The Joy of Rereading

It’s hard not to do a little bit of reflecting at the beginning of a new year, whether you meant to or not. Unconscious resolutions and concrete attempts to change both come from the same place – that starting over is beneficial.

I know, I know – it’s no longer January. But isn’t February just as great a month to have beginnings? If not, fear not, as I’m actually more concerned with revisiting in this post. Namely, rereading.

One of the ways I like to greet the new year is by seeing how abysmally I’ve performed in my Goodreads Challenge goal. So as I was sourly scrolling through my book list and wondering how I was ten books behind schedule when I have read more this year than perhaps any in my life, I realised I did have an actual excuse. Many of the books I read were rereads, for the second or third time.

I l o v e rereading books. In the same way you never get tired of watching your favourite movie over and over, or ordering from the same takeaway every week, there’s something kind of childlike about just picking up something you loved a lot. Perhaps I think that because a lot of the books I read again were those I loved as a kid. It’s like revisiting a time in your life when you had none of those dreaded responsibilities and the decision to pick a book up wasn’t something that had to compete with everything else ticking down the 24-hour clock.

It’s kind of an impossibly honest feeling, to just forgo all the new coming your way and return to a book you know you love. Maybe you want to revisit a certain time in your life, or a character you loved; but there are certain things that always seem to get better with time. A book seems to be one of them.

Sometimes I’ll reread a book because it’s making a big cultural return, like with The Goldfinch. A film or TV adaptation means the story is being seen by far more people, and therefore everyone all of the time. With The Goldfinch, I thought I’d read the book again as it had been years, figure out if it was still one of my favourite novels. (Still haven’t seen the film, so no thoughts on that!) I was pleased to find I still enjoyed it. It’s an easy world to fall into.

Sometimes a reread is absolutely required, which was the case of The Goblin Emperor. I read it for a second time just months after my first read. In this case, the fantasy world created by the author is so complex it can be a little jarring, actually, trying to make sense of it. The second read was a way to bask a little easier in the story, familiarity with the world building already gained.

Other times I’ll reread a book for the reminder. When I discovered Derek Landy was writing the Skulduggery Pleasant books again, I knew I had to start from book one before picking up the latest series. It’s a children/teen book series I absolutely loved as a kid, and reading my way through my old books was a nostalgic trip down memory lane that served to point out that my excellent taste in books was cultivated very young.

I guess what I’m trying to say in this post is that as excited as I am to read all the new books coming out this year, sometimes it’s nicer to pore over a story I already know.

The next one on the list? Little Women! I’m actually planning on seeing the film this time, and although I remember the plot well enough, I read this book years ago, probably around the time of studying Jane Eyre at school and wanting to find more classics.

I’m not sure what I thought of this book the first time. I probably enjoyed it, but I also probably finished reading it and put it down without another thought. I’m hoping I’ve sufficiently developed my reading ability to actually emote about the events that occur this time around!

I know, my kindle is in poor shape

A review of some of the books I’ve been rereading lately:

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

Synopsis: Theo Decker’s mother is killed when is fourteen, and what he gets in replacement is a priceless piece of art that both haunts and heals him as he spends his whole life trying to deal with the fact that she is dead.

This came about because of the film that was released in 2019. (A habit I’ve never gotten out of – reading the book again before seeing the movie.) But hey, it’s like rewatching all the Avengers movies before Endgame – you need a recap.

Thoughts on both films aside, I really love this book. My two weaknesses in books are coming of age stories and novels that are unnecessarily long (hello Ducks, Newburyport), because finding something good and reading your way through the tome is an actual delight. 

This was only the second time I had read this, and in fact it had been at least four or five since I’d last encountered it. Which basically meant, because my memory approximates a sieve, that I did not remember a lot. Sure, I remembered the main point: Theo’s mother is killed, but that was about it. Everything else crept up on me slowly – remembering he stays with the Barbours, actual shock that his dad was still alive, a creeping suspicion that something happens to derail this wedding and wasn’t Amsterdam a plot point?

So the book was great. A little bit ruminative at times, but I think that’s part of the appeal. It also makes the time skips make sense because otherwise the whole book’d be about a 14-year old Theo.

The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison

Synopsis: The goblin son of an elf king suddenly finds himself an emperor. (The title is incredibly self-explanatory).

You’ll enjoy it if: t’s the kind of book you’d love if you enjoy well-developed characters and worldbuilding, the usual fantasy tropes of kingship and just incredibly nice people.

It is perhaps unfair to include this in a reread because I actually read it twice just this year (it’s incredibly good you guys). I spent the first time completely using up a Sunday reading late into the night with itchy eyes but needing to finish it. (This is a burning the candle wax kind of book, if we didn’t have… lamps). The second reread was less revelatory as the first, but more relaxing, like hearing a song you loved as a kid or sinking into bed at the end of a long day.

I would in fact argue this is the kind of book that you must read twice. The worldbuilding here, though astoundingly clever, is also complex. The author has devised a whole language system, with unnatural pronunciations and similar names throughout. I spent a lot of time on my first read a little confused, flipping back and forth between pages to figure out who was speaking at this moment and what they were saying. But on the second read, I understand enough of the tropes for the complexity of all of these systems to really shine, positively this time.

Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy

Synopsis: A girl meets a detective who is a skeleton. Like just the bones. They solve magical crime.

This year I came across the delightful discovery that Derek Landy had started writing Skulduggery Pleasant again. If you’re not familiar, it’s a children’s series about a skeleton detective and his young magical apprentice. I enjoyed these books a lot as a kid – they’re full of humour, lifelike characters and interesting plot – so I was intrigued when I discovered an ongoing series three books deep already. I have all the books because I get rid of nothing, and upon rereading, those books were just as fun as the first time around.

The new series is definitely more YA than Children’s (the violence is… a Lot), dealing with difficult issues like depression and grief. But Derek Landy’s trademark humour doesn’t miss a beat, and the roster of ridiculously-named characters widens, opening up the magic world he’s devised and really showing the evolution from the first book.

 

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