Last week, within one six-hour shift, I had two customers I didn’t know all that well tell me that they were rereading the entire Harry Potter series—and that they did it every summer.
To a children’s book buyer, who receives hundreds of new kids’ books to evaluate every month, rereading is an indulgence. For someone who also works in the bookstore as a full-service bookseller (meaning that well-read adult customers expect me to make new recommendations on every visit), rereading the whole 4,224 pages about the Boy Who Lived and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named every summer seems like an unbelievable extravagance. I reread several of the Harry Potter books back when the books were first published in order to help get details perfect for the elaborate release-day parties we threw at Queen Anne Books. I wanted to make sure I was perfectly in character as Rita Skeeter, and I needed inspiration for the backdrop we painted for the Restricted Section of the library at Hogwarts. But as my duties at the store grew, the Harry Potter Lexicon and even DVDs of the movies served as quick and easy substitute references. I lost touch with the primary texts, even though they maintained pride of place on my bookshelves and a very dear spot in my heart.
I was both delighted and jealous of these readers who so casually mentioned their annual rereading ritual. Both rereaders were in their 20’s, which means they grew up with Harry. They were among the very lucky generation who were perfectly matched to the series; each year, they matured as readers and Harry and his adventures grew darker and more complex in just the age-appropriate way. Rereading the books must be like reliving seven years of their own childhood when they follow Harry’s, going from that initial discovery of a magical world– and, for some, the delight of a new genre, fantasy– through trials and wonder and heartbreak and school stress and temporary disillusionment, only to come out stronger, more powerful, and even more dedicated to fighting for good in the world.
Reflecting on rereading made me analyze my own rereading traditions. I don’t have any hard-and-fast annual reads, but I do tend to crave a nostalgic taste of old favorites, especially in the summer. I feel pressure to read something new, or at least new-to-me, but I do find myself drawn to books in the style of summer reads from my past. I adored The Double Game by Dan Fesperman because its references to other spy novels reminded me of the summer I read everything Graham Greene and Robert Ludlum I could get my hands on. Jeeves and the Wedding Bells brought back the summer my husband and I each devoured a Wodehouse omnibus– then traded so we could both indulge in a second. When I read Z, I remembered reading This Side of Paradise and Tender is the Night back to back in the hammock while I ate a whole box of Oreos. Ah, to have the luxury and the metabolism of my 15-year-old self! I’m feeling a big urge to read Sophie Hannah’s Poirot mystery, The Monogram Murders, to take me back to my first international trip, when my parents let me buy every Agatha Christie book in the bookshop at Heathrow, and I read in the backseat of the rental car throughout England and Scotland.
Do you reread? Do you have any rereading traditions?
Tegan Tigani wears many hats as children’s book buyer/general bookseller/ book club facilitator for Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle, the editor of nwbooklovers.org, a freelance editor, the children’s book editor-at-large for Sasquatch’s Little Bigfoot impring, an obsessive maker of to-read lists, and more.