Sunday, November 18, 2018

Bookpost: Not Sure How to Deal with Wanting to Re-Read Books

(Here are two of the four shelves of books I'd like to re-read someday)

(Yet somehow I keep reading new ones instead)

(It's a pickle, y'all)


This is something that bothers me often. How can I balance the non-negotiable need to read more new books with the intense desire to re-read excellent books like the ones shown above, as well as the ones not shown above: wonderful books by Kage Baker and Jeff VanderMeer, and several more by Tim Powers, plus others? Hmm? How exactly is that supposed to work? I only have so much reading time, you know.

This is not a problem for the majority of Americans. That's because the majority of Americans never read a book again after they graduate from high school or college. Never. Not another book. Not even non-fiction. So I'm already a weirdo because I tend to read between forty and fifty books a year - and if you are also this type of weirdo, I salute you and hope you can recommend some books to me if you get a chance. On top of that, I also have the ambition to really get to know the books I enjoy the most, by reading them again. I want to be able to linger over them and see how they work, after I've found out what happens in the plot. Sometimes there's more to enjoy about a story if you read it again with the knowledge of how it's going to end. At least you can take the time to appreciate the words better.

I have actually succeeded in re-reading some of the books in this photo, some of them a couple of times. For most, I haven't gotten to the second time. I don't know when I will. I've tried to create systems, like reading one new novel, and then one new non-fiction book, and then one re-read, and then one anthology or collection, and so on, but the systematic approach neglects the important consideration of my mood on any given day. Sometimes one new novel will get me started on tearing through every single other book that author has written, or it will steer me toward an unexpected subgenre that I never knew I was into, or toward finding related non-fiction. Or something else. By the time I get through with that spontaneous dive into whatever I feel like, I'm usually ready to follow another mood. 

Also, the more I read, the more I change, and then if I finally re-read something I loved before, sometimes I've become different enough that I enjoy it less. Not always. I believe I could read The Goblin Emperor dozens more times without loving it any less. But I've lost my attachment to enough books that now I feel hesitant to re-read, sometimes. I know that's ridiculous. If I don't re-read a book I've kept, the alternative is to let it sit there and deny myself the opportunity to enjoy it again, just to keep my first impression intact. 

I have no solution for this. Either give up on the idea entirely, or try harder to make time to re-read. There are worse problems to have.

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