The Magic of Re-Reading

I don't re-read often. Not because I'm against it, but because I generally have such a teetering stack of books to be read that I don't dare venture back into the land of those already read. The biggest exception to this "rule" (which is really more of a trend than a rule)? Fantasy novels, the crack cocaine of my reading existence.*

Most notable in this observation is my epic re-read of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, which took me two years (the now thirteen- and almost fourteen-book series tallies in at nearly 12,000 pages). I've read them all twice... some even three times.

I'm facing a similar situation with George R. R. Martin's epic Song of Ice and Fire series, which now counts five books in its ranks. I've read 1-4, and am seriously contemplating starting over again from the beginning before tackling Book 5.

Lord of the Rings? Harry Potter? Redwall!? Let's not even go there.**

There are dozens of books I'd like to re-read. The Thirteenth Tale, for one, which has such a wonderfully convoluted plot that I'm dying to read it again from start to finish and look for the clues along the way. The Shadow of the Wind falls into the same category. Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale is what I generally go to as my "favorite" book, when I'm forced to pick just one, but I've read it only once. Most of Marquez' books fall in with Helprin's.****

Ultimately, though, it's the magic that pulls me back in. It's the act of stepping back out of my world, this world of 9-to-5s and car troubles and airport security lines and Hershey's chocolate and cell phone bills and into a world where wizarding is a profession, and cars can fly, and people can carve gateways in the air, and chocolate is animated, and people speak through fireplaces and everyone knows in their heart of hearts that magic, on some level, is real.

In re-entering these worlds, I feel myself slipping back into the self that I was when I first discovered these faraway lands. I can rediscover my amazement with the imagination of these now-famous authors, who once had an idea, and who grew that idea until it was the size of a world, and then put it on paper. Whether for 10 pages or 10,000, I suspect I'll continue to return to these places... even if it takes me years to do so.

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* To be fair, I generally discount books that were required reading in middle-high school and/or college. Some of them I "read," in that I read enough topic sentences and chapter highlights to write a cohesive paper on them, and some of them I "read" in that I powered through them as quickly as possible because I had 500+ pages of reading assigned a week, and some of them I "read" in that I never actually bought the book and still wonder how I managed to pass that class. So. School-assigned reading? Not counted in the list of books I've already read.

** Ok, if we do need to go there, I'll just say this: I've lost count. I can recite the opening lines of Harry Potter by heart. I read Harry Potter in Latin. I first read Lord of the Rings when I was in elementary school, and have revisited it several times since. I've seen all the movies. When I was in middle school, my friend and I made a puppet video of Redwall. You get the picture.


*** As an interesting note, most of these titles contain elements of magical realism...

12 comments

  1. I love rereading, though i noticed I haven't been doing so much of it lately. But especially in winter, I love returning to these worlds I've been so many times - there's nothing like returning to the world of Harry Potter, or Tamora Pierce's books, or Lord of the Rings.

    I read the first in George RR Martin's series, LOVED it, and...to be honest, one of the reasons I've been holding off on the second book is that I suspect I won't touch another book for months, while I go through the rest of the series. I'm still amazed by how complete and detailed the world of that series is. It seems like a great book to reread - one where you'll discover something new on each read.

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    1. You're absolutely right, that once you start the rest of Martin's series, you'll be reading it to the exclusion of most, if not everything, else. That said, my husband made it halfway through the third book and stopped reading because he got frustrated... Martin can be frustrating. I'm sure that in re-reading I'll find way more than I did in the first read (and I'm sure I will, someday, re-read the whole series).

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  2. I don't think I've ever re-read a book that wasn't for college or university but I am sorely tempted to re-read the Wheel of Time series before I read the last one! They were such a huge part of my teens that I love the thought of enjoying them all over again!

    I haven't read A Game of Thorns yet but I have got it on my eReader and I'm really looking forward to it. Even more now I've seen a recommendation from a fan of Robert Jordan! :)

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    1. Oooh re-reading the Wheel of Time series is so excellent! I will say, though, the second time I read them I was a LOT more aware of Jordan's repeated descriptors... if Nynaeve tugs that damn braid in frustration one more time, I'm going to tear her braid of her head. And there's lots of women angrily crossing arms under breasts. But still, I love them.

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  3. I love re-reading! Although mystery is my favorite genre, and they're not so re-readable, because once you know who-dun-it, it's not as interesting.

    I've read Harry Potter 2x though...and LOTR, I dunno, 4x? And Anne of Green Gables at least 3x, and who knows how many times I've reread my favorite Georgette Heyers or Pride and Prejudice.

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    1. I can see how mystery wouldn't exactly lend itself to re-reading...

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  4. The Eye of the World is over there on my TBR shelf giving me the stink eye. I bought it because so many students told me "You *have* to read this book!" I keep looking at it, wondering if it will pull me in. On rereading: that is my reading addiction. I find solace and comfort in rereading, and if the book is really good, I get so much more out of a second (or third) read.

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    1. Let me join in with your students! You *have* to read this book! If you like fantasy, even a little bit, it will pull you in. Books 6-8 are a little slow (lots of set up), but they pick up again after that. Assuming, that is, that you make it that far...

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  5. Love this post! I too have such a teetering stack of new books to read that I hardly ever go back and re-read, except for old favorites. (Potter being one.) Oh, and Redwall! That's a blast from the past! I loved those books when I read them... and now I'm contemplating a re-read too... =)

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    1. YES! Another Redwall fan in the house!

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  6. At one point, I was capable of reciting the entire first chapter of Harry Potter by heart. Alas, those days have passed and now I can barely remember the chapter order for all the books (the fact that I've forgotten this actually does bother me... frequently). I've also always found fantasy to be the genre that calls me back for the most rereads, but in recent years I've been slacking off. I'm hoping it returns soon...

    Also: you have read Harry Potter in Latin. This is so incredibly mindblowingily amazing that I cannot properly articulate my awe.

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    1. Well, I read it in Latin a long time ago... like you wishing you could still remember the chapter order, I wish I had retained enough Latin to re-read it again!

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