I love Ghostbusters. I mean, who doesn’t, right? My mom loves it even. As such, I, like so much of the movie-watching public, will re-watch it roughly annually. I have committed the lines practically to memory. It’s sort of a tradition, and I’m sure many of you have similar traditions, be they with Ghostbusters, another movie, a TV show you religiously binge-watch, or books.
A lot of people like to re-read books.
As an author, this kind of drives me a little bit crazy.
Now, when I was younger, this absolutely was not the case. I have re-read Rodney Mullen’s autobiography probably five times, and about as many times for Sean Mortimer’s Stalefish. I have both read and listened to Wil Wheaton’s Just a Geek a couple times apiece. Don’t even get me started on comics. I absolutely understand the mindset of re-reading a book, because it’s the exact same mindset as re-watching a movie or TV show; you enjoy something enough, and you want to go in for seconds.
“So what’s your problem then, Draga?” is a fair question, and one you may very well be asking me.
Even if you aren’t, as long as you aren’t asking yourself “why am I still reading this?”, I’m going to give you an answer.
See, authors really like it when people read what we write (shocking, right?). We spend months, sometimes years writing, editing, re-writing, sobbing, drinking, burning, and re-re-writing our manuscripts, and we get pretty excited when, at last, our masterpieces emerge from the clay which we feverishly worked. We shout from every rooftop that we can get on without being arrested, bombard friends, family, fans, and Facebook with word of our completed tomes. We scour social media in the hopes of subconsciously sliding thoughts of our new work into a comment thread without feeling like door-to-door salespeople, or perchance to catch a glimpse of the elusive wild reader gushing over it.
Now, while I can’t speak for other people, I know that oftentimes in such comment threads, I find myself stumbling across scores of readers saying things like “It’s time for my annual re-read of Tolkien’s entire completed works!” or “I just finished the last Malazan book, so I’m going right back to the first!”
I’m not saying it’s discouraging, but in the heat of the moment, it’s a little discouraging.
Problem is, for me to posit that readers not read what they want to read is dumb, and would brand me a total jerk, and would effectively achieve the complete opposite intended effect of this post, which is to try and endear those of you reading it to me in the hopes that you’ll maybe try reading my stuff (spoilers). So, if you yourself are a reader, I ask that you lower the torch and pitchfork, because I’m not here to take your beloved, dog-eared copies of The Black Company away from you. Now, if you’re a writer, and you find yourself in a similar position as me, I’m going to offer a little advice in regards to dealing with the inevitable feelings of jealousy and inadequacy that follow when you see that someone is on their twelfth read of Dragonlance and come on, Dragonlance fans really like my stuff if only they would...
Take a deep breath and try to put things into perspective. I know for me, much of the frustration that arises when I see someone doing a re-read is just misguided frustration at the fact that I myself don’t have the time to read that I wish I did. Writers are busy people! Many of us work side jobs on top of our authorial pursuits, and I myself have sang the praises of audiobooks on multiple occasions for being the only way I can read with any kind of regularity. That said, of course my knee-jerk reaction to re-readers is “But there’s so many books and so little time!” and to this I simply have to remember that it’s much easier to find time to read when you don’t need to designate time to write. Sure, maybe someone is making their way through the Harry Potter books again (I swear, they were halfway through that one just six months ago), but it’s entirely possible that this is their side series, the one they can casually breeze through at bedtime while reserving their more alert mental faculties for something new!
Maybe your new book?
At the end of the day, people will read what they like, and far be it for any of us, readers and writers
alike, to yuk someone else’s yum. With any luck, one day I’ll have the time to go back and revisit
some of my favourite book series, and hey, with a lot of luck, maybe one day I’ll stumble onto an
internet comment thread and read that someone is on their tenth re-read of mine.
I don’t want to speculate or anything, but I imagine that probably won’t irk me quite as much.