Re-reading Novels for the First Time

Do you ever wish that you could travel back in time to re-read a beloved novel for the first time ever?  I recently read an article on Buzzfeed Books that posed this question, and caused me to pause and reflect.

I have been known to reread books that I have loved more than a few times.  Sometimes the second reading is wonderful, where I find myself able to pause and really notice the details and inner workings of the text, while other times it unfortunately feels like some magic has been lost in the second reading.  I have read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte countless times, and each time I read it I love it more.  Same with The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe.  When I re-read this novel I am transported to the Aisle of Palms once again, able to visit with “friends,” and find myself paying more attention to the characters and my literary surroundings than I may have paid before in the first reading.

However, when I re-read Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, about six years after reading it the first time, I felt like some of the magic and wonder that I had while reading it the first time was lost.  Could it be because I was no longer the same person I was when I read it so many years prior?  Could it be because my tastes had changed?  No matter the reason why, I was never able to reclaim the sense of enchantment I felt during my first reading of the novel.

So today I would like to ask you, library readers, do you ever wish that you could go back in time and read a novel for the very first time?

Here’s what a sampling of Livingston Public Library staff members have to say:

Katie, Head of Adult Services & Acquisitions: Yes! Red Rising by Pierce Brown.

Joe, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian: I’d love to go back 15 years and be able to read Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for the first time. Before then I’d never read any of Murakami’s novels, but I’d been hearing my co-workers at the Strand bookstore raving about his work. The hypnotic surrealism and existential malaise of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle resonated with me very deeply, and had me hopelessly hooked after just a few chapters. Since then, I’ve read every other novel Murakami has written, and although they’re all very similar, I always find them extremely evocative. I also re-read Wind-Up Bird a few years ago, despite the fact that I rarely re-read novels (especially when they’re over 600 pages), and I appreciated it even more the second time. Still, there’s no substitute for the experience of reading that book and falling under its spell for the very first time.

Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions: I think I would want to go back and reread all of Jane Austen’s novels, like I was reading them for the first time. Not only are they comforting reads especially during these stressful times, but I am sure I would discover something new and details I had missed about her heroines and heroes , the stories and complex characters, life in the 1700s, the social commentary she makes.  Also after watching different movie adaptations of her novels like Emma or Pride and Prejudice, I would like to go back to read the original language and unique style in which Austen wrote.  Her portrayal of themes like marriage, money, and social snobbery which are relevant even today would also help me understand our current state of social affairs.

-Jessica, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

Livingston, NJ 07039, USA

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