January 8, 2011

Re-reads and Ratings

When I was a kid I loved to read the same books over and over (and watch the same movies over and over, too). Now, I don't do that quite so much, but I still like to pull out certain favorite books when I have an urge to delve into their pages once more. With some books, it's very comforting reading the same story again, even if you know exactly how it's going to end, and often you'll discover something on a second or third read that you never noticed before.

Usually, any book that I re-read I will give a good rating. Examples of books I have read so many times I have lost count include: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Sorcery & Cecelia by Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevermer, Beauty by Robin McKinley, certain books in the Song of the Lioness and Immortals series by Tamora Pierce, Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, Feeling Sorry for Celia and The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty, and several of the Mediators series by Meg Cabot. (Okay, there is definitely a theme here. Apart from the Austen & Moriarty they all seem to be fantasy/paranormal.)

But not every book I rate really well ends up being one that I turn to again and again. Case in point: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I haven't really gotten up the nerve to read this one a second time, and I'm not sure I will anytime soon. The material is just so dark and emotionally intense. Others I don't re-read that often include mysteries, which makes sense of course — the mystery is never quite as thrilling once you know whodunit. I'll make exceptions, though, if the characters and their interactions are engaging enough that it doesn't matter that I already know the plot. Plus, it's always fun to read it at least once more and figure out which clues pointed to the revelation, and which were just red herrings!

I'm interested in how other readers and bloggers approach this, though. How frequently do you re-read books? What makes a book a re-read for you? For me, it's difficult to describe, but in most of my re-reads I feel like all of the elements in the novel have come together in perfect complement: the writing style, the plot, the dialogue, the characters...kind of like pieces of a puzzle all fitting into place. And most of the books I re-read are ones I would call "comfort" or "feel-good" books, which usually contain a good dollop of humor. But maybe that's just me. Do any of you like to re-read darker, grittier types of novels, or ones that you know will make you cry? Which books specifically do you keep returning to?

And does it affect your ratings? On a few blogs I've seen that the description on their rating system of "5 star" books is something along the lines of, "A definite re-read!" Should these two concepts be tied up in each other? Or is re-readability something that doesn't need to be taken into consideration when rating a book?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these issues — comment away!


  1. You're like my reading soulmate! Crown Duel and The Mediator series are definitely rereads for me. I love rereading my "comfort" books. Usually I'll pick them up when I'm in a reading rut, a bad mood, or just want to revisit my old book friends. They always make me feel good. I'm always rereading Crown Duel and Vivian Vande Velde's books.

    Sometimes I'll reread a sad book that I really enjoyed (like Thirteen Reasons Why or The Adoration of Jenna Fox) or a book I remembered liking a lot but don't remember much about the plot. I have a terrible memory, so rereading is always a fun experience.

    Sometimes there are also those books where the story has lots of clues and you only figure everything out at the end. These are fun to reread with the new knowledge about the ending. Tighter by Adele Griffin, StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce, and Mistwood by Leah Cypess are three books I'll probably read again for this reason.

    I think this is getting really long, so I'm going to wrap things up now! The only problem I have with rereading is I often feel guilty for taking time away from new (to me) books.

  2. I very rarely do re-reads. There's just so many great books out there that I've never read, that it's hard to justify reading something again. Some example of my re-reads - I did read all the Harry Potters again in a row. wanted to get the whole story at once! Also, re-read the Hobbit, because my 7th grade teacher read that book out loud to use, and it brought back wonderful memories. I'm thinking about reading Ender's game and that series again -- because it was so long ago and I really enjoyed them. I guess mostly I read books that I read so long ago that I can't remember them, but I do remember that I really loved them.

  3. I rarely do re-reads because there are so many books I still have yet to read. I've read Ella Enchanted a couple of times though and some of the other books I've re-read are also in the MG area. So, I guess the books I do re-read tend to be faster to read and are like you said, "feel good" ones.

  4. I re-read comfort book as well: Ella Enchanted, Catherine Called Birdy, and Vivian Vande Velde's books as well--like the other commenter! I will re-read books that get me thinking about things (like The Dive from Clausen's Pier). Re-readability definitely factors into my reviewing process, but a book can be good without having re-readability. If a book is too emotionally harrowing, I'm not too likely to return to it (though I may think about it long after I've finished it).

  5. I used to read books over and over again as a kid too, because I loved them and because my library didn't have a really extensive collection. Now I rarely reread, partly I think because I have better access to books and I also feel guilty to the new to me books sitting on my shelves. I think it's also because I have less time for reading.
    That said, I did reread Pride and Prejudice just last week and really enjoyed curling up with a favourite. And I think a reread of the Harry Potter books was due yesterday.

  6. @Small Review: I'll have to try some of the 'mystery' books you mentioned (in particular I've heard good things about Mistwood). It sounds like you re-read for a lot of the same reasons I do!

    @Annette: I know what you mean about having so many new books coming out that it makes more sense to spend time reading those - thanks for your thoughts :)

    @A Canadian Girl: Yay for Ella Enchanted! That's one of my favorite "feel good" books.

    @Bea: Vivian Vande Velde seems popular! I don't think I've read much by her. *makes mental note to check her books out* Interesting that you also like to re-read thought-provoking books, I think I might do that sometimes when I feel like I want to be challenged but I don't know that I'd put them in with my "comfort reads" :)

    @Daisy: Aw, P&P is always such a great book to re-read (and I think one of the books that you can really get more out of if you read it more than once). I haven't re-read Harry Potter in a long time...I think a re-read is overdue for me as well, especially now that I've seen part 1 of the 7th film and it had been so long since I'd read the book that I was having trouble following along!

  7. I think for me, when I give a book a very good rating (5/5) it means that I'm interested in reading it again, even if it was sad, even if it was a mystery. It's not always exactly the same experience reading again, especially if it is mystery, but I still feel like I get something out of reading it again, even if it's a different something. I also like to reread books again right before I watch the movie of the book, if there is one, so that it is fresh in my mind. I know a lot of people hate doing that, because there is a tendency to nitpick all the things that are wrong with the movie, but I love it.

  8. A book that is something I know I'll re-read almost always gets 5/5 stars. I'm type of person who, when I get depressed, I tend to turn to a book. It's nice having a library of re-readable books at hand. Examples? The Grey King by Susan Cooper, Twilight/Host by (do I have to say it) Stephenie Meyer, The Young Jedi Knight series by Kevin J. Anderson, to name a few. Before I gave it away, I read the Cabot's 'Twilight' quite a few times! The Mediator was quite a good series and I can see why people re-read it!

    I'm with you-- my favorite re-reads tend to be happy books. I don't think I'll be reading Mockingjay for a long long time, if ever.

  9. I used to reread a lot when I was a kid. Nowadays I don't reread that much. I have a bunch of books on my shelf that I haven't gotten to yet so there's always the time issue. Usually if I do reread its when a new installment in a series comes out and I reread the previous books in the series to refresh my memory.

  10. There are several that I want to reread but just haven't made the time yet.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  11. I missed this when you posted it! You always come up with such good questions. I haven't done many re-reads recently, partly because my TBR list has grown enormously since starting blogging and there are lots of books I own that I haven't read yet. The books I'd like to get round to re-reading are Enid Blytons (Malory Towers series, St.Claire's series...) I've also read the first books in The Chalet School series by Elinor Brent Dyer quite a few times, mainly because I have to get back into the series after a long break from it. Like you, not every book I really liked will be re-read and my re-reads tend to be happy, cosy books and classics :)

    Yes, I think the Children's Crusade idea is very original and will probably be useful for schools too.

  12. @Aylee: I think it's a great idea to re-read before the movie (as long as you don't mind seeing the discrepancies) - especially because I often forget all the details! I saw the HP7 movie recently and I hadn't read the book in forever, and I felt rather lost while watching it :D

    @Brooke: I often turn to books to cheer me up, too! The Mediator series is definitely a fun one to re-read :)

    @Jenny N.: I'm with you on the refreshing my memory thing - I read the first two books in the Hunger Games series before Mockingjay came out!

    @brandileigh2003: I know, there are so many new books all the time to be read!

    @Stephanie: Aw, thanks! My tbr list is enormous too and constantly getting longer :D


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