Today will be a lighter post that’ll look into what makes me consider re-reading a book I’ve already read instead of reading something new. I have brifly touched this topic a couple of years ago, I believe, but I’ll try to look at it from a bit different angle.
Simply said, I’m more likely to re-read a book I rated 90% than a book I gave 70%, let alone less. However, enjoyment has several aspects to it, and a book being rated highly isn’t a sure ticket to the pile of re-read candidates.
Mandatory mention – returning to a series after a longer break is a frequent reason for me to re-read the previous books. This is an aspect that stands a bit aside – relevant only before a series is completed – but it may hint the potential of a re-read candidate: if I’m willing to wait 1-2 years for a sequel and then re-read the previous installments, it means I really enjoy the story, and will likely return to it sooner or later.
I’m not sure this is the right word, hopefully, the next part will clear things up. There are various reasons why I may like a book – the setting, world-building, plot, characters, pacing, writer’s style… all of those aspects lead to a mosiac that impacts how much I enjoy a book. And they impact it differently the first time, and during re-reads.
Among stories (applies to movies as well, not just books), there are some types of stories that may be very powerful when you see them the first time but, once you know the grand twist, it’s not as enjoyable. In some cases, it may be the difference between it being a great read (or watch) the first time but just okay the next.
I’ve tried to figure out what, exactly, impacts this. I’ve come to the conclusion that the more a story is reliant on the plot over the other aspects, the more likely it is to happen. World-building may be a secondary culprit because if a story takes too much time with backstories, it may lead to skimming in re-reads.
Following my previous thoughts, I’ve come to the conclusion that character-driven books seem the most-likely re-read candidates. If I can connect with those characters, it leads to enjoying the story even if I already know what will happen. A major aspect is how the characters interact – witty dialogue, lack of over-drawn dialogue, funny mannerism of some characters, clever humor…
…writers out there, don’t underestimate the power of characters.
Some of it was already touched above – this includes dialogue and humor as mentioned above. But for re-reads, many other aspects are important. Info dumps are way worse during a re-read than a first read. Over-picturesque writing and drawn-out passages are similar issue, more so if even on the second read you can’t see how it helps to form the grand picture – while each book tends to have slower passages, for good reasons, there has to be some moderaton. A very slow-paced book isn’t likely to make it to my re-read worthy list.
Length is often a factor – many of my re-reads are something I do when I’m not yet decided what to read next, or if there’s a new book soming in a while and I want to fill the gap with something. Thus, if I know a book I’ve been waiting for is coming in a month, I won’t start re-reading a 1500+ page series.
I guess that’s what I wanted to say. I’m curious what’s your approach – do you ever re-read books? If yes, what leads to the decision? Are the reasons similar to mine, or very different?