Inspired by Paul Weimer's recent Mind Meld column over at SF Signal, I was thinking about what I re-read and how I've changed over the years in terms of what I reread and why. The BBC also explores this idea in an article from early March.
When I was younger, I was a constant re-reader. Depending on my age, I had limited options to get to new books, so I read my favorites over and over again. I lived in Bayport and followed the Hardy Boys on their various adventures. When I was a little bit older and now living in a small town with a pretty good library just a short(ish) walk or bike ride away, I discovered fantasy and the magic of Piers Anthony and David Eddings, and I would read those books again and again and again and again.
In part, this was because I knew that I loved those novels and discovering something new can sometimes be difficult, especially in a small town library. My librarian did a good job in leading more towards new and different books and series, but I think there is just something about being a kid that pushes a you to read something over and again.
Now that I'm in my thirties, I read differently. Not just different books, though what I appreciate now does not fully line up with what I appreciated then, but just differently. Maybe I look at time differently. While I expect to live another fifty plus years (unless I am, in fact, immortal), the acting of reading the same books and series over and over again means that I am not discovering something new and awesome. If all I read were Raymond Feist and Katherine Kurtz and Robert Jordan, would I have ever discovered Elizabeth Bear and Elizabeth Moon and Katherine Kerr? There is so many good books out there that I just haven't read, and more are published every year. It's not even an attempt to keep up, it's just an unending flood of awesome.
The other thing that has changed how I reread is simply that I don't enjoy many of the things I enjoyed when I was younger. I'm glad of the journey and I remember the excitement I felt when I read Night Mare by Piers Anthony, and the journeys I took with young Garion his Aunt Pol while reading The Belgariad. But when I try to read some of these books that I perhaps overindulged in years ago, I can remember those feelings, but I don't feel them again. I'm looking for something different, though I imagine I will still visit those worlds one more time in the coming decades, perhaps just to say good bye and thank them for the memories. Or, perhaps I will read them to my children and discover anew the magic. But right now it doesn't feel the same.
But that's the cool thing. Reading changes as I change, and there will always be something new (or old) and exciting to find or rediscover.
But what do I re-read now?
Several years ago I did a re-read of The Wheel of Time, beginning (obviously) with The Eye of the World and continuing on right up to the publication of The Gathering Storm. It was a big push because I wanted to come into the final books having recently read what came before. At this point, I don't know when I would do another full series re-read, but given that it is one of my favorites, I'm sure I will. In another ten or so years.
More gradually, I have been re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire in preparation to read A Dance With Dragons. I didn't want to come into that volume cold, and will finally be current with the series later this summer. This still leaves me a potentially long wait until Book 6, but those are the perils of reading ongoing series.
I am working through Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince and Dragon Star trilogies. This year I finished The Star Scroll and Sunrunner's Fire after a long gap between the first and second volumes. I look forward to, with a hint of sadness, rediscovering that world in the Dragon Star novels.
Thinking about what I'm re-reading and what I want to re-read right now, I think it has to do with what has left a lasting impression on me and also that I haven't read the books at all recently. Before starting the Dragon Prince re-read, it had been a good ten years since I read the series. I am thinking of doing Anne McCaffrey's Crystal Singer novels, and it's been even longer for those. Where, on the flip side, I can hold off on Raymond Feist's early Riftwar novels because as wonderful as they are, I've only recently finished the series and I need a much longer break.
Outside of genre, I plan to re-read Louise Erdrich and possibly Alison McGhee, but those are two of my favorite authors.
I re-read to discover old favorites and see how they hold up to my memories, to experience them anew one more time. To revisit old friends. I re-read now for the same reason, it's just that the desire to visit some friends has changed.