Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In Which Bridget Discusses Rereading, Despite Knowing (and Maybe Hating) the Ending

Have you ever been totally sucked in by a book (I'm talking completely enamored) and then gotten to the terrible/lame/cop-out ending and felt your love for that book deflate like a leaky balloon? Have you then thought to yourself, "Dang, I guess I can never read that book again"? Or are you maybe a strict non-rereader, because you feel that knowing the ending already defeats the purpose of reading a book? (I do know such people, but most are not very active readers.)

Either way, this post is for you.

I am a rereader through and through. On Monday night, trying to find inspiration for this week's Top Ten Tuesday (Top Ten Books I Read in 2012), I realized that barely 20 of the 49 books I've managed to get through this year are new reads. The rest are rereads, and obviously I've reread them despite knowing the ending. But the thing is, with all of these books, I like or at least appreciate the ending. 

I've run into a little trouble recently on one of my rereads. Stephen King's Pet Sematary is one of the novels I would mention if you asked me to list his "canon." I've read it a few times, but all were before I went to college. It took me about 3 full read-throughs to really be disturbed by the ending, and as such I put it down with no real intention to pick it up again.

But then I started a blog, and one of my blog projects is to read and review all of Stephen King's works.

I thought to myself, Alright, how bad can it be? It's just a book. You've read plenty of other horrifying, disturbing things before. What makes this different? And the thing is, I'm not sure exactly what does make it different; I just know that it is, and it is for that reason that I have been procrastinating finishing Pet Sematary for about a week and a half now, despite being a mere 30 pages, or maybe even less, from the ending.

Another book I'm not sure I'll be able to read again is another Stephen King novel, this one much more recent: 11/22/63. That book is more than 800 pages long but I powered through it in one weekend, desperate to know what happened, and what was my reward? COMPLETE AND TOTAL DEVASTATION. If you haven't read it but plan to, be prepared to sit and stare at the wall for a bit after finishing while your brain tries mightily to process ALL THE FEELINGS. As much as I loved the book, I don't know if I could have the same experience reading it again knowing what's going to happen at the end. (Not that I hate the ending, but man, did it wrench my heart.)

But on the other hand, there are some other books that I think I'll like and understand better now that I know the ending. Take The Casual Vacancy, for instance. It's one of the few books I've ever read that really made me think about it, despite my initial apathetic dislike towards it. I forced myself to finish and was glad that I did, because the more I thought about it, the more I got it. I think reading it through a second time, really understanding who's who and what's what, will give me a greater appreciation for it.

Now I want to hear from you. What books do you like to reread, despite knowing the ending, and what books have been ruined for you (rereading-wise) because you know the ending? That doesn't mean you had to dislike the book, just that knowing the ending makes you want to take a step back and say, "I've gotten everything I could from this book and don't need to read it again," OR, "That ending made me too sad/angry/upset/disturbed to read it again." For example, I love rereading Harry Potter and most Stephen King books, but a few books I won't reread (probably) are The Running Man, 11/22/63, and Pet Sematary (if I ever even finish it this time). How about you?

28 comments :

  1. This is such an interesting thing to think about! While I can't think of what I wouldn't reread, I can think of a few series I don't mind reading over and over again: Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and the Abhorsen trilogy come to mind immediately.

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    1. Thanks, always glad to make you think! :)

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  2. I was an avid re-reader as a pre-teen and teen, but as I've gotten older and busier with college and then a full-time job, I devoted more of my energy to reading new stuff. Recently though, I've been bitten by the re-read bug - mostly because the new books I've read haven't been all that great, and I wanted to pick up something I knew I would love. The Harry Potter books are always on my re-read list, but I also re-read "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chobosky this year in preparation for the movie and David Levithan's "The Lover's Dictionary" simply because I read it so quickly the first time and didn't really appreciate the complexity of it. I want to re-read Nicole Krauss' "Great House" soon because like J. K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy," it is a complex book that had me thinking long after I finished it, and I know now that I have a basic understanding of the plot and structure, it would be even better. I also occasionally feel the urge to re-read classics from my Brit lit days like "Jane Eyre" or "Persuasion."

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    1. Ooh yeah, I love rereading Jane Austen's work and occasionally the Brontes. I've never read Great House. What's it about?

      I too have been busy with a full time job, but that actually makes me reread MORE, mostly because I can't be bothered to go out and buy books/I can't afford them anyway. But with NetGalley and an e-reader now, hopefully I'll get to read more new stuff in 2013 :)

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  3. I'm always torn when I reread books. On one hand, I like the books I'm rereading, but a small part of me is thinking of all the great books out there I haven't read yet. I reread Harry Potter often, though, and I think it's a series where knowing the ending makes it even more enjoyable the second time reading. Most of the books I don't plan to reread fall into the "good but disturbing" category. I love a great book, but my brain can only handle so much disturbing work at one time.

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    1. I agree with you about the "good but disturbing" books. Sometimes I can read Stephen King for weeks and feel nothing, but sometimes something just hits me in a sensitive place and I have to step away for a while and read some happy Jane Austen book or something.

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  4. I have read "Play It As It Lays" by Joan Didion over and over again. I love the feelings it invokes in me and it's really not one of those books where the ending matters so much. I have also read "The Quiet American" several times in the last two years and I have gotten something new out of it every time. Two other books I have read quite a bit are "The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing" and "The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters." Both are easy reads and I enjoy them no matter how many times I have read them. A book has to be more than really great for me to reread it. There are too many new books I want to read and I think I really have to see different layers in a book to feel like it's worth the effort and time rereading takes.

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    1. I think I really have to see different layers in a book to feel like it's worth the effort and time rereading takes.

      ^ I agree. :) Although there are some books for me, like I mentioned below, that will always be "comfort" books, there are others, like House of Leaves, that really have to be worth the effort to reread (and it totally is). :)

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  5. I've always been a re-reader. Until I got a job to actually pay for books, I was stuck with what's at my library (and that's not much!) and what I got for birthdays and other. But I absolutely don't mind knowing the outcome while reading. There are some fictional worlds I just can't ever get enough of! However, when an ending completely ruins a book for me, I won't read it again. I can only take so much disappointment ;) Some books I've read an uncountable amount of times are: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, Looking for Alaska, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Interesting topic!

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    1. I have no idea how many times I've read Deathly Hallows but it must be at least 20. I haven't read the other books in the series as much, but that might have to do with the fact that after freshman year, DH was the only HP book I brought to college with me. That's definitely one fictional world I can't get enough of :)

      So you don't find that knowing the ending changes the experience for you at all? Or does it change your experience but you don't mind?

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  6. The only book I can think off the top of my head that I wouldn't read again would be 'The Handmaids Tale'. I wasn't enjoying it anyway but then the ending was just too irritating!

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    1. Uh oh, I got that book for my birthday...

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    2. Well who knows. You might find you really like it haha. I know my friend likes it and we usually have the same taste in books...

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  7. I'm a non-rereader for sure. I know the ending so I find the suspense is no longer there. I could me missing out on something, lol...but I'm actually the same way with movies. I don't buy movies and I give away my books once I'm finished reading them (my friends love me for this, haha...but also can't understand me not wanting to have a library). I also feel like there are so many books out there, and I have such a huge wishlist, that I don't have time to re-read books... :)

    A huge reason why I love Goodreads is that I can track what books I've read - when I was younger and before Goodreads existed, I would never remember which books I'd read by my favorite authors and occasionally pick one up that I'd already read, which was beyond irritating for me, lol!

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    1. Can I be your friend? I'll take your books!! Wow, I don't think I'd ever be able to give away my books after reading them unless it was temporary (i.e. lending them to someone). Sometimes a passage from a book will just randomly pop in my head and I will HAVE to read it, so it's always good for me to have them on hand...

      Or, dude, look up Books For Soldiers and partner with them. I'm sure they'd love to get your books if you just give them away after reading them. :)

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  8. You know..I used to reread all the time but lately I haven't! BUT it IS really so hard for me to reread the type of books that rely on the suspense and the buildup and the twists and the OMG ENDING. It takes away some of the fun of reading it. But like you said, there are books that are almost better the second time around because you glean new & different things!

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    1. Yeah...I mean, there are some books that I can still read with the suspense and twists and whatnot, even knowing the ending, because some authors are JUST THAT GOOD at making you all WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT even though you know already. But some endings are just so heart-wrenching and/or horrifying that I just don't want to put myself through that again, no matter how good the rest of the book is.

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  9. +JMJ+

    I recently reread Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. It had been over nine years since I first tried it, and that made a great difference. I knew what to expect in general, but some details I had forgotten still took me by surprise. It was a "mature" reading experience, like drinking perfectly aged wine. =)

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    1. Hmmm, I hope that happens when I try to read some books I didn't like when I was younger! It did happen with Wuthering Heights (hated it in high school, quite enjoyed it in college) so I'm hopeful :)

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  10. Knowing the ending doesn't really matter to me when re-reading books. The books I tend to re-read (not counting Harry Potter) are ones in which there aren't necessarily "surprise!" endings. I love re-reading books like Norwegian Wood and The Bell Jar because of how it feels to read them; they are comfort books, and I like knowing that I'll be immersed in them.

    On the flip side, it can be fun to re-read thrillers and be able to pick up on clues I missed the first time, now that I know how it turns out.

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    1. Yeah, there are definitely a few books for me (mostly classics that aren't very fast-paced, and HP, of course) that are "comfort" books. But even some Stephen King books are comfort books for me, despite the fact that they're not really...ya know, comforting.

      And I like the same thing about thrillers as well. It's always fun to be like "Ohhh I see what you did there!"

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  11. 11/22/63 took my heart, broke it into fifty million pieces and then stamped all over it. I LITERALLY sat and stared at the wall afterwards, just like you said. I loved the book, but the whole novel will take on a whole new perspective when I reread it, because I know what happens.

    I really like The Time-Traveller's Wife, which also broke my heart. Again, it was just like you said when I reread it - I procrastinated towards the end because I knew what was coming and didn't want it to!

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    1. Haha so glad someone understands what I went through with 11/22/63!! I was absolutely devastated when I finished it. I was in the car on the way home from Niagara Falls and after I finished it was my turn to drive and I just stared straight ahead and couldn't even speak.

      I wasn't a huge fan of The Time Traveler's Wife, mostly because of the ending, I think, but I'm just also not into romances, really. I don't think I'll ever read it again and the ending is about 90% of the reason for that decision.

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  12. I'm not a re-reader at all. There are a few non-fiction books I'll re-read one day when I'm older and wiser. I've been meaning to re-read Harry Potter, but that is the only book(s) I've ever had the desire to re-read. I just feel that there are so many good books out there. Similarly I never watch a movie twice.

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    1. Wow! I'm the exact opposite. I tend to find books/movies I love and just reread/rewatch them over and over again and never branch out. =\ I'm getting better at the branching out thing, though!

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  13. I'm definitely a re-reader but I read them again for vastly different reasons. They usually fall into the scale of being so complex that re-reading the book allows for better understanding and deeper discovery or because I was just so entertained the first time. I usually re-read classic literature for the former reason and stuff like Andy McDermott's "The Hunt for Atlantis" because it doesn't require much thinking, it's just super fun.

    I've also gotten in a rut lately with not being satisfied by a lot of the newer books I've picked up, so I find myself wanting to go back to the tried and true books that I've always loved.

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  14. I used to re-read books all the time- I even hosted Baby, Read Me 1 More Time challenge the last two years, although I won't be doing it in 2013 because the weight of my tbr shelf is beginning to have a physical weight on my heart. I like re-reading because it's like crawling into a familiar memory. I'm a huge King fan too, and I've re-read many of his books, some like Eyes of the Dragon, Dolores Claiborne, It and The Stand many times over. My new favorite book to re-read is Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and I plan on re-reading a bunch of Christopher Pike books in 2013. It's kind of like that Girl Scout song (not that I was ever a Brownie or a Girl Scout) about making new friends but keeping the old ones, one is silver and the other gold.

    I don't know that there's many books I've really loved but wouldn't re-read because part of the reason I own so many books is because I have the vain hope that someday I will not require sleep or have to work so that I'll be able to read like an immortal.

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    1. I don't know that there's many books I've really loved but wouldn't re-read because part of the reason I own so many books is because I have the vain hope that someday I will not require sleep or have to work so that I'll be able to read like an immortal.

      ^ Haha, isn't that every avid reader's dream? I know it's mine!

      Also, Baby Read Me One More Time is an awesome name for a challenge. I would totally have participated if you were hosting it again.

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