ahern’s P.S I Love You book. I wasn’t in the mood to read that time, but I think the main reason was because there was so much hype surrounding the book at that time because the movie had just been released so it made me feel kind of meh about it.

    But I tried reading the book again a few years later because I love Cecilia Ahern’s books, and well, I loved it. It also helped that I wasn’t in a book slump at that time :3

    • The dreaded book slump! There are definitely times when just nothing hits the mark. 🙂 Interesting about the Ahern book. Sometimes too much hype can really ruin a potentially good reading experience. That’s cool that reading it at another time made it so much more enjoyable for you.

  4. I actually have reread a few book I didn’t really like the first time (sort of an odd life decision in some ways), but I’ve never liked them on rereading either. :p

  5. Good question. I love rereading, but I’m not sure I’ve ever tried to reread a ‘meh’ book before. Although I do have Brave New World on my cc list 2 which fits that category. I’ve tried Catch 22 three times but got bored with it every time at different ages and stages of my life.

    Now you piqued my curiosity…

    • Interesting. I still wonder about certain books (including Catch 22) that made a big impact on me at a particular point in my life — will they hold up now if I read them again?

  6. I don’t do as many rereads as I’d like but honestly, would never reread a book I hadn’t enjoyed the first time – life’s too short! That said, I do remember having to reread books I hadn’t enjoyed when I was at school – glad those days are behind me.

    • I’ve thought about rereading a few books from my school days — I wonder if, outside the confines of an assignment, they’d be more enjoyable.

      • Probably. I think lots of things change your reading of a book. I even wonder how much blogging (and reviewing) books influences the way I read and ultimately my enjoyment.

        • Definitely, for me, blogging has an impact on how I enjoy reading and whether I enjoy certain books. I start feeling my enthusiasm flag when I start trying to read according to a schedule or blogging commitments. Inevitably, I get to a point (and I’m there again right now) where I throw out all idea of reading books by their release dates and just go for whatever I feel like. It makes me a happier person. 🙂

  7. It’s interesting to think about – I do believe that we like certain books during specific phases of our lives, so I can see how a second read would either confirm your love for a book or make you wonder what you saw in it. But the opposite, taking a second look at a book you didn’t like the first time around. I think it’s possible to like/love one of those the second time! I may have to try that!

  8. I don’t normally reread books, maybe because I have so many I have never read yet, but for me the reasons why I may enjoyed it in a completely different way the second time around are mostly ‘outer’: many years have past and I’m a different person, I’m reading them in a different language, or I reread them knowing the overall work of the author better.

    The case I always remember is The Hobbit. I first read it when I was 17. I was just into fantasy books and was reading lots of the popular authors of the 1980s (because, you know, it was the early 1990s). I didn’t like The Hobbit particularly. I fount it childish. I felt that a lot of other authors I was reading wrote more adult, stronger stuff. And even if I read other Tolkien stories lately and I liked them, I’m not sure I’d have taken up The Hobbit again if not for a creative writing course I took.
    I was suppose to analyse a book from a list they gave me. The Hobbit was the only book I owned from the list, so I thought I might as well read it again.
    It blew me away! I enjoyed it SSSSSOOOOO much and I kept thinking, wait a moment, wait a moment, this can’t be the same book I read years ago. But of course the book was the same. I was different 😉

    • That’s funny to hear — I think we have this experience in common. I read The Hobbit in my teens and just didn’t get the fuss. It wasn’t until a couple of decades later that I read the LOTR trilogy, and then read The Hobbit alongside those, and of course, thought it was a delight.

  9. I’ve re-read and changed my mind about books in the past, but they’re generally classics. For instance, I had a professor say that you couldn’t just read Faulkner once, so I ended up reading As I Lay Dying twice. I will say that often if there’s a book that stumped me or confused me, re-reading is a much more enjoyable experience because it gives me a second change to connect. I definitely think where my head is at can affect a reading experience – and I’m a firm believer that re-reading always yields new results (unless the book is just plain awful).

    • Very true, there are certain books that I’ve reread multiple times, and each time I get something new from it. Interesting about Faulkner — I wonder if there are others in the same category. There are probably some books from my school days that I just didn’t give a fair shake to at the time.

  10. All the circumstances you listed make perfect sense to me. Now I’ve really embraced audiobooks, I can see the different format reasoning even more clearly. And I completely agree that mood can be a big factor.

    To add to your list, I’d also say that for me classics/difficult books make this list of reasons to try again. I know every classic isn’t going to work for everyone and there’s no reason to think EVERYONE must read and appreciate classics. But for me, if I didn’t care for a book when I was 16 and reading it for English class, I don’t think that means it will never be a book that works for me. I even started a “required re-reading” project a few years ago I’d really love to revive one of these days — the whole idea was to revisit required reading from my past, only this time voluntarily and with a whole lot more years under my belt! Every book I have revisited so far, I’ve had a different perspective on and they all got bumped up at least a bit. I know that may not always happen, but I don’t think it’s surprising at all that it has happened a lot!

    • I think revisiting “required” reading books is an excellent idea! There are books from my school days that I only vaguely remember, and in any case, books that come with the shadow of a school requirement are just never going to be completely enjoyable. And too, I think some of these require more life experience to appreciate. Even Jane Austen — I didn’t fall in love with her books until I was an adult, even though I’d read a few in my high school days.

  11. If I have a bad experience with a book in print I will often consider giving it a shot on audio (and vice versa). I recently re-read Rosemary and Rue because the first time on audiobook went terribly and sure enough it was far better in print. I’m totally doing a physical re-read of Moon Called because I listened to that around the same time with similar results. But it could also totally be a mood thing (although I’m always in the mood for UF) but I was also new to audiobooks at the time? It’s always something, you just never know. I bet those Parasol Protectorate books are a ton of fun on audio although I loved them in print as well. 🙂

    • I think when I finish Imprudence, I’m going to back and listen to the Parasol Protectorate audiobooks. I loved them so much in print, and I imagine they’ll be awesome to listen to as well. Interesting about Rosemary & Rue — I’ve been wanting to try that series, so maybe I’ll heed your experience and make sure to stick to print. I’ve done both print and audio for the entire Mercy series and loved them both ways so much!

  12. If I really disliked a book the first time I read it, I usually sell it or give it away and don’t give myself the chance to reread it, unfortunately! But I’m constantly putting books down after ten, twenty pages only to come back to them some time later and wonder why I ever found those opening pages boring. Some books you really have to be in the *right* mood to read.

    • Oh, definitely mood matters a lot when it comes to reading enjoyment! I don’t usually hold onto books if I don’t really like them either, but when it comes to favorite authors, I’m more likely to give them another chance.

  13. I often plan to reread books I didn’t like but hardly get around to doing so. However, recently I reread the Wicked + Divine comic book because after reading a positive review of it and I was glad I returned to it because now I love those comics.

  14. I think if I’ve read a book the whole way through and was underwhelmed, there’s very little chance I’d pick it up again. However, I do think I should reread books I was assigned at a much younger age, as I think I would appreciate them more now that I’ve read a lot of classics. I read “The Mill on the Floss” in high school and hated it, so I should really give it another shot, especially since I loved “Middlemarch.” It’s tough because I own so many books I want to read so I keep putting it off.

    • I get it — it’s hard to justify a reread, even of something we loved, when there are so many other books to read! Going back to some of my assigned books from school is on my to-do list for sure.

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