Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Julia Ponders Rereads and How a Book Stays With You

I recently found myself in a position where a reread of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series made a lot of sense. I had not read it since high school, and I pretty much inhaled it the first time. It left such pleasant feelings. In fact, this series was the only one ever that I wrote fanfiction for, even with heavy forays into the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings online fandom. I had felt so much for this series that I was moved to tell more, to share with others how I thought the missing pieces should be filled.

But as I started to read The Subtle Knife the second time, I realized something. Though I have all of these memories, these feelings associated with these books, I cannot remember a damn thing about this series. Well, that's a lie. I remember the big stuff, the major plot points (mostly..). But even then, it’s the outcome that I am most familiar with.

And that got me thinking about how I read a book. I think devour is a good word for it, especially if I like it and grow attached. I read it; I am in the moment. I am with these characters, feeling their pain, pleasure, and all the in between. But then I set it down, savoring that "I just finished a book" feel, and start the next one. To use super geeky computer terms, the book stays in the RAM but never really uses the hard drive. (It made sense to me).

What I am saying is I read it, love it and really only remember how it made me feel. So I am pretty much a love it and leave it, cherish the time we had together and maybe pop back for seconds later, where at which time I will remember the feelings but most of the experience (especially how things tie together) is completely new for me. It's like reading it for the first time. The only exception to this rule is multiple rereads (especially close together) and when I can tie the story to a movie.

It always baffled me (see my baffled face) how much my sister retains from what she reads. But she savors, not devours. She was actually shocked at how little I remembered when I told her everything I could about the last two books in the series. It was kind of sad. But is it sad? Because every time I read a book, it is almost like new. But on the flip side, I go so fast, I sometimes I miss seeing the trees for the forest.

How do you read a book? Are rereads possible for you? What experiences do you get out of reading a book again for the first time? Are you like me or my sister? Would you change? I am genuinely curious.

I don’t know if I would change how I read. I don’t think I could. Even why I try to slow down, I end up racing forward.

Also, my elevator review of The Golden Compass. If you saw the movie, forget you did and go read the book. One of the best adventure stories that is gripping and thought provoking. I rarely give 5 stars but that would be its star rating :)

27 comments :

  1. I've been going through a similar experience with rereading George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. I definitely remembered the characters and major events in the plot, but despite recalling the starting and ending points I had forgotten huge portions of the journeys. Rereading them has brought me an appreciation for the richness of the setting, the details of the minor characters, and the beautiful phenomena of foreshadowing that I barely picked up the first time around!

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  2. I can't be bothered with re-reading, and it's one of the reasons I never got through the His Dark Materials trilogy. I loved the first book, thought the second was okay, and eagerly waited for the third book. And waited... and waited... and waited... and by the time it finally came out, I'd forgotten too much, was completely lost, and then lost interest.

    I do remember enough of The Golden Compass to be extremely disappointed by the movie. They blew it. :(

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  3. I have His Dark Materials on my re-reads list too. I don't often re-read though as there's so many books out there. I think as I read I start to remember more about the story but would struggle to be able to describe if put on the spot!

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  4. If the book is good, I'll race through the adventure. Forget about savouring moments. I may if a sentence appeals to be, but books are for enjoying in the moment. Re-read? I can't think of the last book I re-read. Too many books, so little time.

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  5. I rarely re-read because I always have so many books on my TBR pile.. :( I'm definitely more like you and in that I tend to devour my books in an attempt to lower my TBR pile before it gets too big.

    Funny that you had that problem with His Dark Materials (forgetting huge chunks of the story) because I had the same thing happen to me. I read it in high school and just remember absolutely loving it, but when I had to recall bits and pieces that weren't huge plot points, I always drew a blank. I had to re-read the trilogy this year for school (I had a Children's Literature course, which was AWESOME) and I found myself appreciating the books so much more than when I first read them. It also helped that we analyzed them in class, which shed all kinds of light on them that I hadn't picked up on when I first read them.

    I really want to re-watch the movie adaptation of The Golden Compass because I remember actually liking it! But maybe now that I've recently re-read the books I'd feel differently. Hmm.

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  6. I feel like I do a much better job savoring my short story collections vs novels. After each short story I'll put the book down and try to think about it before moving on to the next one. I find myself zipping through my favorite novels because they are so addicting, but then I do have a difficult time retaining most of it. I'm a big fan of rereads - although at this rate most on my list will have to happen after retirement :)

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  7. I hardly remember details about what I read, mostly because I read so much and watch movies and TV and then live on top of that. I love them while I read them though!

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  8. I think the reason we get something different out of a book when we re read it is because of our experiences. We've changed and the things we find satisfying about a novel have likely changed as well so we pick up on different elements of the story.

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  9. I used to re-read quite a bit. Always discovering something new or familiar with each read-through. In fact, I don't think I own a single book older than a year old (shelf-life) that has not been read a second time. This is before I discovered the book industry online (I was a latecomer).
    However, I am trying to read more books for the first time, because I know I'll enjoy my re-reads. In fact, this year I already want to re-read two books I've already newly read.

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  10. I devour books as well (as long as they're good ones... but if they're books I'm not enjoying, then I wouldn't say I "savour" them so much as I try not to gag on them). I realized that taking the time to review the books I read actually helps me slow it down a bit more so I can enjoy the story and remember those little details I would have otherwise forgotten!

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  11. I devour too, and don't usually retain much of the story afterwards. But I think blogging helps with this though I find I think about things more as I read and plan what I'm going to write for the review, and getting those thoughts down helps me fix the book better in my mind before I move on to the next one.

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  12. I definitely devour books. But the ones I really love I always go back to and read again, but more slowly so I can enjoy all the details as well.

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  13. I am the exact same way, but I didn't think it was normal! I've always been embarrassed about how little I can remember after finishing a book--I even forget major plot points, sometimes, and definitely everything in between. I don't have the best memory anyway so I always attributed it to that, but I am really excited to hear that others are the same way! I'm 26 and I've never met another person who does this--and pretty much all my friends are nerds, too, so I know a lot of people who read--and I am not kidding when I tell you that this post has been a huge revelation to me. I'm pretty excited about it, actually; it means I'm not just prematurely senile.

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  14. I always mean to go slowly but then it's three in the morning and I'm biting my nails...

    ~ The Tuckerbag ~

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  15. I have been an avid reader since an early age. I am now re reading some of the classics I read before the age of 12. As you said, I remember the major plot points but as an adult I get a different appreciation of the layered stories.

    For example, I re read "Treasure Island" (http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=1190) and realized that the story is not really about Jim, but about Long John Silver.

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  16. For me, it depends on the book! If I like it, I try and savor it. But sometimes it's hard and I just want to devour it :D

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  17. I think I'm a mix of both. I can devour books in the sense that I can read rather quickly, but that's it. I savor books because I remember so much about them and when I reread part of the fun is knowing that certain parts that I love are coming up.

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  18. Great post! I'm a constant re-reader, especially with a series. If a new book is coming out and it's been a while since I read the others, I always go back to reread! :)

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  19. I haven't read 'His Dark Materials' in years. Mainly because I only own 'The Golden Compass' (called 'Northern Lights' over here...). But now I really want to, so I may have to source the other two from somewhere... :P

    But in general, there are some books I'll read again and again, and some I simply won't. But even if I'm on the fifth read, say, of a book, I'll always devour it like a delicious cake, rather than savouring it.

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  20. I am very much on the "savor a book like a fine wine" side of the discussion. With the limited exceptions of a very few anomalous books, I am utterly incapable of re-reading an entire story. Instead, as I read I often re-read sentences, paragraphs, pages, sometimes entire chapters in an attempt to reconcile what I am reading with what I have read. While this is not how I would prefer to read, it at least tends to leave me with a near indexical knowledge of both "the big picture" and the minutia of the an author's work.

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  21. I am not a huge rereader but when I do, it's usually classics and like you, it's just major plot points that I remember too. Although when I see it in movie form I'm surprised how much I do remember. But you know, it's ok, with the amount I read there is really only so much a person can remember!

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  22. I'm glad to see someone discuss this. I can always tell you how I felt about a book -- loved it, hated it, loved part of it, didn't like the ending, etc. but I'm really bad with the follow up, "So, what's it about?"

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  23. I am one of those who remember every single detail.... even on books I didn't like. I don't read fast though.

    There are times thought that I have and I always end up remembering what I felt about that book rather what happened in each chapter.... example The Mortal Instruments. I read those book so fast that now if I try to remember what happened in each book I'll fail. But that doesn't mean I don't remember the book... just the general feeling and general plot.

    But even when I go to re-read books that I remember mostly everything about it I end up having different feelings each time which makes the experience as reading it for the first time.

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  24. I definitely do re-reads if it's a book that I really, really loved!

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  25. Great baffled face, Julia!

    I tend to read quickly and forget a lot of the details. I've even reread a couple of books without realizing that they were rereads until close to the end. They seemed familiar but... :-)

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  26. I only tend to re-read when its a book I really love, or when I have a need to reread a book. Otherwise, I just don't. I think if I had less books in my TBR pile, I'd gladly reread a book, just as what I used to do when I was younger. Now I tend to devour books because there's more waiting to be devoured, and savoring takes too much time. :P

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  27. I love to reread books! You catch things you miss the first time around, either because it didn't seem important the first time around, you were too distracted by the main plot line, or you're just in a new place in your life and focusing on different things. I've reread White Oleander about four times since I was in High School and I've taken something different away with me each time. I'm currently on a kick of rereading all the books I was assigned in school to try and see if I can enjoy them now that I'm 'grown up' and not being forced to read them.
    I'm an unashamed slow reader. Sometimes it's because I am savoring the book but sometimes it's just because I am easily distracted (or in school, an excuse I sadly don't have anymore). I tend to lose myself in the book I'm reading to the point where the longer I stay in the written world the harder it is to get out. I've spent the last year rereading the Harry Potter series and I think my friends and family are all glad that I'm finally done. I was getting to the point where I was making a Harry Potter reference at least once a day.

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