One of the most satisfying feelings a reader can experience is to be
engrossed completely in a good book. Then, whammy, one of the most
frustrating questions can arise. What to read next? Several
of my friends have immense TBR piles, yet can't easily choose their next
book to read. I've been known to wander through library shelves, looking
for something that sounds interesting, something that catches my fancy,
only to come up empty handed. What happens regularly is that I end up
choosing a book that I've already read. Why, with so many books to choose
from and with an increasingly small amount of time to read, would anyone in
her right mind choose to reread a book? ...again and again? ...to the
point of being able to quote dialog?
When I'm reading a book, one of two things happens: I'm either an observer
of the story and the characters, and if that's the case, the book goes on
the sale pile OR I'm pulled into these character's lives . . .
laughing with them, getting mad for them, being afraid with them and loving
with them. These are the keepers, the books that make me a willing part of
the story, the books I love to reread.
Books that we choose to reread are often referred to as keepers, comfort
reads, comfort books, favorites and the term that always comes to my mind,
good friends. These books, familiar favorites, are emotional safety nets.
We don't have to worry that we'll be well into the book and discover that
the characters are unlikable, people that we can't empathize with.
Rereading favorite books is being with old friends, friends who understand
us and accept us. Rereading allows us to duplicate, to imitate the original
feelings that the book created. It's much like watching a favorite movie or
going to a familiar place. We're trying to recreate the original magic, and
rereading a favorite allows us to duplicate that enchantment.
In Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, Kathleen Gilles Seidel makes
these observations about rereading. "We ought not to forget that reading
romances is not the only thing human beings do repetitively. Most leisure
activities are compelling. It's hard to stand up from a jigsaw puzzle. I
have neighbors who might be candidates for a twelve-step program for
compulsive gardeners. My husband has trouble turning off a baseball game."
It's comforting and amusing to know that rereading romances is not an
isolated activity when it comes to what people do repetitively. I'd much
rather be rereading a good story than pulling weeds. I'd much rather be
rereading a good story than beginning a mediocre one.
It's safe to fall back on the keeper favorites if I'm in a reading slump
and nothing sounds good, or I've finished a great book and am having a
hard time even choosing another new book. It's as though the favorites
bridge the gap and give me time to readjust, time to refocus on what I want
to read next.
Some readers dislike knowing ‘what's on the other side of the door' and are
unable to suspend disbelief the second time around. Others relish meeting
up with old, familiar friends. I frequently find details that I've missed
the first time as I attempted to ‘devour' the story. On subsequent rereads
I can savor the writing, flesh out details that I might have missed
The books that I most enjoy rereading are character driven books and not
plot driven. It is the people that I want to revisit. Sometimes I'm even
searching for a particular episode, one that touched me emotionally, made
me laugh out loud or one that struck me as immensely clever. I'll reread
whenever I have a craving for a particular experience and want to
duplicate that particular emotion.
• chuckle for days on end as Cal frantically searches for marshmallows in
box after box of Lucky Charms, (Susan Elizabeth Phillips' NOBODY'S BABY
• waltz with a Prince (Nora Robert's COMMAND PERFORMANCE) until I'm
giddy from spinning,
• experience life on other worlds again and again (Jayne Ann Krentz's
• repeatedly save a man's life by warming his feet (Julie Garwood's
• be a perpetual survivor of spousal abuse (Patricia Gardener Evans'
• relive the pressure of being engaged to one man while in love with
another (LaVyrle Spencer's SPRING FANCY).
If I've enjoyed stepping into these characters' lives the first time, then
the odds are overwhelming that I'll enjoy visiting vicariously with them
again. Yes, I know the ending. That's part of the comfort and security.
I know when a funny part is coming and can anticipate the good feelings
that are imminent. I know what parts to avoid.
My keepers are the books that speak to me deeply and intimately. They
have become friends. Good friends, friends that I don't want to forget,
friends that I'll revisit as often as I can, knowing that they're just a
few pages away.
But that's my opinion. What's
Be sure to check back soon. We'll be asking for your list of the top books
you enjoy rereading. Here are some of our contributors comments about
Here's what Senior Editor Cathy Sova feels about rereading:
I'm primarily a reader who wants to be entertained. I read for escape and
fun, so when I'm bored, restless, or don't have a satisfying book in front
of me, I'll often pick up an old favorite. SCANDAL by Amanda Quick
always makes me grin with its spectacle-wearing, financially-astute heroine
who is otherwise a bit of a ditz. ANYONE BUT YOU by Jennifer Crusie
never fails to make me laugh, even though I think I've read it about twelve
times now. Who could resist Fred, the drooling, butt-swaying basset hound?
If I want to escape into another time and place, AS YOU DESIRE by
Connie Brockway is a favorite. A spunky heroine, a hero to die for, and an
Egyptian setting. Great stuff. These books are like old friends. I know
exactly what I'm getting into when I open the covers, and that's
reassuring. I can just relax and enjoy.
TRR reviewer Irene D. Williams give us her take on rereading.
I still have a bookcase of favorite books from when I was a child -- not
only do I enjoy remembering what I thought was wonderful from then, but I'm
always surprised and pleased to find books like LITTLE WOMEN are still
wonderful. When I heard recently that my mother had sold bookcases of old
books at her house, I was very upset -- I knew some would have to be old
friends of mine. In fact, I remember some Dickens and Kipling and Robert
Louis Stevenson novels better than I remember some living old friends.
I have more bookcases of books that are my romance favorites. I'm always
eager to read the latest in the series by Nora Roberts or Elizabeth Lowell
or Linda Howard -- but I enjoy going back to the first in the series, too.
Not only do my old books entertain me all over again, but they remind me of
when I was first entertained by them. Rereading and reenjoying adds
another layer of pleasure to the fun of reading a good book.
TRR reviewer Tina Engler also enjoys rereading books.
I'm most likely to head to the bookshelf for an old favorite whenever I've
just finished reading a string of really bad new ones and know I simply
cannot stomach the idea of chancing yet another dismal experience. To me,
rereading a favorite book is like crawling under the covers with a cup of
hot cocoa on a rainy day...it's relaxing, invigorating, and acts as an
emotional security blanket in that I already know everything that's going
TRR Senior reviewer Susan Scribner shares her thoughts on
I don't have as much time as I used to for reading anything at all, so
unfortunately re-reading books is a rare luxury. When I do pick up an
already-read romance, I usually skim through it and focus on my favorite
scenes - the ones that made me laugh, cry and/or sigh with longing. One of
my favorite re-reading candidates is Diana Gabaldon's VOYAGER, when
time-traveling Jamie and Claire Fraser are reunited after a separation
through time and space that seemed impossible to overcome. You can't get
much better than that for sheer emotional impact (and comic relief as
well). Another favorite is LORD OF THE STORM by Justine Davis, a
great futuristic romance. Now that I'm a die-hard Carla Kelly fan, I can
see re-reading her charming Regencies with their intelligent characters and
When the most recent J.D. Robb book was published, I skimmed through all of
the preceding installments to remind myself of how the characters have
evolved over time. I was surprised to realize that my favorite character,
Delia Peabody, was barely a presence in the first few novels. And it was
also fun to reminisce about how Eve Dallas and the delicious Roarke
originally met and became involved.
TRR reviewer Nancy J. Silberstein has rules for her rereading.
Reading and rereading are two very different experiences, both vastly
rewarding. Only on that first reading will you encounter the writer's
vision with no preconceptions. Only on that first reading can you fully
experience that jolt, that click, that "Ah ha!" that comes when the writer
suddenly enlarges your horizons or brings something familiar into sharp
focus. I love that first reading, that journey into the unknown, but I also
love the revisit, the reading where I take my time and savor all the
details that I failed to appreciate the first time through. Beyond the
first reading and the second, there are books I read and reread many times,
over a period of years, so that the book and I travel together through
time. I change and sometimes the book does, too. Some books I read in my
teens and 20's I can only look back at nostalgically, but other authors -
Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, Dorothy Dunnett, C.J. Cherryh, E. F. Benson -
accompany me on my temporal journey, yielding different reading experiences
at different times in my life.
I have rules about rereading. (Well, I'm a C.P.A., and C.P.A.s love rules.)
I try not to reread just the good parts.
According to njs' Rule #1, you always have to start at the beginning and
read straight through to the end.
Rule #2: Don't reread too often. Jot the date of each reading down and
don't reread until two years have passed. Administrative regulation
affecting Rule #2: Two years have passed when the final two digits of the
year have advanced two places. So, if you finish a book on 12/31/99, you
can reread it on 1/1/01.
Rule #3: The exception to Rule #2 is that you may reread a book the first
time in the same year that you bought the book. Administrative regulation
affecting Rule #3: If you read a really great book in December of 1999,
better reread it right away, before year-end. If you wait until January
2000, you won't be allowed to reread until 2002.
Rule #4: If you haven't reread a book in five years, rethink keeping it.
Administrative regulation affecting Rule #4: Rule #4 doesn't apply to
mysteries. The longer you wait to reread a mystery, the more surprising its
resolution will be. I reread Dick Francis on a ten-year cycle.
TRR Senior Reviewer Gwen Osborne suspects we all go back to the old and
"Keeper shelf" is a term TRR contributors toss around rather freely. It's a
real place for me, not just a state of mind. These are books I re-read
because it's like visiting old friends or going back to favorite places.
For example, I like to spend time with Brenda Jackson's Madaris family and
their friends because I "know" them all so well. Gay Gunn's books always
make me cry (in the same places). She makes me care about her characters.
I also re-read books when authors revisit characters in new books. Carmen
Green's "Endless Love" is about the Crawford family. It will be released at
the end of the summer. I've re-read SILKEN LOVE and KEEPING
SECRETS, earlier books about the same family, in preparation for my
review. I like to be able to tell whether the character's actions are
consistent or believable from one book to the next, to determine how have
these characters changed since I've last seen them.
TRR's Senior Reviewer Lesley Dunlap had these thought on re-reading.
I reread books that have touched me in some special way. It's
practically never the plot. It's often the characters or the conflicts
they confront. And it's always the language. The English major in me
appreciates reading a line, a section, a book, that perfectly reflects the
sentiments in the story. As I said in my "White Space" forum: I read them
for the words.
"When I shall stand before God, I shall have one thing to say, to weight
against all the rest....Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her
well." (Jamie in Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber)
Forty ways to love ... please, God, let me love just once." (a sentence
that demonstrates why this book is more than just soft porn but rather a
expression of a woman's longing) (Elizabeth in Robin Schone, The Lady's Tutor)
"I love you from the very bottom of my soul....Not just from my heart,
you understand. I love you from my soul." (Mat in SEP, First Lady)
The hero looks down the table and sees the wife he married to bring
humiliation to his father as "endearingly shabby." (Mary Balogh, The
If the language doesn't move me, the sexiest hero and the most darling
heroine, the most ingenious plot, or most exotic setting aren't going to
bring me back again and again. The book has to "speak" to me, and it's the
author's skill with language that does that.
BTW, I thought long and hard to decide which books I had reread the most
through the years. I decided it was a toss-up between Roberta Gellis, Bond
of Blood, and Elizabeth Stuart, Bride of the Lion, both medievals.
(Coincidence? I think so. Velvet by Jane Feather, set in regency England,
is a close runner-up.) Each time I reread them, I don't have a been there
done that feeling--it's as though I know the basic outline of the plot but
the power of the language draws me back in again.
July 11, 2000
But that's my opinion.
Readers, email The Romance Reader with your opinion. Have an idea for a Forum of your own? Let us know.