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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

 

The second time around

My daughter sounded sad yesterday when I spoke to her on the phone.

"What's wrong?"

"Aww, man," she said. "I just finished a great book, and I'm so disappointed."

"Wait, what?" I asked. "If it was a great book, why are you disappointed? Was the ending bad?

"No, she said. "I'm so disappointed I can't read it again for the first time."

To serious readers, this is a legitimate reason to be sad.

She understands that you can't read the same book twice, because your perception has been altered after you read it the first time. If nothing else, you already know what happens, and if you read it again, begin with a different mindset.

In my communications class we learn that no communication experience is repeatable. So even if the book hasn't changed, the reader has changed once he or she reads it. No one will be able to have the same experience of reading it again for the first time because it's not possible.

There is some good news, however. During a second read, you may pick up on some details and emotions that you missed earlier. A minor plot point about a grandmother dying may be emotional because of your own grandmother's illness. Or the setting that may have meant nothing to you takes on a larger role now that you are planning a trip to that area, so you pick up on cues about what to see and do there and feel a new connection.

Because perception plays such a large role in the way we experience the world, and what we respond to when it is reflected back at us, it's not surprising we can't all agree definitively on what makes a great book, and that our opinion of a book may change as our experiences change. And that's not a bad thing. Millions of books in the world mean there's something for everyone. And although it may take a while to find the next great read, when you do, it's worth the wait.

So to all my writer friends, keep working. You never know who will connect to your words on the page the first, or second, or third time they read them.

Mary Horner is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, and her story Shirley and the Apricot Tree will be published this fall in Kansas City Voices. She teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--If I am loving a book, I too am sad when I'm almost at the end... and then I'm sad when I read the last page, too. It's as if I have to say good-bye to a good friend...

However, when it comes to books that are at the top of my list, I enjoy rereading them. They're old friends, and I've forgotten a couple of minor plot events. I want to refresh my memory. Or I want to read armed with knowledge, so I can read with more depth.

Thanks for this post, Mary, but you left one big question unanswered: what is the book your daughter just finished? ;)

3:22 AM  
Blogger J. Glenn said...

I identify with your daughter. And I'm one of those who rarely reads a book twice. So your points resonate--thank you for that.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

I am actually currently re-reading a book because now there is a sequel and a prequel and I wanted to refresh my memory. I am so glad I decided to re-read because I have forgotten so much. I have read and listened to the Harry Potter books a lot too. And it's always like: Oh yeah, I had forgotten that, etc. But I like what your daughter said--this post was great!

3:55 PM  
Blogger Nila said...

Hi everyone, don't you just love my mom's blog post??

The book I finished reading was The Beauty of Darkness, the third book in The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson! To make things worse, it was the last book in a trilogy! However, there is a prequel I'm excited to read.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Mary Horner said...

Thanks for your comments! I do read some books twice, and often discover that I completely missed some major plot point, so I bonk myself on the forehead and ask "How could I have missed that?" So in that case, it's like reading the book for the first time!

7:01 PM  

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