Rereads: Comfort Reading vs The Ever Growing TBR Pile

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Today I thought I’d talk a bit about one of my favorite topics–rereading books! To reread or not to reread?  That is the conundrum, especially when you’re a book blogger and you may have other book ‘commitments’ like ARCs/review copies or you need to read to write reviews so you can create content for your blog. Even if you’re not a blogger and just a reader with a huge To Be Read pile you may consider carefully whether to you want to spend time rereading a book when you have so many other ones waiting for you, calling your name (or shouting at you in an accusing manner as the case may be).

There are many reasons someone might want to reread a book:

  • The next in a series is coming out and you need a refresher
  • Your book club is reading it and you decided to join in (this has happened to me a lot)
  • Doing research for a post you’re writing (am I the only one who has done this?)
  • Some other fun event like a read-a-long
  • Comfort reading

The thing I really want to focus on here with this post is that last bullet point:  comfort reading. What is comfort reading? Well, I think of it as something that makes you feel good. Something that can make you escape the real world for a bit and bring you some joy in the process.

Despite my huge TBR (it wasn’t always as big as it is now, but it’s been a very long time since it was less then fifty books) I still reread several books each year (in 2018 I reread 18, in 2019 I reread 7). Back when I had a smaller TBR pile I reread a lot more than I do now, percentage wise at any rate (I was also reading a lot less books per year). There were probably two or three books that I’d revisit almost every year. One of those is In Pursuit of the Green Lion by Judith Merkle Riley (I’ve written about her here before, and what her books have meant to me over the years). Another favorite to reread over the years has been Damia by Anne McCaffrey–something about that one I just love even though there is some…weirdness in it too.

These days I’m mainly rereading romances (something I’ve always done since falling in love with the genre–they can be great comfort reads since they focus on emotions so much) and keeping my SFF books fresh and new (that TBR pile isn’t going to read itself!). But every once in a while a book will still catch me into the rereading for comfort from SFF. Twice I loved a book so much that right after I finished it I immediately reread it. The first time was The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. I was in a mess of a book hangover after finishing that novel and the only way to get over it, apparently, was to read it again, right away. Same thing happened with The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. It’s such a lovely book full of feeling for the main character and there’s nothing I love more than a book that makes me get the warm and fuzzies.

But why is rereading for comfort such a big deal?

Well, we all have bad days. Sometimes the world is shit. For me, books can be like friends. Or like coming home after a long time wandering. The light at the end of a dark tunnel. A warm hug.  I’ve fully embraced the fact that I’m an emotional reader. Yes, sometimes I love the intricate details of plot or world building and I can appreciate some fine prose, but how a book makes me feel is always going to be the end all be all for me as a reader. Because I connect to books on this emotional level, revisiting an old favorite can really lift my spirit when I’m feeling down. That’s why I’ll keep rereading books despite my huge TBR, even if it means I’ll never finish all of those books that I have on my list. I’m okay with that. Sometimes you just have to do what makes you happy, and for me that’s rereading.

Do you reread books? Why or why not? Leave a note in the comments, I’d love to chat!

34 thoughts on “Rereads: Comfort Reading vs The Ever Growing TBR Pile

  1. Ola G says:

    What a great post, Lisa! I rarely re-read books, but I treat many of them like good friends anyway – I agree they can help with a lot of what is wrong with the reality! 😄

  2. evelynreads1 says:

    I love rereading, but I rarely do it, because of the huge amount of new books that I want to read..
    But indeed going back to a loved book is one of the best things!

    (www.evelynreads.com)

  3. Monogamist Reader says:

    Really good post and so so true. I was part of three book clubs and I left. With my TBR physically growing, I decided didn’t want to read what people were telling me to read, but just want I wanted to read – if it makes sense?

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yes, that makes perfect sense! I actually wrote another discussion post all about ‘obligated reading’ but it won’t post for a month or two…anyway, I totally get this!

  4. Lucy @ Sunstarbooks says:

    Such a good discussion! I don’t reread books often but I definitely do it for the nostalgia more than anything. It’s nice to go back to the feelings you had when you were reading it for the first time and you get a new perspective on things when you already know how the story ends!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Thank you! Yes, that makes a lot of sense! Sometimes I’m scared to go back and reread a book if it’s been a really long time because I worry if I’ll still love it the same but I haven’t run into that too much, thankfully. 🙂

  5. Tammy says:

    I never reread these days, but I’ll tell you I’m very close. I’ve been super distracted lately (just like everyone in the world!) and I’m finding it hard to focus on reading review books that are too slow or complex. Where normally I would just push through, last night I put down one of those books are picked up a lighter, YA review book instead. So it’s not quite rereading, but I did give into my mood😁

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Tammy I’m having the same problem this past week! I even wrote about it in my post for tomorrow. It took me 3 days to read a 3 hour audiobook, that would normally take me half a day. Just can’t focus. Definitely have to go where your mood takes you when slow downs happen. That being said I have a bunch of review books I’m trying to cross off my list right now so…welp lol. 🙂

  6. cjcasey says:

    I was just talking about rereading trilogies with my family… I read the first three Thomas Covenant books I think three times already, and each time it was when I wanted to move on to later books in the series. (Those three are still the best… they were grimdark before that was overused, and are perhaps the best in lit at showing the consequences not only of one’s actions but of half-assed attempts to fix it.) The king of comfort rereads for me, though, is either any number of short story books (the Lankhmar ones usually fit the bill) or the book Good Omens. I’ve read that cover-to-cover three times, but that book also sat on my bedside bookshelf for three years and I would randomly pick it up at least once a week and just read from some spot in the book.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      A bunch of us were discussing today how it’s funny that things people might not consider ‘comforting’ in a typical way could still be comfort reads and I think Thomas Covenant is the perfect example there. (My controversial comfort reads tend to be post-apocalyptic stuff and or dystopians lol). Great choice in Good Omens, I love that one too. Just reread it last year. It’s also a great book to read like that because it’s easy to read from any point.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Every once in a while I have to reread a book before going into the sequel because I forgot what’s happened but thankfully that’s few and far between. But also, like you said, it’s nice just to revisit beloved books!

  7. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum says:

    I don’t reread, but more power to you if you do! I do agree with reading for comfort though, so even though I always lament the huge size of my TBR, I’m always glad there’s plenty of choice because I know there’s always something to fit every mood!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      That’s true. I do a lot of comfort reading that’s new to me books as well, that’s usually when I go on a romance binge (at least with romance genre books you kind of already know the ending and I suppose there can be comfort in familiarity).

  8. imyril says:

    I like to say I’m a ‘feelings first reader’ – sure, I can sit back and get analytical, but the success of a book almost always hinges on my emotional engagement. Like you, that means I’ve got books that mean so much to me that they definitely sit in the comfort read box and get revisited regularly (although also like you, that’s a lot less regular than it used to be now I’ve got a bigger TBR). Locke Lamora and the Deverry books both inhabit this space, as do the works of John Wyndham – none of which are fluffy, but there’s so much going on in them and there’s immense familiarity – but some of my most comforting rereads are children’s books: Alan Garner, the Prydain books, The Dark is Rising. I can absolutely see The Goblin Emperor sitting comfortably in this niche; Becky Chambers has definitely rocketed into it. But I love rereading in general – sometimes it’s the best way to realise how much I loved a book 🙂

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yes, I’m very much an ’emotions first’ reader. I like some books that go to some very dark places too, like the Kushiel books are not always comfortable reads but they can be comforting because they’re familiar to me. I could totally see Locke Lamora being similar to that.

      • imyril says:

        Ooh yes Kushiel fits that too. Whatever terrible things happen, Phedre/Joscelin and Locke/Jean are very comforting relationships to come back to.

  9. Susy's Cozy World says:

    This was a great post! I never finished a book and restarted it immediately but I re-read, and more often than not is a comfort reading. Yes, sometimes I do it because the next book in the series come out and I need a refresh, or because I am joining a read a long but usually it is for comfort. And sometimes we just need it!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Thank you! I hardly ever reread for refresh but it has happened! Sometimes there’s just too long between releases and I can’t remember haha. The bulk of my rereading is comfort reading. 🙂

  10. maddalena@spaceandsorcery says:

    Once upon a time, long before I started blogging and discovered a way to turn my TBR into an unmanageable monster, I used to re-read old favorites for comfort (the LOTR, Dune, just to name a couple of them). Now, every time I consider doing that – and I’m long overdue a re-acquaintance journey with Frodo & Co.! – I hear desperate and angry cries from where my TBR is located, and I’m forced to change my mind… 😁😁

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yes, this is exactly my journey too haha. I used to reread the same few books every year and while I still read a lot of newer books it was a lot less than now! And my TBR is out of control. I still try to reread a handful of books every year but it’s not as much as before.

  11. Realms of My Mind says:

    I used to reread all the time when I was younger (like childhood through highschool) because I didn’t have a TBR, I just went to the bookstore and found something that looked cool. So I had plenty of favorites that got reread constantly because I loved them so much. These days I hardly ever reread – part of my Great Series Read is about MAKING myself reread book ones so I feel comfortable reading the sequels. But comfort reads have gone out the door with my desire to feel “productive.” I definitely have felt more and more like I want to go back to things I read ages ago….we’ll see!

  12. marydrover says:

    I love this so much because all of it is just so true. Anytime I’m feeling really crappy (like right now, oi), Sorcerer’s Stone or Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater will do the trick. That, or an entire rewatch of the LOTR trilogy extended versions, haha. But returning to favorites is just such an easy way to know that your mood is going to be lifted. New books are great, but when you need a confirmed good time, rereading is such a relief.

  13. Sarah says:

    I am really not a re-reader! But this year I find myself wanting to re-read all the books and I feel like it’s because I’ve had a long stretch of time where I feel like I really haven’t fallen in love with one particular book or author in a year or two at least. I usually add one or two new favorite authors a year. But it didn’t happen last year. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m getting more discerning in my taste or if I’m just getting worse at picking books for myself.

    Anyway- great discussion topic!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      That could be it for sure, sometimes I use rereading to pull me out of a reading funk like that. Could be that you’re just opening yourself up to more books and some of those are just not for you. I know I’ve tried lots of new things over the last couple of years and some of them were very much NOT for me, back when I had narrower selections I did love pretty much 99.9% of my picks but I didn’t read as widely, even within the SFF genre. Hope you find some great reads soon!

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