Monday, April 5, 2010

Is Your Novel Re-Read Worthy?

I'm a re-reader and a re-watcher. Need evidence? Currently in my car, Jim Dale is reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to me, while in my DVD player season three of The Office plays for the 100,000 time...and I just took out season 5. (Hilariously, the episode I watched over dinner, which is the only time I have for watching TV, one of many reasons we don't have cable, was "The Convict," which features Prison Mike discussing demontors. I wanted to post the scene for you, but there wasn't anything on YouTube that was remotely watchable. But there are so many HP references on The Office it makes me giddy.)

I love revisiting my favorite shows, movies, and books. There is something magical about picking up a book for the second (or third...or tenth) read and knowing that you will be returning to that comfortable, familiar place, or even finding something new that you didn't notice the first time. And since you already know that you loved the book, there is zero chance that you'll be disappointed by the ending. You can just savor every moment.

I'm definitely a re-reader, and I always have been. You could always tell which books were my favorites growing up - The Monster at the End of this Book, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, anything by Daniel Pinkwater or Roald Dahl, and in high school Youth in Revolt, got thumbed through so much that the copies I have today are literally falling apart. I'm glad that my tendency to re-read has followed me into adulthood, although I have much less time for it now than I used to. There are so many great books I want to read, I don't have the time to dedicate to the old favorites anymore.

I know it used to drive my mom crazy when I re-read books. She didn't see the point. She wasn't a re-reader. She enjoyed a book, then moved on. But she also made her way through the library more than once. My husband also fails to understand my desire to re-read - part of the reason I'm listening to HP this time rather than reading (aside from the awesomesalsa that is Jim Dale) is that I don't want to hear it from the hubs.

But all of this led me to thinking...what makes a book re-read worthy? Is it simply a great plot with outstanding characters? Or is there more to it?

I think a big factor in the re-read is whether the book is a series. HP is easy and fun to re-read, because I want to see how all the pieces connect and interweave throughout the books (and boy do they!) The HG series will be a definite re-read, right before Mockingjay comes out, and again and again over the years. Many of my favorite re-reads are series books, but Youth in Revolt was a stand-alone for a long time before I got the sequel in my hands - and I still re-read that so much that my friend bought me a new copy. But that book was simply laugh out loud funny, ridiculous, and unlike anything else I had read at the time. Plus my big brother recommended it to me, and I pretty much worshiped him when I was 15.

Then again, some of my favorite recent reads I probably won't pick up again. Some Girls Are was fantastic, but I'm not sure I'll read it again. I may. I own it, and I want to...but it would be difficult (or maybe not, since i know what's coming. Or would that just make it worse?)

I think YA writers are in a unique position because they are writing for a demographic that is much more likely to re-read than adults. Not that you should only write something that is re-readable, or make that your sole goal...but you definitely want it to have a certain re-read factor. You want to create a world that readers want to come back to, that they want to send their friends to, and that they want to have on their bookshelf for years to come.

Are you a re-reader or not? What do you think makes a book re-read worthy?

P.S. I'm planning a vlog for this week, but I'm short on ideas. I have a few, but I'm afraid they're lame. Any suggestions? And no, I won't just do whatever you say - I'm going to be selective. I'm not Shannon Messenger, after all. 


  1. I'm not! But I love YA fiction. A book or movie has to be AMAZING for me to be patient enough to pick it out again.

    But I DID just rewatch Keith tonight. Seen that one? It's pretty darn good...

  2. I am a re-reader for sure. I've actually gone back as an adult and read some of my favorites from the pre-teen/teen years and still enjoy them. The recent re-read favorite was American Gods by Neil Gaiman cause it's an amazing book.

    For me, it's the overall book. There has to be characters I enjoy and a plot that I find intriguing even after I know what the ending will be. I don't re-read as much as I used to but that's because I don't read much anymore. Something I need to fix in the near future.

  3. I'm a big re-reader, and generally my re-reading falls into two categories. There's the stuff I read for comfort. It's either very escapist (like Harry Potter) and will take my mind off of whatever's going on, or it's something nostalgic, like the favourites from my childhood.

    Then there are the books I re-read because you get more out of them with subsequent reads. I don't think it was until my third or fourth read of The Westing Game that I got all the clues and cleverness of the book. There are novels by Dianna Wynne Jones that I STILL can't entirely wrap my brain around. I am DETERMINED to understand just what the hell happens at the end of Fire and Hemlock if it takes me the rest of my life.

  4. Yes! I am a re-reader, and a re-listener of audiobooks. The reasons vary from wanting to make sure I remember the details of a good story, to trying to find all the little hidden clues (as with Harry Potter) that may or may not have been intentional clues when they were first written (as I suspect with some of Harry Potter), to being bored at work so I might as well listen to something I know I enjoy. The only common factor really is that I enjoyed the book. And now that you mention it, I guess I never did see the same book in Mom's hand twice.

    I re-watch movies, too, but usually only after some amount of time has passed. (I've grown up since my marathon watching of A Christmas Story.) Not so with books. I have been known to put down volume last and a minute later pick up volume first on quite a few occasions: HP, HG, EFC, etc.

    As for a Vlog topic, my first thought was a character exercise of sorts. Pick a story from your life that could be something that happened to one of your characters (preferably your MC, but if you don't have one that fits her, pick a different character) and tell it as if it happened to her/him. No prewriting allowed - you have to improv. Maybe even perform it as her/him and tap into that acting talent of yours that has lain dormant for the past few years. :)

    BTW, Jim Dale is good and does amazing character voices, but I’ve got a soft spot for Stephen Fry.

  5. Oh, and, I don't remember if I sent it to you or not, but I wrote a lesson plan around The Monster at the End of This Book in your honor. :P

  6. Since I started book blogging over 2 years ago, I haven't reread a single book. But there are several I would like to read again if I had the time: Hunger Games, Before I Fall, Lips Touch (the first story at least), Lemony Snicket, and The Book Thief - to name a few.

    But yeah, as much as I loved Some Girls Are, I know I won't be reading it again.

  7. Oh it does not happen a lot but when I choose to go back and re-read it is because I remember how the book and being in its world made me FEEL. That is the most important reason to re-read for me!

  8. I love re-reading the Harry Potter series. I used to re-read each book ten times just to get rid of that "cliffhanger" feeling before the next one came out. :P

    I think I'm more likely to re-read books from an ongoing series...

  9. Re-reading or re-watching is so much fun! I adore books that I can pick up time and time again. I believe a lot of it does have to do with the characters and the way you relate to them, or the way you simply want to feel for them and watch them struggle only because you know the outcome is grand. I'm not sure what makes a book re-readable I just hope that one day someone feels the same way I do about re-reading my own book!

  10. I am absolutely a rereader. One of my definitions of a good book is one that you can finish reading, and then immediately turn over and read from the beginning again without feeling bored. When I first decided this I was about 12, and I figured it had to be because there are deeper things going on than just an interesting plot - if you know how it ends, that aspect loses its charm. But I agree with what you said about a familiar story being a comfort in itself. The best books, though, reveal new things to you in each reread. Beyond the little hints and foreshadowing you can recognize from knowing the end, I think rereading a book allows you to see it in a more holistic way, instead of the end leaving the strongest impression. This helps me understand it a lot better as a piece of literature, and as a writer, I'm more likely to notice HOW the author achieves a certain effect the second (or third, fourth, or hundredth) time through. Which is definitely a useful thing to know!

  11. Im not a big rereader--it happens rarely because I feel too guilty about the books I havent read yet, but with certain select favorites it happens. I AM a big re-listener. I know this is kind of lame, but if I loved something I read, Ive been known to get the audio and then listen to it over--somehow I feel less guilty and its really fun. Also I LOVE Jim Dale--Ive listened to his Harry Potter cds more times than I can admit. And yay for your upcoming vlog!

  12. I'm a huge re-reader. If i like a book, i keep it because one day i'll probably read it again. Then there are some books that i read once a year.

  13. I reread few books, and I can't figure out what the common thread is. I can read the Harry Potters over and over. The Roswell High series I read in its entirety once a year. The Giver. Pride and Prejudice. Liz Berry's The China Garden. The Notebook. Wuthering Heights. The Princess Diaries (the first book). I can re-listen to Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job a million times because of Fisher Stevens' amazing narration. It's killing me because I know I'm forgetting some! I'm more particular about my rereads, lately -- maybe because I have less time! But every once in awhile I crave a book.

    When I was in middle school and high school, I reread Bonnie Pryor's The Twenty-Four-Hour Lipstick Mystery. A cheesy 80s YA called The Silvery Past. Lois Duncan's The Third Eye. A couple SVH books too.

  14. I will re-read my favorites, but they have to be ones that make me want re-enter that world. I could go back to the land of Inkspell a million times and never get bored.

  15. I'm a re-reader and a re-watcher. One nice thing about being a teacher was I could reread books each year. My daughter is a serious rereader...She's read Stephanie Meyer's books (all of them) four times!

  16. Heather, sorry for the off-topic comment, but just wanted to send you a quick congrats--I just gave you another One-Minute Writing of the Day award, for your response on 3/25. Great job!

    -C. Beth (The One-Minute Writer


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