The response to my bitching about chapter titles was interesting. Much skiting from the virtuous I-read-evey-single-itty-bitty-little-thing camp. And much guilty admissions from those of us with less patient reading approaches. Thank you! Nice to know I’m not alone.

Though I always read acknowledgments and dedications. Hello! That’s gossip. I adore gossip!

I do however read the acks last and thus prefer them to be at the back of the book. (I insisted on it for the Magic or Madness books.) That way you won’t be spoiled by finding out that the author’s thanked an expert on eighteenth-century Spanish daggers. I mean, please! You might as well scream that the protag is going to be gravely wounded by an eighteenth-century Spanish dagger! What’s the point in reading after you’ve learned that?

But like many of you I never ever read the jacket or cover copy before reading a novel for the first time. Oh, how I hates them! If I’m checking to see if a novel’ll grab me I give it the first-paragraph test. I never turn it over to see what vile spoilers or lies are printed on the back.

Of course, I realise that I—and I bet quite a few of you—prolly do both kinds of reading. The first time I read a novel is when I greedily bolt it down, almost skimming in my urgency to find out what happens. On my second read I’m less out-of-control. I’ll read the copy (marvelling at its lies and/or spoilers) and the introduction. I might even start noticing stuff like point of view, the cunningly little set-ups, and, um, maybe even chapter titles. Though probably not until my third or fourth read.

The sloppiness of my first reads is prolly why I re-read so often. There’s alway a tonne more for me to discover—even on the millionth read. See? Smarty pants we-read-every-little-word people? I’m virtuous too!

What are your fave re-read books? Mine are all comfort reads and they’re almost all by Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and Raymond Chandler. I know, I know. How predictable!


  1. jonathan on #

    this is an uncomfortable question for me. pre-getting involved with locus and stuff i re-read all the time. i think i read c.j. cherryh’s downbelow station five times in 1986, though i can’t quite say why now. and i re-read dune a lot, use to re-read heinlein (no more!), and thought i’d love re-reading pratchett more than i do. what’s weird now is that i now almost never re-read. no time.

  2. E. Lockhart on #

    I re-read Austen, too. Also P.G. Wodehouse pretty often. I am re-reading Brideshead Revisited, but have got bogged.
    David Copperfield.

  3. E. Lockhart on #

    PS I wanted to read some Georgette Heyer on your rec — but the heaving bosom covers got me so perplexed I didn’t know what to choose. Will you recommend me one?

  4. marrije on #

    when i was a littlie, i read and re-read lord of the rings and the hobbit tons of times. and stranger in a strange land. and my dad’s jack vance collection, and ursula le guin. and thea beckman. and all my books, really.

    now i mostly re-read comfort nostalgia books like the chosen & other chaim potoks, franny & zooey and the other salingers. i want to get back to the 18th century and read clarissa and tom jones & co. again soon, but i blame jenny d. for that 🙂

    Oh yeah, and i re-read lots of books on writing, especially Anne lamott, lawrence block and this guy Steven King (you may have heard of him).

  5. Christopher Barzak on #

    I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. And Possession, by A.S. Byatt always make me feel good when I’m sick, which I am right now. Lacking either book (they are still in boxes in my parents’ basement) I grabbed and read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five off my shelf and read that. It was not comforting, but it was really really good.

  6. Chris McLaren on #

    The author I reread the most is probably John D. MacDonald. He’s my fiction “comfort food”.

    Oh, and kind of oddly, I also seem to reread Silverberg’s _Star Of Gypsies_ a lot for some reason.

  7. klages on #

    John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books. And Modesty Blaise. And Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters/Seymour.

  8. niki on #

    E. Lockhart: no.. you have to love the covers

    Reading Georgette Heyer in front of bunch of geeky boys in a computer lab has to be the most enjoyable reading ever..:) – and no it’s not because they’re gorking at the bomb covers, they’re horrified because they think I’m reading soft porn…

  9. Chris S. on #

    Re-reads, hm. Jenny Crusie; Lois McMaster Bujold; Terry Pratchett; Edmond Rostand; Georgette Heyer; Eva Ibbotson… the list goes on and on.

    E. Lockheart: try ‘The Grand Sophia’, or ‘Frederica’, or ‘The Queit Gentleman’.

  10. Chris S. on #

    Er, that ‘The Quiet Gentleman’. Not ‘Queit’.

  11. Rebecca on #

    ender’s game by orson scott card. i bought it when i was ten. it was my first “grown-up” book, and my gymnastics teacher recommended it to me. later, when i told him how much i’d liked it, he was surprised and told me that he hadn’t thought i would actually read it. i’d been skeptical about getting it, but for some reason i went ahead and spent my six dollars on it (can you believe i got a whole book for only six dollars back then? :P) and read it on a family vacation to new mexico. that first time, i didn’t understand a whole lot of it, but every time i reread it, i was a little older and wiser, and i discovered more and more. when i was rereading it today, i noticed even more new things. the pages are yellow. the cover has come off and been taped back on, and entire chunks of the book have fallen out and been reattached. i can open it to any page and start reading. i hope to get it signed someday. have you ever read it? if not, you should. it’s so awesome. 🙂

  12. Amanda Coppedge on #

    I second Ender’s Game. Also Jane Eyre, East of Eden, Orlando, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Hero and the Crown (McKinley), Babel Tower (A. S. Byatt), the Tillerman books by Cynthia Voigt, Gone with the Wind . . .

    I’ve also read Midnighters #1 two times now, once for fun and once for a class presentation. 🙂

  13. Ted Lemon on #

    I just reread Sunshine, by Robin McKinley. I won’t say that it was as good to read it the second time as the first, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Andrea and I both reread Harry Potter on occasion. It’s kind of like comfort food – it’s not really the same as regular reading, but when you’re feeling stressed out, it’s like going someplace familiar that you really like.

  14. lili on #

    anything by diana wynne jones, but Fire and Hemlock the most, i probably read it once a year. also the last samurai by helen de witt (absolutely nothing to do with the tom cruise movie in any way). the teddy robinson books by joan robinson. georgette heyer.

    i love rereading. it’s like catching up with an old friend. i wish i had more reading time to do it!

  15. Penni on #

    I rarely reread adult books (though Austen and the Brontes might be an exception, only cause they give good plot) unless I’m studying them (and hey, I’ve written whole essays on books I’ve never even read once) – maybe it’s because I do tend to slow down a bit with adult literary books and take it in.
    I reread kids books over and over and over, not necessarily books from my own childhood (I’ve only just discovered I Capture the Castle but I can see myself reading that at least another 15 times). definitely comfort reading. Trying to break through the barrier of postmodernism (the ‘you can never read the same book twice because you’re a different person with different experiences and values’ school of thought) and discover a utopian reading state of being able to actually exist outside of time, outside my Self even. Hmm…sorry, had several champagnes last night, need to be outside my self right now.

  16. jenny d on #

    you know, it’s funny & rather amazing how many of my own favorite rereads have already been named. i am a great rereader (my only regret is that i can no longer reread austen for fun, as i have to do it too often for teaching purposes; but i would guess that between the ages of, say, 8 and 20 i reread pride and prejudice, oh, about thirty times…) and there are lots of things i’ve reread often that haven’t been mentioned: trollope’s barchester novels, for instance, or susan howatch’s church of england ones and of course all sorts of children’s books. the novels of dick francis, those are ones i’ve read a gazillion times, so much so i’ve leached all rereading pleasure out of them (even so i try now and again…). dorothy l. sayers, margery allingham. but my hard-core rereads include many of those here: heyer; david copperfield for sure; chaim potok (is not “the chosen” one of the best books ever?!?); i capture the castle; eva ibbotson; robin mckinley (i swear i’ve read sunshine at least five or six times, and it didn’t even come out that long ago); diana wynne jones, everything really (deep secret is another favorite) but “fire and hemlock” about twenty times, not kidding. the trilogies of philip pullman and (especially) garth nix. those sabriel books are absolutely my ideal perfect books, and i think they show the virtues of the reread candidate at their sharpest (robin mckinley and eva ibbotson also): the sensibility is so clear and appealing and amusing, and the main character always absolutely delightful. i feel that these books cannot be written except by people who are themselves in some sense forces for good! is that naive?

  17. Justine on #

    Oh yes—I capture the castle. Yum. Diana Wynne Jones and Eva Ibbotson too.

    Jenny D said i feel that these books cannot be written except by people who are themselves in some sense forces for good! is that naive?

    Yes you are naive. Very very. Sad to say, but Garth Nix is a very very very evil bad man indeed . . . Most male Australian fantasy writers are, but none as wicked as Garth. Try not to think of it when you read his books 🙂

  18. racy li on #

    I’m a Robin McKinley fan too, but of Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry series is also at the top of my re-reads.

    I also love the Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy 🙂

  19. liliya on #

    Angela Carter – mainly short stories or the wonderful Nights at the Circus, which always makes me feel dazzled.

    Maybe you’ll like this poster

    includes re-reading, skimming, not finishing a book and other reading sins…

    (I’ve been reading your blog for a while and thought I’d finally comment)

  20. Lewis on #

    Moby Dick – have re-read so many times that I’ve lost count.

  21. Katie on #

    Jane Austen — I just start with Emma then read them all again, and then start with Emma…

    Is it a guilty secret? Heinlein, esp. the juveniles, esp. Rolling Stones and Moon is a Harsh Mistress…

    Eva Ibbotson — you can read one in a couple of hours and smile, smile, smile…

    The Chosen — yes, yes, yes! I just spent time telling 3 people all about it and why it matters so much…

    Dorothy Sayers — first all the Harriet Vanes starting with Gaudy Night, then all of them in other order ending with The Nine Taylors…

    Another guilt secret — Marion Zimmer Bradley and Darkovers, although I have to say I start with the non-Bradley Bradley’s: That is Exile’s Song, then the Berkeley roman a clef such as The Forbidden Tower, then onto The Inheritor — I go for covert autobiography there…

    Dorothy Dunnett, all of Frances Crawford of Lymond — my favorite hero of all time…

    Madeline Le Engle, Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Suzette Haden Elgin, John Varley, Joanna Russ…

    I read everything over and over and over. Spoiling never bothers me, because I love to imagine it all laid out simultaneously in a great pattern…

    I know the first chapters of Pride and Prejudice by heart…

  22. jenny d on #

    oh god, i just love those darkover books, they are totally one of my guiltiest reading pleasures (and the only reason anne mccaffrey’s not another is that i read the pern books so many times as a teenager that they are no longer palatable to me–though i have been known to revisit the harper hall ones in adulthood…)

  23. Justine on #

    Dorothy Dunnett! Of course! How could I have forgotten her? Though weirdly King Hereafter is my fave of her books. But yes Lymond is very yum indeed.

    Now all I want to do is reread things . . .

  24. CoreyJF on #

    Any book that I hated reading as a student, simply because I was forced to read it. Although it is hard to always separate what I would have enjoyed had I read it on my own versus what I have now grown to appreciate.

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