Can I Get a Redo? Books We Wish We Could Read Again for the First Time

Steph Auteri

Senior Contributor

Steph Auteri is a journalist who has written for the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, VICE, and elsewhere. Her more creative work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, under the gum tree, Poets & Writers, and other publications, and she is the Essays Editor for Hippocampus Magazine. Her essay, "The Fear That Lives Next to My Heart," published in Southwest Review, was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2021. She also writes bookish stuff here and at the Feminist Book Club, is the author of A Dirty Word, and is the founder of Guerrilla Sex Ed. When not working, she enjoys yoga, embroidery, singing, cat snuggling, and staring at the birds in her backyard feeder. You can learn more at and follow her on Insta/Threads at @stephauteri.

When I first moved into the house where I live now, I brought boxes upon boxes of books with me. My friends labored under the weight of all those books as they helped my husband and I move in, and they were paid only in pizza. Within months, I realized that keeping every single book I’d ever read was…impractical. I ended up donating probably 90% of them.

The books that made the cut? Reference titles. Books that had taken my breath away. Books I had loved beyond all reason. Books I assumed I’d reread.

“But do you really end up rereading books?” people always ask me.

Why, yes. Despite my never-ending TBR, yes, I do.

Among the books I occasionally return to, often when in a reading slump, are those I wish I could experience again for the very first time. There are those that were such a fun ride, I found myself laugh-crying while reading them. Others were so relatable, they felt like a warm hug. And some were so thought-provoking, they made me reconsider my entire way of life.

We have another post on this topic from seven years ago. But seven years is an eternity, and there have been so many more books that have rocked my world since then.

Below, I share just some of the books I’d love to revisit for the very first time, plus a few more from my fellow Book Rioters.

Beach Music by Pat Conroy - book cover

Beach Music by Pat Conroy

To be honest, I wish I could experience all of Conroy’s books again for the very first time. They are filled with lush descriptions and over-the-top melodrama and quippy characters whose quick-witted dialogue rivals that of the television ensembles on shows like Dawson’s Creek and Gilmore Girls. Reading them is like enjoying an illicit sweet (like those Ferrero Rochers I keep hidden in my office closet). Beach Music is the first novel of his I read, a beat-up paperback pilfered from my father’s basement collection when I was still young. It’s about a Southerner living with his young daughter in Rome who’s called back to his childhood home when his mother falls ill. Once back home, he has to contend with memories of the wife he lost to suicide and deal with the resentments of family members who feel he abandoned them. I know. It sounds depressing as all get-out. But this book made me feel all the emotions, both positive and negative, and I wish I could experience this rollercoaster of a novel again without knowing what was coming around the bend.

the cover of Going After Cacciato

Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien

Fast forward to my college years, when I entered my War Novel phase. I quickly became enamored of O’Brien’s work, and I found this novel to be particularly moving. It’s a surrealist anti-war novel set during the Vietnam War in which an entire squad goes after one of their members — Cacciato — after he decides to go AWOL by walking all the way from Vietnam to France. Through this premise, O’Brien explores the ravages of war, psychological trauma, and the risk that comes with pursuing one’s dreams. I still remember being a writing student, seeing O’Brien read at the Boston Public Library, wishing for a future in which I, too, could build a life out of words. I think my wish to experience his books again for the very first time stems from nostalgia for a more innocent, hopeful time in my own writing life.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson - book cover

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Lawson first caught my eye on what I generally refer to as “mom Twitter.” Soon after, I began reading her blog, The Bloggess, so I was super primed to enjoy her first memoir. In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson uses dark humor as a vehicle for her stories of depression and anxiety, mixed in with random ridiculousness that is too absurd to be believed. When I saw her read at a book launch event in NYC, I laughed so hard, I cried. I wasn’t embarrassed, though, because everyone else was laugh-crying, too. I feel like Lawson was at the forefront of this particular brand of humor, and to experience her again for the very first time would be to return to a time when all of social media was not a constant deluge of self-deprecating snark.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson - book cover

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

Five years ago, I began reading comics. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl was not the absolute first comic I picked up, but it was close, and it rocked my world. It was definitely the first one I fangirled over so hard, I ended up cosplaying as the main character and even decoupaging a frame to hold the piece of art I commissioned from the artist. More than anything, I loved the humor of the series, and also its inherent wholesome goodness. I would love to return to a time when I hadn’t yet read those first few panels, which kicked off a love for a medium I’d previously been indifferent to.

cover image of Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Okay. This one actually rings the same bells for me as Lawson’s book. It tackles tough topics with laugh-out-loud humor, albeit in graphic form. Hyperbole and a Half is a humor memoir that grew out of Brosh’s webcomic/blog. It tackles hard-hitting issues like laziness, adulting, and depression and it does so with drawings that are so hilariously bad (yet still so expressive), they’ve circled all the way back around to awesome. It brought all the LOLs, even as I painfully related to it, and the chapters on depression made me feel particularly seen. Actually, every time I read this one, it does still feel like the first time, so…achievement unlocked?

Braiding Sweetgrass cover

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I’ve written about this book before. Somehow, it became my number one favorite read in 2020, despite the fact that I am an indoorsy person. This book is just gorgeous, though. Kimmerer writes with beauty and reverence toward the world we live in, braiding essays together to paint a picture of a culture where people behave with reciprocity toward the land and toward each other. She asks readers to move toward that same relationship of reverence and reciprocity and, in saving the land, save themselves. This is one of those “made me reconsider my entire way of life” books, and I loved it so much, I read it twice within the span of just a few months. Returning to it is a wonderful reminder of how we should be living in community with the earth and with each other.

Cover of "Dial A for Aunties" by Jesse Q. Sutanto.

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Sutanto’s comic thriller-romance is a mix of genres I don’t typically read but, much to my surprise, it ended up being the most fun ever. In the book, our leading lady accidentally kills her blind date. Meddelin Chan doesn’t know what to do, but her Chinese-Indonesian aunties immediately step up, all while prepping for the grandest wedding they’ve ever worked before. Can they pull it off? Will Meddelin reunite with the one who got away while also getting away with murder? I wish I could experience it for the first time again because, though I have enjoyed other comic thriller-romances recently (it’s apparently a whole thing), none of them have it in quite the same way. Onward to my colleagues’ picks!

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch - book cover

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

The first time I read this, I had to stop reading and shut the book because I kept thinking, you can write like this? I was in my MFA program and we were being told very specific things about craft and how to write memoir, and here comes this book and it blew up everything I was told. I was in awe of the wordcraft, the way she phrased things, what she discussed, and how she said it. I carried that book around with me in my bag for years after I finished it. I’ve reread it countless times since that first read, but oh, how I wish I could experience it anew again. —Jaime Herndon

A graphic of the cover of The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

The Broken Earth fantasy trilogy made N.K. Jemisin the first author to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a row, and for good reason. It’s completely genius, showing a dystopian universe on a grand and personal scale that takes the reader on a winding journey full of surprises. And those surprises are exactly why I wish I could read this trilogy (and especially the first in the series, The Fifth Season) again for the first time. There’s a moment in the first book where everything you think you know changes, and I would give anything to go back and feel my own perspective shift when everything clicks into place. I can’t say any more without spoiling it, so if you haven’t read the Broken Earth trilogy yet, read it soon and enjoy it for me! —Susie Dumond

Dirk Gently cover

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

While Hitchhiker’s Guide was the first Adams book I ever read, this one blew my mind in a completely different way. It’s a sort of supernatural mystery story with several plot lines and plot points that you think cannot possibly connect in a rational way (well, “rational” for a certain use of the term). When it all started coming together, I just sat there almost laughing in sheer awe. What kind of a mind would come up with something like that? (And why couldn’t I borrow some of that magic??) Actually, it’s been a while since I’ve read Dirk Gently, so maybe I’ve forgotten enough of it that I can go back and reread it like it really is my first time! —Eileen Gonzalez

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu book cover

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu

I loved this entire collection, and there are gripping twists and turns in quite a few of them. But the first story in particular — about someone trying to “visit” their mother in virtual reality, even though that’s against VR rules — packs a special kind of gut punch that I’m not sure can ever be recreated by a reread or another story. —Eileen Gonzalez

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase - book cover

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

This is an absolute classic of a romance novel with one of the most badass heroines to ever grace the page. The chemistry! The wit! The drama! What I wouldn’t give to read the glove scene for the first time again. I’d love to meet many of the characters for the first time again, especially the grandmother. If you haven’t read this one yet, I’m jealous and very chin hands waiting for your response. —Nikki DeMarco

And that’s all she wrote, folks! After reading this post, I do encourage you to read its previous iteration. Do any of your faves show up? Which ones would you choose?