I have this theory that every one of us has a story about a book that was almost ruined for us. Maybe you read it at the wrong time in your life, or maybe your English teacher had you dissect it until there was no soul left in the book. Perhaps you read it in the wrong format! Whatever the reason, you and this book did not click, and you listen, bewildered, as your book friends praise the title.
We all have those books, but this post isn’t about them. Not exactly. This post is about the brave souls who dared to go back and try their personal albatross again only to find—surprise—they loved it!
I’ve taken a poll of our library staff to see what wonderful books they’ve discovered when they gave them a second chance. Maybe this will inspire you to pick up an old nemesis? Or if you’ve already done so, please share your newly reconciled book love below and maybe you’ll push someone else to give it a second try!
Heart of Darkness Daryl (Old Town Library) had to read this one in high school. He hated the fast read, possibly due to massive overhyping by his teacher. Six years later he found it on his landlord’s book shelf and read it in an afternoon. Verdict? “Such a great book!”
Johnny Got His Gun This one is mine, and I tried it twice before I made it all the way through. The language and narrative style make it very hard to get into it, but once I got the rhythm down I was able to finish. Verdict? It was a very powerful and disturbing book and I’m glad to have read it, but I don’t ever want to read it again!
Little Women For Marian (Old Town Library), this was a title she detested as a child, and then gave another try. Verdict? “Enjoyed as an adult.”
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle Sue-Ellen (Old Town Library) attempted this book three times before giving it one last go and making it beyond page 40. Verdict? “The writing was beautiful, original and startling and I just had to see how it ended.” She ended up keeping it past the due date!
Water for Elephants For Laura (Webster House Admin. Center), she found herself put off by the book initially, particularly some of the graphic details and the dark setting. Verdict? She found that the longer she reflected, the more she felt “the author really grounded the story in the time period and the historic details woven into the plot were impressive.”
Wuthering Heights Becky (Old Town Library) read this one in high school: “I loved Heathcliff. I wanted to be Catherine, wander the Yorkshire moors and somehow not betray my one true love.” Verdict? On a later reread she “realized the Yorkshire moors were as windy as the Wyoming plains, Heathcliff was an abusive jerk and Catherine enabled his abuse.”
The Catcher in the Rye This is another one of mine. When I read it in high school I just felt like Holden (and therefore Salinger) got me. His angst was my angst, and I didn’t feel like Salinger was trying to teach me a bigger lesson. I reread it post-college and found Holden to be a pretty whiny, self-entitled twit. I hope I wasn’t that way when I liked it so much!
Bonus round with some excellent reading advice:
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a movie Drew (Council Tree Library) saw when she was too young to appreciate it and she ended up thinking it was ridiculous. Verdict? “Now I love it!” Drew couldn’t think of any books she learned to love on a second read, “largely because I usually don’t give them a second chance – my list of books that I WANT to read is so long that I don’t waste reading time on something I didn’t like the first time around.”
So what about you? Do you have any hated/loved book relationships?
Erin Kirchoefer has been working in libraries for 8 years, and has been using libraries since library cards had a little metal plate in them. Poudre River Libraries are her favorite libraries, but don’t ask her to pick which one (as a substitute librarian, she works at all three)!