This is a world populated by all sorts, but when it comes to readers, there are two kinds: there are one-timers and re-readers. One-timers delve into a story and relish its newness. They see a story as complete when they have reached its final page. The plot has been revealed, the resolution (should the author choose to provide one) has been reached, and their time with that story is at an end. I’ve spoken with many people who simply do not see the appeal of revisiting a familiar story. If the story is known to them, they see no need to go back and peruse. The mystery is gone and therefore the story has nothing more to offer. This mindset, of course, will bring one-timers in contact with a good deal more books. Their time will be absorbed in new plots and characters rather than poured into old, familiar ones.
But I think one-timers miss out on something fundamental by only reading a book once. There is so much more to every story than what is immediately available to the reader upon his or her first perusal of a text. Complex characters only truly begin to reveal themselves after a few thorough readings. The one-timer cannot build an in-depth relationship with the characters. One-timers do not usually grow to understand the elements or experience the revelations that come from putting together some small plot detail you may have missed the first, second, third (etc.) time through. Intricate plots and subplots only truly come to life and light once the full force of the main story has been recognized and explored. A one-timer can rarely appreciate the stories within the stories that make up truly great books because it is too easy to be blinded by the primary narrative.
Forgive me for this extremely obvious example but, take Harry Potter for instance, the time between the release of each new book practically demands the true fan to reread the preceding books as a refresher. However, it also made the story and the characters that much dearer. It was not merely an exciting new volume in a great series released once every one or two years, but instead it was like being a part of the world. Rereading brings you so much closer to the characters and the story. Your investment becomes like that of your actual, living friends, you become attached, your emotions poured into the pages. These characters and narratives become your friends, your inspirations, and your heroes/ines. Tamora Pierce’s Alanna of Trebond and Daine Sarrasri were two of my earliest models of strong, independent, female characters and I often find myself drawn back to them when confronted with self-doubt. They offer comfort, understanding, and encouragement. My heart broke and breaks with every reading as characters like Fred Weasely, Dobby, and Faithful die, but it soars in equal measure every time Hagrid says “You’re a wizard, Harry” and Alanna earns and is granted her knighthood (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone). There is something comforting in Daine’s recognition of her love for Numair and the vulnerability it brings whilst she is simultaneously saving the kingdom. There is just so much more to a story than watching the plot unfold.
So if you’re a one-time reader, I urge you, I implore you to revisit a book that made an impression on you. I guarantee you will find something you missed and it will delight you to have more of the picture revealed. Besides, books look better with the spines a little cracked and the edges worn.
Now I’ve said that, I highly recommend anything by Tamora Pierce but specifically her Lioness Rampant and The Immortals quartets. Happy reading!