10 Books I Wish I Could Read for the First Time Again
Those who know my reading habits know that I enjoy rereading books. I suspect it has to do at least in part with my anxiety being triggered by change/the unexpected. There is nothing more calming and reassuring than curling up with a story one is already familiar with. There's also no question about whether or not you'll have a good time since you already know your feelings on the story. Of course, anyone can love rereading even if they don't have anxiety, I'm just giving some insight into my person reasons. I also prefer to reread the first book(s) in series before reading the next installment because I have the memory of my late hamster Bear and tend to forget details.
All that said, I cannot deny that there is a certain kind of magic about the first time you read a book that cannot be replicated. I put books on this list either because they altered me as a reader, I appreciate the craft as a writer myself, or simply because I enjoyed them. Have you read any of these books? I obviously recommend them all.
1. The Giver by Lois Lowry
How could I not include my all time favorite book as well as my most reread book first on this list? This middle grade is about a boy who lives in a seemingly perfect society that underneath its surface is insidious. I read this book for the first time when I was in sixth grade and I'll never forget the chills I got during certain pivotal points. Today, I could describe every plot detail to someone who's never read the book, but somehow I still feel myself falling alongside Jonas when his world crumbles.
2. Specials by Scott Westerfeld
This is the third book in a YA dystopian series and it actually wasn't my favorite in the series. There is a specific line, however, that is my favorite line in any novel I've ever read. Throughout the series the protagonist, Tally, undergoes numerous operations (many against her will) in order to transform her into what is essentially a super soldier (known as a special). The line I love is "Specials didn't cry, but her tears had finally come." I interpret this as Westerfeld saying that despite all the wrongs the world had done against her, Tally was still herself/human at her core. Tally was the first character I truly loved and so it made me quite emotional. Also, as a writer I thought how Scott ends the first book, Uglies, with the word pretty, the second book, Pretties, with the word special, and the finale with the word ugly was clever wordplay.
3. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
This was Bardugo's adult debut (after writing exclusively YA) and her first foray into writing mystery as well. The book follows a woman who can see ghosts as she helps to keep Yale's secret societies in line. I am an unabashed Bardugo super fan. At the time of this novel's publishing I was only reading YA and didn't read mysteries. I picked this book up solely on Bardugo's name and it was a game changer when it comes to my reading. I found myself so intrigued by the mystery at the novel's center that it made me decide to further explore the mystery/thriller genre (it's now one of my most read genres). Additionally, it helped to lessen my phobia of reading adult books/made them seem less intimidating (and I now read a mix of YA and adult).
4. Only a Monster by Vanessa Len
This book about a time traveling girl who discovers she's a monster is a recent read for me (I read it this year). I've both read and written a lot of YA fantasy in my day, so it takes a ton to impress me (especially when an enemies to lovers romance is involved as it was here). This is the first time I can remember finishing a book and being envious that I wasn't the one who'd written it (in a good way). The concept of a story told from the villain's perspective is the kind of premise that subverts expectations (and I do love a good morally grey character). It's genius. The plotting had a lot of factors (Romeo and Juliet like romances, time traveling, a high stakes heist). It could have easily become a twisted mess, but instead the execution made it something I couldn't put down.
5. Bunnicula by James and Deborah Howe
This children's book is told from the perspective of the family dog about a bunny that may or may not be a vampire. This book will always have the most special place reserved for it in my heart for what it did for me. This was the first time I truly fell in love with a story and storytelling. It was after reading this book as a child that I realized I wanted to be a writer. I remember writing my own versions of this tale and those being some of my firstnclumsy attempts at what would become the great love of my life: writing and creating my own fantasy stories.
6. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Before we begin, no, I've never seen the show. The reason I put this book (and, indeed, this entire series that I sadly fear may never be finished) here is for its world building. When I first started writing I was obsessed with character development. It's still something I look for in my books and focus on in writing, but any good fantasy writer needs to also succeed in crafting a world that reads as fleshed out. You could argue Martin's writing is a tad dry, but you could never argue he slacks when it comes to world building. Descending into the world of Westeroes made me fall in love with this instrumental aspect of fantasy books. It's now the main thing I look for in any fantasy book I pick up.
7. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
This boarding school mystery was one of the first I read in the genre. It helped me to cement what I gravitate towards in the genre (that being isolated settings and large, potentially ominous buildings - bonus if they come with secret passageways). It was also monumental for being the first time I saw good representation for anxiety disorders (which I have). The protagonist, true crime aficionado Stevie Bell, suffers from an anxiety disorder but it doesn't define her character. I can't understate how important representation like this is for the community.
8. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
Your first experience with an author is either one you wish you could forget or one you'll always remember. This book, ironically, about a woman who is forgotten by everyone she meets, was the later for me. This book was one in which not only was I mesmerized by the story but I was taken by the storytelling/writing talents of the author. Schwab is one of those authors I'd love to get coffee with and talk technique. She's someone I could see myself learning a lot from. Perhaps the best part of the novel is how it takes a common trope - a deal with the devil - and reinvents it.
9/10. The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes/Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
I put these two mysteries in the same spot because they're here for the same reasons. The first one is a YA noel about a smart but poor girl who inherits billions from a stranger. The catch is she must live in his house and solve the riddle of why he left her his fortune. The later is an adult novel about a novelist who is mistaken for a hit woman. Both of these books, while they definitely had their more serious and tender moments, were just fun and over the top. From the feeling of playing a game alongside the characters of The Inheritance Games to the bumbling antics of Finlay Donovan...they're just a good time. They're the ideal escapism and great for getting out of a reading slump.