Better the second time around (or third or more!)


Searching for a flower
Aug 22, 2007
Hunting in the woods
So myself and a certain *reads too fast for her own good* Frood are re-reading Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson at present (mostly as a bid to actually finish the mammoth series!). One thing we've both come to agree upon is that the books are actually proving to be as much if not, in some ways, more enjoyable the second time around whilst details are still freshish in the mind from the first reading of the series.

I think this goes down to the fact that Malazan drops you in the thick of a world; there's a lot of world building going on but its not setting it up for you; you muddle your way through. It's not impossible the first time; but the second time when you've a clearer idea of many things its a lot easier to really get into the story.
I think also stories with large character rosters are easier to settle into when you've been through them once because the characters are familiar. You already know them so its easier to get them sorted in your minds eye whilst reading; whilst the first time around you can easily get a little lost at times (ergo making use of those little summaries of characters that can oft appear in an Appendix).

The only other time that I've really felt this same way about a series is when I re-read some stories that I was read to by my Father (Lord of the Rings - The Hobbit). In that case a more mature mind that I have now and the direct act of reading rather than being read too meant that I could pick up more of the story going on and also it changed the experience for me reading it myself.

So I'd be interested in hearing others views on this and what books you've found which managed this; or those which fail to be interesting when you come to read them again.
I read the Gormenghast trilogy and The Book of The New Sun repeatedly as a teenager. Complex characters and a rich and somewhat layered literary style paid off with repeated reading. Being an angst-ridden teenager probably helped.

But then again, I read and reread Moorcock's Eternal Champion books at the same age. There is more to these than meets the eye, but superficially they read like good action fantasy.
I reread books that have made it to my "comfort reading" list. Books like Anne of Green Gables, the Courtyard of the Others series, some of Georgette Heyer's Regency Romances, some of Agatha Christie's mysteries, Jane Austen's Persuasion etc.

These get pulled up and read on days when I really have no more mental energy left. It's like spending time with old friends who come to life on the page.

Moby Dick by Melville
Absalom, Absalom & The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles Finney

With these, knowing what's coming somehow makes reading easier and freed me to notice the grace notes, the turns of phrase, and the words or phrases that have connections to previous or later events in the story that I didn't consciously notice on first reading.

As good as first reading seems a bit more common for me,

The Adventures/Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
The Underground Man by Ross Macdonald
The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll
Something Wicked This Way Comes & The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

I'm sure in time some other titles will come to me.

Randy M.
All the George Smiley books. I found it so confusing when I first read about all the ins and outs at the Circus and minor characters barely mentioned who have a key role a book and a half later.
Now I am familiar with them I can play 'spot the clue' when reading again.
Similar with the Gap Cycle and no doubt a few more series :)
Oh yes -- many books are better when reread.

At a first reading, you're apt to be focusing on who the characters are and finding out what happens to them. You want to satisfy what's been called the simple "narrative lust."

It's when you read again that many of the other good qualities of a book, if it is a good book, can receive their due attention. I'll mention Algis Budrys's Who? as an example from the sf genre.
Years ago a friend suggested I should read Stephen Donaldson's "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" tomes, starting with the "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever"

Reading those books was a test of patience, endurance and a sense of depression/hopelessness! I came away from these three books feeling I could not face the thought of reading the following-up trilogies, so ignored them completely.

But that was 20 or 30 years ago during an extremely busy period in my life. Roughly 10 years ago I decided to knuckle down and try the first trilogy again, helped somewhat by knowing what to expect. As a consequence I was a little more open-minded and appreciative of the main character's mental and physical problems; and subsequently I enjoyed the trilogy much more than expected. And on completion I quickly moved onto the second and third trilogies - all of them still hard going, but for me it became a far more enjoyable adventure compared to the likes of Tolkien's LOTR books.

I will no doubt revisit the entire collection again soon (including the latest entry to what was the final "trilogy", "The Last Dark")
Literally anything by Cormac McCarthy - special mentions go to The Road and The Crossing.

William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

Kings Salems Lot


Erikson's Malazan is good for a reread.

Feist's Riftwar is the one I reread most regular, it's my comfort blanket when I need a pick me up.

Currently rereading Sanderson's Stormlight Archives part one as refresher before book two.

I can't reread Hobb, I did try but found it depressingly boring.
I've not re-read a Hobb yet but I can understand that viewpoint Nixie - I think because a lot of what happens in one of Robin Hobb's books (esp her Assassin series ones) happens in their minds rather than reality - that is to say its a lot of character thought going on. I think that requires you to forget a lot of the story before re-reading makes it interesting again; whilst if you recall most of the story its harder to get immersed because the thinking phases feel really too drawn out.

In contrast something like Malazan is very action driven; there's periods of quite and slow but much of it is very action orientated
My first attempt at Lord of the Rings, aged 11, ground to a halt about half-way through The Twin Towers. I think the battles and many names got a bit too much. On my second attempt, a couple of years later, I flew through it and loved it. Like many others (especially here) I've read it many times since, but (to be pedantic) I wouldn't say it was better yet again, but it's still a wonderful book.

I had a similar issue with the first Thomas Covenant book (some years later). It take's a while to get going and I didn't get past the first hundred pages or so. Later, a friend persuaded me to persevere and so I tried it a second time. It's not a patch of LOTR (well, it's a different type of book) but once I got through that initial part I devoured the rest of the trilogy and the second. Have read it a second time since and enjoyed it equally. Not yet read the final trilogy though.

Other books I've re-read several times (Catcher in the Rye, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and various SF novels) are ones that were just as good the first time round. that I think about it...there is a certain added enjoyment (if that's the right word) in re-reading Zen and knowing the fate of the main character - you're waiting to see it happen.
I've read a majority of the books on my bookshelf twice and some three times or more.
As far as them being better:: the best I can say is that often depending on the characters in the story I read them quite swiftly the first time and then I have more leisure the second time even though I make it through in comparatively good time. Each consecutive time I seem to increase my overall comprehension, which might account for why I've read so many twice.
"Weaveworld" by Clive Barker.
Don't know why but the 1st time around I was just not in the mood for it (maybe troubles at home).
I gave up after 50 pages.
Second time around it really blew my socks off!!!
Great Book!!!!!
This is really interesting.

It makes me wonder why people re-read a book that they didn't enjoy! A couple have said that they were cajoled into it but what does get someone to waste more time on a book that they've already tried?
what does get someone to waste more time on a book that they've already tried.

For me, it's combination of others raving about the book, and the suspicion that I wasn't ready for it or didn't give it a fair hearing the first time. At a rough estimate, I'd say about half of these re-attempts turn out to be worthwhile.
I reread to discover where it is that the book loses me and often once I get past that I can better appreciate a book I didn't like and it goes into my love to hate list.