Why I Read Books More Than Once
Note: this post was originally posted on Black Girls Nerd Out 1.0 fka The Life and Times of a Black Girl Nerd. I am reposting it because I am currently rereading A Song of Ice and Fire and will soon be rereading Harry Potter.
**Please note that there will be spoilers for both Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones) in this post. Although these have been out for forever so are they really spoilers. Please show yourself to the nearest bookstore or library.**
I’ve been reading books more than once since I can remember. If I like the book, chances are I’ll probably read it at least twice. There are only a few books I’ve read once, and that’s usually either because I didn’t like it enough to read twice, it’s a school-related book, or it belongs to one of my siblings.
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read Harry Potter. I remember I used to keep a tally in the back of one of my diaries—which means that I haven’t done it since like 8th grade—and at that point Deathly Hallows hadn’t even come out yet. At that point, I’d read all the other books somewhere between 8-10 times. And I’ve definitely read them more since then so let’s guestimate somewhere between 15-20 for each book?
It may seem crazy, but I have a legit reason for it. The thing about rereading books is that you always get something more out of it; or at least I do. I read books ridiculously fast, especially if I really like that book. I get super excited and then my eyes start moving at light speed across the page, and I start telling myself “one more chapter” while in bed at midnight. And while reading a book for the first time is the best feeling ever, reading it for a second time is a close second.
When you read as quickly as I do, you tend to miss the little things. And honestly, even if you don’t read fast, there are little clues and bits of information that authors tend to drop that you either vaguely remember or completely wrote off but that are super important for the end of the plot or some sequel to the book. Like for example, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling randomly name-drops Sirius Black in the first chapter. When I went back to reread it after reading Prisoner of Azkaban, I felt like I had unlocked some new level of the stories, which was super exciting.
Sometimes, the revelations are not as exciting. For example, when I reread A Game of Thrones (I’ve since moved on to A Clash of Kings), finding revelations in the first book while knowing how things are going to go down later on is actually depressing. Like whenever Jory Cassel comes along and you just know stupid Jamie Lannister is gonna kill him :(
Or when basically anything happens in A Game of Thrones and you just know it’s not going to end well. (Basically anything concerning Eddard or Catelyn or Robb). I’m getting sad just typing this out. So here’s a picture of all the Starks together!!!
And because the Starks are sometimes rude and don’t include Jon Snow in their fun family games (ahem, Lady Catelyn), here’s Jon with his direwolf.
And one of the Stark brothers!
Oh the happy days of Winterfell.
I endure the heartbreak of ASOIF, though, because George R.R. Martin is the King-of-Mentioning-Things-and-Then-Never-Bringing-It-Up-Again-Or-So-You-Think. A part of rereading is to refresh yourself, but also to come into the book with a different perspective. When you know the end game, you can then fully appreciate the little details that are actually super important to the rest. Like when you find out in Half-Blood Prince that Tom Riddle’s diary is a Horcrux. It adds a whole new light and context to Chamber of Secrets, which was frankly already pretty creepy.
It’s super exciting to be in the know of what’s going to happen, and you tend to get some weird superior feeling over your past self for not being as prepared as you think you are now. And when you’re reading a book by a great author, what you still don’t realize is that you’re never really prepared. The deaths still fill you with sadness and dread, the funny parts still make you cry laughing, and you may even miss a few more small clues by getting caught up in the more obvious ones. And that’s what reading a third time is for.
Now that I’ve officially decided and admitted that I want to be a writer and write super epic sci-fi novels, the flipside of rereading the books is that you get a better idea of the craft of writing. You can see exactly how the author formatted the chapters and how that helps drive the plot. In rereading books, I’ve started to pay more attention to form, dialogue, chapter breaks, and characterization, all together and separate from what’s actually going on in the story. It’s exciting to take mental notes about how Martin executed the Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords while at the same time sobbing uncontrollably because #RIPCatelyn and #RIPRobb.
Anyway, rereading a book is one of my favorite things. I go much slower when I read something for a second or third time, because I’m not so desperate to know how the story ends, and I’m much more willing to settle inside a story and enjoy everything that happens. When you read a book for the first time, the only thing you’re concerned with is plot. But when I reread Harry Potter for the 21st time, I’m rereading because I want to revisit Hogwarts, walk through its halls, play Quidditch, and defeat some Dark Wizards. I’m not concerned with what’s going to happen to characters because I already know. I’m just excited to see them again.
Rereading and revisiting is a huge part of my nerd life, and as a result I’m also really good at remembering small details in books. I’m not quite on the level of knowing exactly what happened on what page in which book of Harry Potter, nor do I know the names of all the authors of the textbooks Harry and his friends need each year. I expect I’ll be on that level someday, and I won’t be ashamed of it in any way! Just gotta keep those darn Nargles out of my head.