This morning (while attempting to contact various regional PTO members on Facebook for my internship), I came across this article entitled “The Case for Re-Reading a Book You Once Hated.” I found this interesting, because there have been several books throughout the years that I did not like when I was first required to read them that have become relative favorites.
There’s a huge gap between the first time and the second time I picked up these books. Many times, it’s because I tried to read the book as a requirement for school, and we all know that the quickest way to get someone to hate reading is to assign them to read it. (That’s not to say that I hated every required reading book; I enjoyed several, like Frankenstein and Grendel.)
- Night by Eli Wiesel. I first encountered Wiesel’s book in my eighth grade literature class. This was on the very end of my slight obsession with the holocaust era (I thought it was sickly fascinating), and right after I moved back to the United States from where my dad was stationed in Germany. (Before you ask, no, we never visited any concentration camps, because my sister and I were too young.) When I first read the book, I couldn’t believe it had won so many awards because I found it boring. I reread the book several years later, in a college memoir class. It was haunting. What I had skimmed over seven years before now had me fighting back tears. The horrors Wiesel encountered were too much to comprehend. I don’t know if it’s proper to say that I enjoy this book, and it’s not one that I reach for whenever I have a spare moment, but it’s one that I reread every now and then to remind myself of what once happened.
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Just like Night, this book was on my eighth grade reading list. Technically, it was supposed to be summer reading between eighth and ninth grade, but I swapped schools and never told my new school that I had to read this book. I found it boring. I couldn’t get through the first three chapters, no matter how hard I tried. I picked it up again my senior year of high school, probably because it was on a reading list somewhere (I’m really not sure why I tried it again). I was blown away by both the political message and the terrifying warning beneath it. And now that we have a president who doesn’t really seem to know how to read a book (kinda?), I feel like this book is even more relevant today. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. You should see the angst-ridden status updates I posted about this book on Facebook, yikes. I was young and naïve, okay? I actually watched the Wuthering Heights movie with my roommate the first day I moved in with her last month. It’s just as angsty as I was all those years ago. (Looks like this was a summer reading book for AP Literature before my senior year of high school.) I did finish the book, which is more than can be said for Anna Karenina, which was another of the required books. (The last one was 1984, which I enjoyed from the first reading.) I’m sorry I was so rude about your book, Emily.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Just ignore that whole Pride & Prejudice & Zombies hype and look back on the original classic. Is it sexist? A bit. Is it classist? Probably more so. But it’s still a relatively good read. (I could never tell that to my roommate because she’d probably kill me.) I’m going to be taking a Jane Austen class this next Fall semester, so I’ll let you know how I feel after a third read-through, how about that? (I’ll probably do a book review of each book I have to read for that class.)
- Redwall by Brian Jacques. I had a friend who was very into Redwall when I was younger (I think mostly because it was an animated TV series at the time?), but I checked out a book from the library once and found it utterly confusing. My ex actually helped me get into this series; I bought one of the few books he didn’t own for our anniversary, then he dumped me so I read it instead. And enjoyed it. So I’m now collecting the whole series from Barnes & Noble. I could probably buy them all on Thriftbooks for much cheaper, and all at once, but I really want a nice matching set because I’m very particular about my books. I figure I couldn’t get into it when I was younger because the language was so different. Now that I’ve read more things in that genre, I’m better equipped at handling it. And the stories are incredibly violent, but also kinda sweet.
I’m sure there are other books out there that I put down years ago and picked up later, but for now, these are the top five I can recall. I feel like you should give a book you hated a chance, several years down the road. (Although take this with a grain of salt: I was told by a worker when I bought 1984 and told him that I hoped it wasn’t as terrible as Animal Farm that, when I reread Animal Farm four years or so later, I’d love it. I still don’t enjoy or even remotely love Animal Farm.)
What about you? Are there books you once read but hated, then picked them up later? What made you pick them up again? Did your feelings change at all?