15 August, 2010

Accidental rereading...

Have you ever cracked open a new book, very much enjoyed the first 50 pages and then suddenly remembered how the whole thing ends? Well, it happened to me this weekend with a duology by Jacqueline Carey, the Sundering.

The merits of Carey's writing aside, I became seriously concerned that it took me all of fifty pages to realize I had already read those fifty pages, some years ago. What really set off the alarm bells is that the Sundering duology is unique in that it is told principally form the villains' point of view. How many series can you list that do that? Exactly.  

With a few very notable exceptions, I tend to avoid rereading. The Guardian goes so far as to say that rereading a book is a crime. And to a certain extent, I agree. Why walk old paths when there is a whole new world to discover? I would love to see someone pose this question to Dragonmount though... that would make for an epic thread. 

Newsweek proudly propounds that the "'joys of rereading' pieces you come across tuck in an obligatory apology for indulging in the "childish" pleasure—this is a bad thing?" Again, in moderation rereading is a reasonable expenditure of your time but when taken to extremes it borders on the close-minded and obsessive. Count your cereal much?

I digress. Let us return to the profoundly important questions of whether or not I am loosing my marbles. Deliberate rereads are one thing and involuntary partial rereads quite another. Have you also fallen victim to this most fearsome of foes? Is it normal given the mounds of bound paper your eyes scan daily that at least a book you have read will sneak its way back into your TBR pile?

Thankfully I have yet to reread an entire book by accident. Fifty pages in seems to be the point where that "this all seems very familiar" feeling becomes a sad shake of the head and a discarded book. 

10 comments:

Simcha said...

I hate when that happens, though even worse is when I spend a whole book in, what feels like, familiar territory, but I can't quite determine if I had read the book before or not. I think this happened to me with Wizard's First Rule. I usually avoid rereading books, just because I don't like reading a book if I already know what happens. Lately though I have begun rereading some of the fantasy that I had read in my early years so that I can reference them accurately and also recommend them to those who I think would enjoy them.

pussreboots said...

I'm not much of a re-reader but I am currently re-reading Anne of Green Gables.

Tea and Tomes said...

I'm one of those who enjoys rereading much-beloved old books, even if I've read them so much in the past that I practically have them memorized. I like visiting old characters and reliving their adventures, and even if I like looking for new and awesome books, sometimes I just like to curl up with an old favourite. I see no crime in that, so long as I'm careful not to limit myself solely to rereads.

Seak (Bryce L.) said...

Haha, that's something I've never done especially now that I religiously use Goodreads, but I loved The Sundering and would definitely say it's worth a reread.

I have only reread The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and I appreciated them much more. Noticing the intricacies of the works made them much more enjoyable.

I agree that too much would border on close-minded, unless your one fast reader.

Anonymous said...

Remind me again how many times you've read through the Wheel of Time series?

Alec said...

@ Simcha

I agree with rereading for recommending purposes. I have done that a couple times, and it gives you a chance to become intimate with your favorites once again.

@ Tea

As long as you aren't abusing then you should be safe!

@ Anon

Believe it or not, I don't think I have done a single systematic reread of WoT. I go to the sections I like and reread those, or will occasionally follow a plot line through an entire book, but not much beyond that.

Woodge said...

I'd never accidentally reread something because since the age of 16 I've been keeping track of every book I've read (full list here: woodge.com/books/masterlist.html). Yeah, it's anal-retentive. So what?

Perkunos said...

I don't agree with the Guardian point of view. I have more than 2000 books and I have yet to read them all. But are some that mark me and so I love to visit them again. So far only I've only re-read two books but I have several ones that I would like to return in a couple of years or even a decade.
If this re-read is a crime what are the thoughts about seeing for the second time a movie or hearing a music for the second time?

There are books that as you grow old they tell you something more.
Well that's my opinion...

Celecia said...

I don't think there is anything wrong in doing what you want to do. It's your life isn't it? If you want to re-read 5 books until they're memorized for the rest of your life and that's what makes you happy, I'm all for it.

Personally, I only reread about 10% of the books I read. Otherwise I get bored knowing what's going to happen. It's only the stories that grab me that I want to reread. Though I may reread others years and years down the road if I don't remember them and I think I might enjoy them. That's rare though, I'd much rather read books on my TBR pile. The books I do reread are either intricate enough (such as the WoT) that I only remember the basics or were books that I loved whose stories grabbed me.

Anonymous said...

This happened to me with A Wizard of Earthsea, except there was an almost twenty year gap between the first and second read. When Ged conjured the shadow, I was suddenly fully aware of not only where the plot was headed, but also where I was as a child reading the same scene. I love the feeling, and the tricks of buried memories.

As a writer (or "aspiring writer"), any book that you particularly enjoyed or found to be really effective is very helpful to re-read. Like some other people have said, you notice new nuances. Since you're not concerned with following the plot, you can focus all your attention on these nuances, like plot and character progression, foreshadowing, and all the other techniques and tricks the author used to make it so effective.

I would argue that you learn more from a good book the second time through.