Sep 15

The first Booktopia, and the last. Reluctant re-readers reconsider. And we recommend Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. 


While reading through the stacks of wonderful cards we received at Booktopia Vermont, Ann and I came upon a note from Joanne in Canada. It was a photo of us with word balloons containing quotes we said when announcing the first Books on the Nightstand retreat (what would later become Booktopia), way back in Episode 79. Things like, “I think I’d like to keep this really loose…” and “Let’s sit by the fire and read…”
As we head off to our final Booktopia event, we want to thank all of you who’ve been a part of this amazing adventure!


 audiobooksAudiobook of the week (04:01)

George, Alex Gino

George by Alex Gino, narrated by Jamie Clayton, is my pick for this week’s Audiobook of the Week.

Special thanks to for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand. allows you to listen to over 60,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to


Re-Reading Reconsidered (07:51)

Ann and I have long been reluctant re-readers, primarily because there are too many books we haven’t read yet, and because we’ve been afraid that books we loved wouldn’t hold up to a re-read. However, recently we’ve each been re-reading our favorite book (The Sparrow and Any Human Heart) in preparation for our book discussions with The Readers at Booktopia. Ann has discovered that a second or third reading allows for closer reading, which can lead to more enjoyment.

While I enjoyed re-reading Any Human Heart, I don’t think I’m going to become someone who re-reads regularly. Maybe one or two here or there. Who knows?

In the comments below, please share your thoughts on re-reading. Has this discussion changed your mind?


Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (20:43)


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Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is a wholly unique look at creativity as a force in its own right. A force that must be nurtured. I found so many passages of this book to be incredibly inspirational.

Fates and Furies, the new novel by Lauren Groff, was first introduced to BOTNS listeners when it was recommended by Jynne Martin, whom Ann interviewed about National Readathon Day for episode 313. Rather than re-invent the book recommendation, we’re playing you Jynne’s original recommendation.


  • Alicia

    I am an unapologetic re-reader. Some of the reasons are as follows:
    1) I read fast, so I tend to miss subtle things in my rush to get to the end and find out what is going to happen. Ann talked about noticing more about non-plot things like characters and tone in a re-reading – I find I often get more out of a book that I love on the second reading than the first.
    2) if I fall in love with a character and want to spend more time with that person, I will sometimes re-read a book. It’s like visiting with a friend.
    3) if I’m reading a series and there is a gap between when I finish one book and when the next book comes out I will sometimes re read or at least skim the previous book right before reading the next one
    4) especially rereading books I loved as a teenager, I feel like I get some insight into myself to realize why I might have loved a book so much at a particular point in my life.
    5) sometimes you want to be adventurous but sometimes you want the pleasure in the familiar. Rereading can be like putting on a super comfy sweatshirt- not glamorous but comfortable. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for that.
    Two books I have re read recently are The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater and The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie King. The only books I really won’t re read (assuming I liked it the first time) are books where there is a really unreliable narrator that shifts your whole perspective on the book when you get to the end. Think Atonement by Ian McEwan. Once you know the twist it’s hard to enjoy the book in the same way.

    • Great points, Alicia! I’m definitely coming around to the concept. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment!

  • Anonymous

    Well, as Nabokov said:

    “Incidentally, I use the word reader very loosely. Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader. And I shall tell you why. When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation. When we look at a painting we do not have to move our eyes in a special way even if, as in a book, the picture contains elements of depth and development. The element of time does not really enter in a first contact with a painting. In reading a book, we must have time to acquaint ourselves with it. We have no physical organ (as we have the eye in regard to a painting) that takes in the whole picture and then can enjoy its details. But at a second, or third, or fourth reading we do, in a sense, behave towards a book as we do towards a painting. However, let us not confuse the physical eye, that monstrous masterpiece of evolution, with the mind, an even more monstrous achievement. A book, no matter what it is—a work of fiction or a work of science (the boundary line between the two is not as clear as is generally believed)—a book of fiction appeals first of all to the mind. The mind, the brain, the top of the tingling spine, is, or should be, the only instrument used upon a book.”

    Of course, I don’t reread nearly as much as I’d like to, myself! I’ve only reread a handful of books this year, though I’m trying to make more of an effort to do so. But it is a different, and often deeper, experience. And Ann, I know you’ve mentioned often that you worry that you wouldn’t like a book the way you once did, but I promise that the good ones hold up. It’s like Gene Wolfe said: “My definition of good literature is that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure.”

    • Thanks, Anon! Nabokov’s thoughts are interesting, and new to me. More food for thought. I still have piles of books her yet unread, though, taunting me…

      • Anonymous

        Yes, I know. My “read” pile this year is (by Goodreads’ lights, anyway), 128 (which is more like 80 if I exclude all the manga volumes and comics and graphic novels); my “reread” pile is currently… 3. They were great, though!

    • Sydney Young

      This is truth. If you don’t reread the true works of art, you haven’t owned them, and you are no better for rushing on to the next on your pile, which more than likely, will be forgotten tomorrow.

      • Anonymous

        I can’t tell you how many books that when I see that I read them on Goodreads, I only have the barest recollection of their plot – sometimes I can’t even recall any of the characters. Once I get my memory jogged, it comes back, but it’s not really just “there.” But rereading changes that dynamic, definitely.

  • JanetS.

    I am not a re-reader for two reasons 1) too many books too little time and 2) I don’t think you can ever recreate the magic of reading a beloved book for the first time. I spend my precious reading time looking for that magical experience (and usually being disappointed).
    The one area where I have considered re-reading is books I read in high school. In comparing reading histories with my peers I’ve realized that I probably read more classics in high school than the average person. I understand why classics are introduced then because lots of people stop reading after high school or never take a lit course in college so that is really the only opportunity they will have to be exposed. But I know that I was too immature to fully grasp the nuances of those wonderful books. So I would reconsider re-reading the classics because I know I missed a lot the first time around.

    • gapman

      I totally agree that most high school kids cannot really fully appreciate the classics, and unfortunately that experience turns a lot of people off of reading altogether. But yes, they do have to get exposed to it at some point.
      As an adult for some time now, I have gone back and reread a lot of classics that I hated in High School, but which I now treasure.

  • Elizabeth Stuckey-French

    So enjoyed your podcast–especially the topic of re-reading pros and cons. Since I’m a fiction writer and teaching fiction writing, I’m all about re-reading. That’s what we do, in order to see how the writer does what s/he does. The stories and books we read and re-read are so well written that you notice new things and get more out of the story every time you (re) read it. And even though you know what’s coming, if it’s good, you tend to get caught up and forget–temporarily. And even hope, if it’s sad, it’ll have a different ending this time!

    Another example of the joys of re-reading: one of my students picked a novel for my novel writing class, Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital. I love Lorrie Moore’s short stories, but when I read that novel years ago I pretty much thought, meh. Who cares? When I read it last semester, though, I was blown away. I actually cried. I think my being older and having daughters the age of the characters made it so much more meaningful.

    Most re-reading is about pleasure, though, so most books I don’t enjoy or finish I’ll have to let go–unless somebody makes a good case for rereading. Like you said, there are so many others!

    • Thank you! Maybe it’s time for me to re-read Rabbit, Run. I read it when I was 20, and didn’t get it, but as you point out, age could be a factor…

  • Jennifer

    I love re-reading Gone with The Wind. When I’m finished, I miss Scarlett! It *is* like being with old friends.

  • tcheer4life

    By far, I’m not a re-reader, but…
    since I’ve been semi-retired, I have re-read some. Often it’s a book that I read but now my book discussion is getting to. Most of the time if I read the book the first time, I listen to it the second, or vice versa. But there are a few, like Cutting for Stone that aI have read at least 3 times. It’s not always the destination, the journey is often a wonderful part of a trip – how many times did you drive by that park before you notice the aging of the fence or a certain tree or…
    Another one that I re-read as a kid was Little Women. All I can say is “Wow” is that different reading when in my mid-50s compared to as a 14 year old.
    Very interesting podcast. Thanks!

  • CIMHsv

    Michael – What are the two books you thought of immediately that you’d reread? Is Any Human Heart on of them?

    • mkindness

      I can’t remember now!

      I do remember that I was looking at my shelves while thinking about it. Looking at them now, the two that pop out immediately as possible re-reads are THE BELLS by Richard Harvell, and THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt. (But I can’t be sure those were the two I was thinking of when we recorded!)

  • Karen King Seaman

    I never re-read a book! Ann, I felt like you did too many books too little time to reconsider re-reading.. One of my favorite books of all times is The Thorn Birds and I thought that if I read it again maybe it wouldn’t stand up. But listening to the podcast and your comments after re-reading The Sparrow maybe it’s time to pull out my old paperback copy from 1978.

  • Carrie Mercer

    I am in the camp of not re-reading because there are too many new books to read, but I have and will still re-read if it’s for a class (I read Wharton’s House of Mirth twice in college for different lit classes) or a book club (The Secret History was one I really enjoyed re-reading). I had one weird experience where I hated a mystery the first time I read it on my own but it made total sense the second time I read it for a book club, which generated a great discussion about whether that made it a good book or a bad book, if I had to read it twice to get it…

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