What book or books would you love to read for the first time all over again? This question was a hard one to answer, with so many amazing books, with plot twists and turns galore, to choose from.
Friends I asked answered with nostalgic favorites, like The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien and A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. The pull towards iconic books like these, they answered, was their memories of enjoying the books for the first time as children, often symbolising bonding with family at bedtime.
For many, the emotional journey of reading a book, especially for the first time, also feeds into a sense of a ‘special’ book. Books can make us feel all the emotions on the spectrum, from anger towards a bully, to sheer joy and satisfaction when a meant-to-be couple finally gets together.
Many books are excellent to reread, and many say that detailed books, when reread, reveal new subplots and character nuances every time. The A Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin (1996-present), with its intricate world building and gripped fanbase, comes to mind; one read is not enough to appreciate the intricacies of the plot.
However, the question remains, can you ever reread a book or series like you did the first time?
My answer is no, as although the emotional responses to twists may stay the same, or adapt with new understanding, the shock and disbelief you can get from a book cannot be re-lived. Others may be happy to disagree with me, as they believe that when you are lost in the world, following the plot alongside the character, you can still be just as shocked, angered, or happy as if you never knew what would happen. I find myself far too cynical, but still jealous, of the luxury first-time reading experience.
Having said that, after some careful consideration, the book I would love to reread with fresh eyes is by far Bridget Collins’s 2019 masterpiece The Binding. This novel takes place in a fictitious Medieval-esque world, in which binding books extracts human memories, and locks them in the book. This terrifying and incredibly intriguing practice drives the novel’s discussion of humanhood, memory, magic, and love to create possibly the most gripping book I have ever read.
With perspective changes, the book follows the journey of Emmet, a simple teenager apprenticed into the taboo world of bookbinding, only to find that one of the books, locked away, has his name on it.
When I first read this ‘spoiler’ on the back cover, I felt a little disappointed, but reading the book proved me wrong. I did not expect the emotional rollercoaster waiting for me in this book, with Emmett’s revelation being the tip of the plot’s iceberg.
I am not ashamed to say that I was angry at this book, I cried with it, and I felt so sad when it ended. I am yet to reread the novel, although far from against it, but I doubt that it could ever grip me with the same anticipation that it did the first time.
I am not the only one who was thrilled by Bridget Collins’s novel, with it receiving numerous shortlists, and becoming a no.1 bestseller. Without giving too much away, the plot and its characters were well rounded and refreshing as far as presentations of diversity are concerned.
Aside from being an excellent and thrilling book, it is also extremely timely. Sandra Newman writes in The Guardian that the novel “makes it clear that even our memories can be colonized”. This chilling concept, for me, makes this book such a worthy read, as Collins’ new novel The Betrayal (2020) promises to be.
However, so much of the magic of reading this gripping novel was its newness, unfortunately an experience that I cannot relive, unless, like Emmett, I get my memories bound, and then I could reread it with fresh eyes.