I've heard this question a lot over the years. If you could somehow magically re-experience reading your favorite book for the first time, would you? Would you read a book for the first time again if you could?
When people ask that theoretical question, most people answer YES. I've seen it all around, on blog posts, on tumblr, on BookTube: "I wish there was a device/magic spell that made you forget a book so you could read it for the first time all over again!"
And I get why people want there. There is nothing like the very first time you read a life-changing, gloriously entertaining, soul-igniting book. It's the best feeling ever. It's the readerly high we all crave.
My answer, though, is always a resounding "NO."
"NO, I DO NOT WANT THAT DEVICE/MAGIC SPELL. I do not want to read Harry Potter/Pride and Prejudice/insert seminal/beloved title here for the first time all over again."
What's got your knickers in a knot? Why are you being so contrary about a hypothetical question, Gillian, geez louise? Have a latte and chillax.
I WILL take a latte, thank you, but I'm still going to be contrary. For me, when and where I read a Very Personally Important Book(TM) is nearly as important as what I read. I remember where I was when I read every single Harry Potter book, and exactly how old I was. I remember the family vacation I was on in high school when I cracked open North and South. I remember reading Georgia Nicolson books at summer camp, and spending the rest of my adolescence speaking in a rather embarrassing imitation of her. Falling down the Twilight rabbit hole in junior year. Gorging myself on Mockingjay, TERRIFIED of what would happen (rightly so, obviously). Reading Illuminae on vacation and liveblogging my EXTREME READING EMOTIONS to Meg as I went.
|Ahh, those misty, foul-mouthed memories|
I think of GREAT READING experiences the way I do great life events. I think of the lost week in which I obsessively binged Percy Jackson in the same fond, nostalgic way I remember a great trip I took or a wonderful birthday party. The weekend I read the entire Under the Never Skytrilogy. When I stayed up all night weeping over The Raven King. The way I didn't put down Uprooted for, like, four solid hours, even as I bumped around my apartment and pulled food out of the fridge and tried to feed myself one handed. Those are my favorite reminiscenseseses how do you pluralize that word I give up
I don't want to erase those memories and do it over again, because I liked it the first time. And I looooooooooove rereading, almost as much as I love reading. There's such wonderful comfort to me in diving back into a book I know and finding new things and hanging out with old friends. I have a really good memory for books, too, so it's rare that I ever have that true "reading for the first time anew!" feeling, and I don't honestly miss it. The second time around is just as good, and it also makes the original read somehow...more precious? More important? Idk. I do get nostalgic for "that time I read this for the first time", though.
Rereading: Yay or Nay?
And then there's the last thing: that I'd be a different person if I "forgot" the books. I read the Harry Potter series as they came out, from ages 6 to 16. I'd be a totally different, far less fantabulous moi if I hadn't absorbed and obsessed over those books in my formative years. I don't want to read Harry Potter for the first time again. I want to reread it for the forty billionth time and carve those words into my soul juuust a little bit deeper.
Okay, this got weirdly deeep on me. I blame my upcoming birthday (a day I'm not hugely fond of) for making me all introspective and angsty and oh god, I'm old, bring me my walker and hot water bottle.
And now I just REALLY, REALLY WANT TO REREAD HARRY POTTER. The eternal struggle. Do I read new books? Or read Harry Potter? Do I have a life? Or do I just read Harry Potter. (HA. That last one is a trick question. Life IS reading Harry Potter.)