Losing the Magic: Books I’m Afraid to Re-Read

Amanda Nelson

Staff Writer

Amanda Nelson is an Executive Director of Book Riot. She lives in Richmond, VA.

There are books that have defined moments in my life, books which have carved out pieces of my heart and took up unapologetic residence. I have this irrational fear (so many of my posts here are based on my reading irrationalities) that if I re-read it, I’ll lose the magic of that book. I don’t want to tarnish the memories. Each re-read of a book speaks to you differently, and I want to hold onto exactly how these books spoke to me at a specific moment in time. So here are just a few books that were milestones in my world, reading-wise or otherwise, that I’m wary of picking up again:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was a revelation to my angsty, melodramatic soul when I read it at 16. It was one of the first books I ever took a highlighter to for nonacademic reasons. I immediately went out and bought all the other published-to-that-point MTV Books. But to this day, over ten years later, I’ve never re-read it. I’m afraid I’ll hate it, or find it saccharine.

Persuasion, Jane Austen. I read this during a rough patch in my then-young marriage. I was married at 19, and over the first few years we both grew up (like you do). I can safely say that we’ve both been married to several different people during our seven years together, and sometimes, those people were supremely annoying. Persuasion– a book about two people who have grown and matured over years apart and then rekindle their romance- got me through one of those supremely annoying moments. Now it’s a talisman for our relationship, and I’m worried that if I re-read it now without a relationship crisis, it won’t mean as much. And I want it to.

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky. One of the first Really Hard Books I ever read and loved, and felt like I UNDERSTOOD. I put WORK into this book and got REWARD. I am an intellectual giant (said my then-self)! Well, now I’m used to doing the work of more difficult books- will I just find this boring or tedious?

All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque. I read this my junior year of high school during our World War I unit, and it made me horrified of war more than any history book I’d ever read. I mark the reading of this book as one of the moments I became “un-teenager,” or actually aware of and made soul-sick by parts of humanity. I’m afraid that if I go back to this, I’ll find that I’m too jaded or cynical to still be that horrified.

Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut. So dark! So funny! Books can be dark and smart and funny and still be serious without being melodramatic or histrionic! But if I read it now, will I still find it dark and smart and funny, or silly and sort of meh-ly written? I don’t want to know!

Am I alone here? Are there books you don’t want to re-read because they might lose their magic, or because the memory is so perfect?